Why is our society so influenced by technology?
Artwork by Victor Fritsch
Technology is a powerful driver of social change. It makes possible what was previously unfathomable, to improve our lives in meaningful ways. A discussion on how technology has, so far, changed society and its potential for future transformation can be truly eye-opening to even the most privileged among us.
Everyone has problems, hardships they want to overcome or issues they wish to solve. Many people believe in the values of equality and collective good. Whenever a pioneering technology helps advance our values and motivations by delivering tangible benefits, our faith in the power of new ideas, bold initiatives, and disruptive forces is reinforced. And the reality is that, while grand ideas start in the mind, they are propelled by clever science and technological innovation.
Here is a look at some ways in which technology has impacted the many, not just a few, and served the marginalized or often ignored.
Digital financial services help the poor, middle class and unbanked populations
Sub-Saharan Africa has a high mobile money penetration. Very few locals can afford traditional financial services. They have been quick to adopt digital payment platforms that enable low-value payments at a more affordable cost.
According to the World Bank, a whopping 80% of the world’s poor are unbanked. More than two billion people worldwide have no bank accounts simply because they don’t make enough to save. As formal banking systems are a no-go, the poor, unbanked rely on mobile money to access and loan out cash.
In contrast to the new digital payment models that require a smartphone and internet connection, simpler mobile money solutions like Kenya’s M-Pesa enable peer-to-peer, SMS-based transactions. If you have a basic mobile phone, you’re good to go.
Then there’s the pioneering technology that has captured the world’s imagination: blockchain technology. Online transactions on a blockchain are cost-efficient for banks and financial services because they eliminate third-parties. This, in turn, lowers the account opening and usability fees you pay your bank. Although it is just taking off, international remittances on blockchain technology can be slashed from 6% to as less as 1%, which is good news for the middle-class.
Blockchain technologies like Bitcoin also increase security for monetary transactions. Creation of a transparent ledger that anybody can openly see is also one of the major benefits of blockchain technologies. This also allows governments and corporations to be held accountable for where their finances are directed towards. Yet another fantastic advantage for the public sectors to have the availability of blockchain technology.
The ability to reference a snapshot of wealth distribution data can be a powerful tool. One which can help to better understand oversight, fraud, and inefficiency for both corporate and government sectors.
Individual and public health and wellness
If there is one sector where technological advancements have saved lives, it is healthcare. Healthcare tech continues empowering organizations that deliver care and individuals who want to stay physically fit. 3D tools that allow doctors to examine the human anatomy without having to cut open a cadaver, 3D printed medication, ingestible sensors delivering cancer follow-up at home and fitness trackers are just a few life-changing technology-led innovations in healthcare.
Some other incredible innovations that may become commonplace in the future include head transplants, synthetic hormones, organs-on-a-chip and ‘heart in a box’ devices. Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel? Well, then consider electronic health records (EHRs), which have replaced paper records in healthcare organizations throughout the United States.
EHRs automatically alert physicians to potential side-effects such as allergies or drug intolerance and allow them to bring up an unconscious patient’s medical history with just a few clicks. A centralized healthcare system can leverage data and patient cases to identify infections, assess outbreaks and deploy preventive measures quickly.
Social media channels spread awareness about less-discussed diseases and remind people of preventive measures. In fact, the internet serves as a link between healthcare information and communities. At the macrosystem level, applications should engage populations and large communities, disseminating information and strategies that influence choice and behavior. A change in behavior is the first step towards an active and a healthy life: technology offers great potential to drive positive change outside of the traditional healthcare delivery system.
Virtual schooling helps close the gender gap and offers learning opportunities for those who cannot attend brick-and-mortar schools
Poorer and low-income schools usually have fewer Advanced Placement (AP) offerings – programs that offer college-level curricula and exams to high school students – and foreign language courses compared to richer school districts. This may be disadvantageous for students in low-income or minority schools starting college after completing their high school education. It is also possible that social boundaries may inhibit the participation of non-dominant groups in such courses.
Online classes and courses solve both issues, and also empower learners who may not be able to attend traditional schools owing to ill-health, incarceration or other circumstances. Online education is also helping women acquire high education levels, boost their employment opportunities, and advance their careers.
Education is central to the development of society. It facilitates technological advancement for the health of a civilizations people. Being able to educate more people on the ability to create the basic necessities of food, shelter, and water is vital to the well being of a society. With the understanding of physics and applied science, a society can engineer things that make life easier. Creating a higher quality through marvels of engineering frees up more time for people to do what they enjoy most. This is a double edged sword however as social rewards like monetary wealth can create a negative effect in encouraging selfish behaviors. Rewarding the development of weaponry and other destructive technologies.
Research indicates that when men and women have the same level of digital fluency – the extent to which people adopt and use digital technologies to obtain greater knowledge becomes more effective – women are able to leverage those digital skills better to acquire higher educational qualifications for job placements.
It should be no surprise that the use of the internet has increased communications across the world. This allows knowledge to be shared at near the speed of light to anybody who has access to the internet of things. Giving privy to massive databases and networks of information has opened many doorways to education. Empowering communities of people with internet access is an innovative step towards increasing public knowledge. This is an important milestone in technological advancement after a societies basic needs have been met.
Technology both helps and hurts the environment
Technology may also be the antidote to some of the worst impacts of climate change faced by the world today. While the innovations of petroleum technologies, chemical engineering, and the coming of the industrial age have made many things possible. They have also served detriment to numerous environments around the earth. Alternative sources of energy are already doing their bit to reduce the loss of habitat, controlling the already high levels of air and water pollution, and preventing large-scale damage to public health.
Example of innovative technology to clean up our oceans
A large body of environmental research shows evidence that humans are responsible for environmental degradation. It's apparent the development of land, deconstruction of ecosystems, generation of industrial waste, and the use of greenhouse gases that we contribute our fair share towards climate change. How we proceed forward starts with education on how to design alternative energy incentives that encourage imaginative innovations. It will advance society by applying physics towards engineered technologies like the video above. Such technologies will help to clean up our industrial byproducts, develop new means of power generation, and produce biodegradable goods that don't have a negative effect on our environment.
Dystopian or Utopian Future?
There are science fiction movies that depict different futures. Many of which depict imaginative examples of dystopian tropes for what our future may hold. Most of which revolve around a Cyber Punk feel that create a narrative of overreaching corporations, out of control A.I., or big brother police states. These creations of fantasy could become a reality like so many other science-fiction turned science fact.
An example is the idea of the tricorder from Star Trek. A communication device without wires that could collect data from the environment. Its conception has now become a reality in the smartphones devices which has exceeded the imagination of the original. With many other features like a Camera and GPS.
Which brings us to the hopes of many through technological innovations and scientific understanding. That we can slowly advance our society towards a more utopian, and perhaps altruistic, place of co-existence. While it very unlikely we will ever be completely free from conflict and have a civilization of complete peace. It's fair to say that the consensus around the world is of unity for all humankind. Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about our future. The foundation on which the future is built comes from the experiences of the past and the actions of the present time. It is the undeniable will of nature to persevere against all odds. To constantly learn from testing what works according to natural law. Regardless of the outcome, we all play a part in engineering the future.
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