The idea that technological change can be negative is a new concept. As society becomes more and more dependent on technology, the risks of it failing become more serious.
Technological failure can have serious economic consequences. For example, if all manufacturing factories had to shut down due to a faulty computer program, the global economy would take a huge hit.
Many believe that advances in technology are always positive. While most advances are positive, it is possible for some to be negative.
Some of the greatest fears people have about advancing technology are genetic modifications, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics. All of these technologies have both positive and negative potential consequences.
Genetic modifications could lead to the creation of bacteria or viruses that are more dangerous than current ones. AI has the potential to develop its own agenda and pursue goals that could hurt humans, or could simply malfunction and cause harm through that. Robotics has the potential to replace humans in the workplace, leading to widespread unemployment.
Examples of negative technological change
Technological change can negatively affect certain groups of people, particular industries, and the overall economy. As mentioned before, technological advances usually benefit some groups or individuals at the expense of others.
For example, automation and robotization has led to fewer jobs for human workers, as machines now perform many of the tasks that humans used to. This is true in manufacturing as well as in service-oriented industries like fast food and retail.
Another example is the rise of e-commerce. While it has led to lower prices and more consumer choice, it has also led to fewer jobs for shipping personnel and retail salespeople.
How can we understand this phenomenon? Firstly, we must distinguish between technological change and technological innovation. Technological change refers to when a newer technology replaces an older one; for example, when cars replace horses. Technological innovation refers to the introduction of a new technology that does not displace another one. For example, the invention of the self-checking checkout machine did not replace human cashiers; it only assisted them by performing some functions faster.
Introduce a new technology
Technological change can be considered negative when a new technology is introduced and it has significant adverse effects.
For example, the introduction of smartphones has had a significant impact on social interaction, productivity, and overall happiness. People are spending more and more time on their phones, to the detriment of their lives.
The rise of AI and robotics will likely have similar effects. While they will undoubtedly improve productivity in many areas, they will also displace human workers, creating another source of discontent.
A paper from the University of Cambridge last year argued that the rise of robots could lead to a third revolution in agriculture (the first being the Neolithic Revolution around 10,000 years ago and the second being industrial agriculture) but not in a good way. In this scenario, farmers lose out because robots produce more cheaply than humans can.
Examples of positive technological change
On the other hand, there are many examples of how technological change can benefit people and society. Some of these include improved quality of life, economic benefits, job creation, and improved everyday functions.
For example, smartphones have improved quality of life by giving access to information, making communication easier, and bringing entertainment into people’s lives. They have also economically benefitted companies such as Apple and Samsung, as well as app developers.
Technological change can also lead to the creation of new jobs. For example, the rise of online shopping has led to more jobs for fulfillment workers who organize and package orders.
Negative technological change is a concept that has only recently been studied. One early researcher in this field was German sociologist Wolfgang Schlichter who wrote a book titled The Pessimum in 1988. This refers to the worst possible situation that could arise due to technological changes.
Change isn’t always bad
While technological change can lead to negative outcomes, it’s important to note that change isn’t always bad.
New technologies are introduced into our world with the intention to improve our lives in some way. For example, robots are being designed to help take care of older people and provide them with a sense of companionship.
This is an improvement in the quality of life for both the person taking care of and the person being taken care of. This is one example where technological change is positive.
There are many other ways in which new technologies improve our lives, but one thing we have to be careful about is how quickly they spread. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s good for us, so we need to be cautious about adopting them. Technological denialism is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Some examples of negative technological change
Technological change can be considered negative when it results in job losses and/or social dislocations.
Many analysts believe that the rise of artificial intelligence and other technologies will result in massive job displacement, with robots and other machines taking over an ever-increasing number of jobs.
Already, factories are finding that automation offers a cheaper alternative to human labor, one that doesn’t take breaks or ask for raises. As a result, we’re already seeing fewer jobs in the manufacturing sector, with similar effects likely to occur in other industries.
We see the same effect with the so-called “gig economy” – which is actually just a euphemism for precarious work – where workers don’t have stable employment arrangements or benefits. This is largely because of new technologies that allow employers to find and hire workers more easily.
They can sometimes be less reliable than traditional forms of employment, which can cause stress for workers who are less assured of their income.
Lack of attention can lead to accidents
Many people blame their phones for the fact that they are constantly distracted. The constant notifications and need to check your phone for what you need next can be a huge distraction.
People claim that they need to check their phone at all times in case of an emergency. This is an overgeneralization – there are no cases of emergencies where you need to have your phone on hand.
The fact that most people have access to a cell phone has made it necessary to have it on at all times. It has become a necessity of life, and most people cannot live without it.
The problem with constant cell phone use is that it distracts you. You may think you are not paying attention, but in reality, you are very distracted. This affects your walking, driving, working, and other activities that require attention.
Negative effects on the environment
Technological change can have negative effects on the environment. For example, the development and mass production of new technologies requires resources.
These resources can come in the form of energy to power factories or computers where technology is manufactured and designed, raw materials to create parts for new technologies, or discarded technologies that are replaced to make way for new ones.
All of these require energy and resources to produce and dispose of them. As we continue to develop new technologies, we must be aware of their environmental impact.
Negative effects on society
Another way technological change can be negative is when new technologies increase social inequality. As technology advances, it becomes more expensive. This makes it available only to people who are able to pay for it or access it through employment.
It can also divide people who have different levels of access to technology. For example, someone with a disability may not be able to use certain technology, making them less competitive in the workplace.
Limits to growth and decline of the world economy
It is possible for technological change to be negative. If we look at the history of human development, there were times when population growth was slowed or even reversed.
For example, in ancient times, people had far more children than they did in later centuries. This is due to the fact that infant mortality was much higher, and life expectancy was shorter.
There were also periods in which the world’s economy has declined and even collapsed. For example, in the third century A.D., the Roman Empire suffered a serious economic decline that lasted several centuries.
What makes these declines unusual is that they were not caused by some external force like a foreign army invading the country or some kind of natural disaster striking the country. Rather, they seem to have been self-induced by internal forces such as economic and political policies.