Technology and modernity essay

Essay Topic:

The influence of the technological progress on social and cultural isolation of modern people.

Essay Questions:

How can the development of modern technologies provoke social isolation of different people?

In what way the technological progress influences the level of culture?

What do culture, intelligence, personal identity and economy form?

Thesis Statement:

The possibility of sharing the know-how and other vital information influenced the economy of the countries and therefore significantly changed the standard of life. The benefits of the technological progress were obvious but nobody ever thought that this benefits would also have a flip side – the side of isolation.


Technology and modernity essay


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Technology as a new religion.

a. Is technology a “shrine”?

b. Responsibility for people

3. Technologies cause frustration.

a. Causes of social isolation

b. Technology and alienation

c. Influence of Internet

4. Conclusion

The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectualcomplexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite”.

Thomas Sowell


1. Introduction

The term “technology” is used in so many contexts nowadays that it is very hard to give one complex definition of this phenomenon. Ordinarily, this term implies the collection of all the contemporary discoveries, inventions and innovations that get a physical entailment. It is common knowledge that the major priority of any “terrestrial” technology is to facilitate the process of working and living of every human being. In other words any technology is always a tool, a facility used to save time and perfect the life. Originally, “technology” was used in order to survive, as it was the primary goal of the mankind since their first day of existance. “Technology” was born thousands of years ago when a man started inventing new primitive instruments to improve the effectiveness of hunting and fishing.The industrial revolution of the 19th century changed the course of human development as it introduced industrial technologies to the world and gave birth to unattended operation. The quality of machinery grew and this fact opened the possibility of mass production and therefore was an enormous step into life-level improvement. The second step was the invention of the telegraph as it started the contemporary period of information technologies. The possibility of sharing the know-how and other vital information influenced the economy of the countries and therefore significantly changed the standard of life. The benefits of the technological progress were obvious but nobody ever thought that this benefits would also have a flip side – the side of isolation.


2. Technology as a new religion

Contemporary people cannot imagine their lives without the “participation” of modern technologies. Technological progress has become an indicator of the cultural development of every given country and person because it resembles the ability to control. Control…this is the point technology is all about. Since the ancient times men needed a “tool” to control each process in their lives and different technologies became the “fist aid kit” for this problem. Technology nowadays has become a new religion. It really has much in common with any religion in the world. If to exaggerate, the concept of religion implies that a person has faith in the fact that his God will lead him to a better future and prayers can help the man to “control” God giving him exactly what the man needs. God protects his men . The same thing is about technology. The technological development provides a good future for a person, too. Technology improves the life of each person; it does protect for it surrounds a man with a comforting atmosphere of tranquility for his health, security and in addition to that it keeps the person on top of the latest events happening on the planet. Altogether it gives a perfect illusion of control over life and is even stronger than the religious faith.


2.a. Is technology a “shrine”?

It is hard to get around the fact that many contemporary people worship technology. This is primarily due to the fact that people simply cannot imagine their lives without its numerous embodiments: cell-phones, Blackberry communicators, iPod players, laptops, speed-automobiles, airplanes, automatic kitchen equipment, many others but especially computers. Computers nowadays have become almost family members and troubles with a computer are perceived with great emotional involvement.

Not many people remember that the majority of technologies were created in order to accelerate the process of connection between people. The problem is that the progress of information technologies outstripped the human ability to communicate. The market is a “flood” of unbelievable amounts of information technologies that wipe the “personal touch” from every single message transmitted from them. People worship the technologies that save their time and give them more opportunities to work and earn money. Isn’t it wonderful that now a man does not have to actually meet a person to say, “I love you”? All he has to do is send an sms, an internet-card or in the best case send a hand-written post-card or make a call. In Malaysia it is even allowed to divorce by a text message. Seeing technology as a “shrine” prevents people from understanding that all these technological embodiments exist, in the first place, to complement the real person-to-person communication but not completely substitute it. Too much of anything is destructive. No difference with the modern technologies. They entered the life of people replacing men with machines, replacing real speech with communicators and real love with cyber-relationships. So, the reality is that the inability of people to control the process of technological influence resulted in various negative effects such as: social isolation and alienation of people from each other.


2.b. Responsibility for people

Technology has influenced so many spheres of life that it can be even said that it actually takes responsibility and therefore controls at least four major “blocks”: culture, intelligence, personal identity and economy. Culture is affected through the ethics that accompanies technology in such manifestations as quality of life owing the modern house static and portable equipment and in the process of socialization, which implies the increase (or decrease) of the cultural level. Intelligence is influenced by technology in a way that a lot of decisions are made by machines: up-to-date programs allow people to rely major tasks to computers to count everything themselves and simply give the result: a prognosis, an economic calculation etc. Personal identity is definitely influenced too, as technology provides the opportunity to chose the way of living, which corresponds to the inner condition of a person, but equalizes everybody at the same time, for each person is no more that just another “user”. Economy is not an exception as it helps to build corporation all over the globe crating strong economic alliances. Technology gradually leaves no limits for the possibilities of humanity and humanity gradually become desperately dependent on it. The major issue is that though technology is responsible for the changes in the society it cannot take this responsibility. It is the humanity that is to be responsible for what it invents and contributes into the world. And even more than that – each person has to take responsibility for the technological goods his children use.


3. Technologies cause frustration.

In spite of the comfort modern technologies bring they cannot eliminate such powerful side effect as frustration. This frustration primarily deals with the domination of the technology over human values. The social side of the technological progress resulted in antisocial consequences. A man does not need a friend to come over to help him, or just to talk because everything that is to be done is done my machines and one can talk with a friend over the phone, or communicate through sms or Internet. Such social changes with an antisocial character grow with the growth of number of advanced technologies. Frustration remains invisible until people actually see that their children do not go out but spend hours playing computer games, “talking” on the ICQ or choosing avatars for their chat nicknames.The lifestyle of the contemporary generation become more isolated and therefore result many frustrations. One of such frustrations is the inability to demonstrated advance social communicational skills. Two people feel more comfortable sharing personal information by means of the computer that in a face-to-face conversation. Technology is a frustration also because it pollutes the atmosphere, uses too much natural resources, leaving lifeless earth and makes people useless, as the machines do everything instead of them. Psychologists are tired of repeating how important is the tactile contact for each person and that the weakest consequence of such deficit is aggression. Internet-communication, a computer deciding what is the best color gamut for the bedroom, virtual-traveling, remote education, computers telling fairy-tales to little children… - this is just a small part of what is going on around us. Depression, isolation, alienation are looking for new victims that lose their contact with the outside world.


3.a. Causes of social isolation

Technological progress expands our contacts – we can have hundreds of people in our contact-lists, but still we get the same result – social isolation. We do not meet these people; we do not take them by their hands or give a hug when they need it. Technology brings up a generation of people without proper social skills and therefore immature people. New technologies have forgotten the values and human goals. Technology is above a man now, because it is in great demand, brings profit and dominates. Technologies promote human interactions through technical devices but many people understand this calling too literally. The term “society” means that a person belongs to a bigger formation, a conglomeration of many people with definite peculiarities . This group of people has common goals and therefore is a unity. When a person loses this sensation of unity he becomes socially isolated of his own accord. When a person understands that he does not need to meet anybody in person in order to talk and finds it comfortable than he is trying to escape the reality. Why do so many people try to escape reality? The contemporary life has proved that people have so little time to talk to each other because of their jobs, not even mentioning the tactile contact that their social frustration leads them to search for a solution. The solution is often found in Internet and after some time the person becomes absolutely isolated – he buys everything he needs in the internet-shops, communicates with people via Internet and falls in love in the same manner.


3.b. Technology and alienation

In order to understand “alienation” through technology better it is important to know the existing types of alienation which include alienation between the rich and the poor, between genders, races, interests and so on. “Technological alienation” implies that a person does not need to establish social contacts to achieve his goals, because everything can be done with the help of technological devices. Technology, as it has been mentioned before, does save time, but this time is nowadays is spend on more technologies like Internet and therefore causes alienation for many people . People become the “slaves” of modern technologies and do a good job in not letting anything else in their life – they even prefer to work over the Internet not to be torn away form their deity. Alienation means forgetting something that once used to be considered a good manner – the ability of a man to reflect and feel the world and other people in it.The technological development of the contemporary world leads to the weakening of the social contacts and connections whose simplification is supported by the new technologies existing in the frameworks of the society. Nevertheless, the society is trying to solve the problem of weakening of traditional social relationships through the creation of corresponding new technologies. Since the growth of personalization leads to the breakup of traditional social relationships, alienation becomes a compulsory component of the modernity.


3.c. Influence of Internet

According to Robert Kraut, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University’s Human–Computer Interaction Institute – “greater use of the Internet leads to shrinking social support and happiness, and increases in depression and loneliness”[Sleek, 1998]. Modern technologies have people the possibility to communicate with each other on great distances, to find new acquaintances all over the world, to search for information and obtain it in few minutes and many other opportunities. Each of these opportunities is a substitution of a face-to-face interaction. The other problem is that Internet is used only to communicate with distant relatives but also with people leaving next-door and as a source to find a matching partner. The research made by Robert Kraut proves the existance of inverse correlation between the time spent in the Internet and the personal sensation of happiness in real life. People become less involved in different types of social activities and substitute them with Internet community activities .

Internet’s verdict is that it can help us to communicate people we would have never met without it, but at the same time it prevents us from communicating with the people we know, like our family and friends. This fact makes million people feel lonely and it is important to note that it makes them actually feel lonelier than they are in the beginning and makes them truly lonely after some time.


4. Conclusion

Modern technology has converted contemporary life into a constant “optimization machine”. The amount of things that get under the process of optimization is enormous. Human social relations are not an exception. Technology will be dangerous for this sphere of interaction until people learn how to master and control the influence of the technological achievements of them.People started treating technology as a religion, as it is only technology from their opinion that can change our lives for better. The primary reason for that is because technology makes the mankind see themselves as powerful beings, which cannot be achieved without it. So, what once was created, as assistance to humanity, now has become a goal. In other words the goal of new inventions is to make more new inventions and it has nothing to do with helping the mankind. If men do not have time to share emotions with their relatives and close people even having all these devices…than do they really need them? The “malaise of modernity” is something that technology has caused in its very essence. Humanity needs to clearly define what invention needs to be made, why and what possible consequences it might have. Otherwise, the depression, loneliness, frustration, alienation of the modern society will only grow.


1. American psychological association/ Scott Sleek “Isolation increases with Internet use” / Vol. 29, No. 9/1998

2. Rotenstreich, Nathan, “Alienation. The Concept and its Reception”/ Brill Leiden/1989

3. Adas, Michael. “Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance”/Cornell University Press, 1990

4. McGinn, Robert E. “Science, Technology and Society”/ Englewood Cliffs/1991.

5. Nobel, David. “Forces of Production: a social history of industrial automation”/Oxford University Press, 1990.

6. Roussel, P.A., K. N. Saad, and T. J. Erickson. “Third Generation R&D”/Harvard Business School Press/1991.

7. Monsma, S.V., C. Christians, E.R. Dykema, A. Leegwater, E. Schuurman, and L. VanPoolen. “Responsible Technology”/Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986.

“…technology has taken over the Christian faith as the most sacred thing in our western society. Where once we could not live without God, today we cannot live without gadgets”, - Jaques Ellul, ex-professor at the University of Bordeaux.

“…man is socially isolated in the performance of his work, if he interacts with no one, or only in an impersonal, detached and antagonistic manner; in other words, if the relation between fellow workers has a mechanistic character” [ Rotenstreich, 1989]

“Some psychologists and sociologists are now talking about a new form of alienation they call “technological alienation” [Fletcher, 2003].

“ In Europe today, 33 million people have regular access to the Internet; in North America, the number is 87 million” [Fletcher, 2003].

“Most reported instances of Internet use interfering with other aspects of their lives, including taking up time that they would have used for other activities”[Psychological Reports (Vol. 80, No. 3, p. 879–882)].


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