The Impact of Science and Technology on Society in the Future
The paper concerns the issue of the impact the society of the future would undergo under the conditions of the constant growth and development of science and technology. The paper supports the argument that in the nearest future, as the numerous scientific researches hypothesize, humankind would be superseded by the robots, machines, and other technological gadgets. This vision is based on the comparison of the current situation in science and technology and possible trends in their development in the long run. In addition to this, the paper shows the essential role science and technology would possibly play in the future of society. These functions are analyzed from the perspective of philosophic and social paradigms (mainly by determinism). This approach helps evaluate the hypothetical way of the societal development in conditions of rapid technological and scientific advancement.
The Role of Science and Technology for Society
The major world powers seek to preserve and strengthen their position in the global arena. This process includes the matter of technological leadership and efficiency improvement of their innovation systems. At the same time, no country including the richest ones is currently capable of conducting a full-scale research into all scientific fields spending the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year on science. Under these circumstances, each country has to prioritize its scientific, technological, and innovative development to maintain its leading position in the most promising areas with the closest regard to the forthcoming times.
Science and technology perform an important role. Their development determines the future of modern civilization. Technological development is characterized by the heated debate among the various researchers who perceive them as the solution to all problems or, on the contrary, the cause of various disasters (Lövbrand). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to research the scholars’ opinions about the impact of science and technology on the future of society. This paper argues that the disadvantages of the rapid progress in the abovementioned areas would outweigh the advantages for the society of the future.
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The Place of Science and Technology in Society
The rapid development of science and technology in the future is a subject matter for the numerous debates whose field of expertise falls within such disciplines as ethics, social science, and philosophy. On the one hand, technology acts as an important means to resolve the problems that life brings. On the other hand, technology and science represent a dominant force that threatens humanity’s spiritual essence and the natural world. Along with the positive aspects of development of technology and science, negative consequences of the trends of technological large-scale activities start to arise. The social conflicts caused by the development of modern civilization that is embodied in the philosophy of technology require the application of the moral and ethical evaluation.
The modern humankind cannot live without computers, mobile phones, and the Internet – this seems to be the most evident fact. For example, speaking of the field of education, it is possible to claim that nearly every student now possesses the newly invented gadgets. The impact that they make on children and society as a whole is different: either beneficial or negative. The nature of this influence depends on us ¬ the contemporary society representatives. In this regard, Jasanoff states that currently by only one push of a button, a modern student can find all the necessary resources and choose literature for any abstract or report. This process certainly possesses a definite advantage: the student spends less time in search of information and finds the most available library resources from around the world, the results of the research achieved by scientists living in other countries (Jasanoff). Thus, it is possible to assume that in the future, the computer would enable the larger development of intelligence. The main thing is to learn how to use these resources efficiently.
The numerous areas of human knowledge are engaged in solving the problem of what role the technology and science would have in the future. For example, the majority of interpretations of technological determinism reduce to two basic ideas: first: the future development of technology would be a predictable process that will leave an imprint on the culture and political processes; and second: any technology would be in any case the ‘consequences’ inherent in society. Strict adherents of technological determinism do not believe that the technological influence on the future of society would differ depending on how technology can be used (Jasanoff). Instead of viewing technology as part of a broad range of human activities, technological determinism sees technology as the basis for all human activities.
As a consequence, such an approach raises a multiple number of aspects to be discussed, namely ethical aspects and social ones. The development of science and technology would cause the rise of numerous ethical dilemmas. First, these dilemmas would probably cover the issues of transplantations of human organs and the creation of artificial organs. This problem would emerge because of the environmental damage presumably caused by artificial organs production, for instance. Thus, the humanity will face the challenge of health level and safe environment. The same issue may be regarded as a social one. Obviously, society would be anxious about such state of things and disturbed by numerous conflicts. Second, remembering the fact that constant and rapid growth of robotics would impact the employment procedure is self-evident. This challenge may also serve as an ethical issue. On the one side, people would still need the source of income (i.e. the place to work), on the other side, however, the use of robots would increase the productivity of the future enterprises. Moreover, the issue of environmental damage would occur here by default because the robots and machines production would significantly harm the environment and would still require the energy sources.
From the standpoint of the future of society, the idea or the doctrine of progress would be hypothetically centered on the concept that social problems might be solved by technological advancement, due to which society would also make progress. According to technological determinism, the progress in the future would not be stopped, similarly as the control over technology and science would be lost. Consequently, the vast majority of scholars have a strong conviction that science and technology would become self-sufficient and their development would be provided by internal societal factors in the future (Lövbrand). However, all of these factors would trigger purely adverse effect on both humankind and the planet.
According to the majority of scholars, the key potential problem lies in the negative impact of science and technology on human beings. Thus, it may lead to society degradation and the poor level of its development. Currently, when the society is on a post-industrial level, the role of knowledge, science, and technology is crucial, since they represent the most mobile resources in all spheres of life, in any proceedings. All hypotheses, laws, and theories in the world are built on the same foundation, and these are the foundations of science, technology, and knowledge. Certainly, the advantages of science and technology are obvious – as well as the disadvantages are.
The diverse discoveries have importance for the development of the humankind. For instance, the complex protein molecules consist of tens or even hundreds of thousands of atoms, and their spatial structure was unknown 60 years ago (Lövbrand). Therefore, it was easier to take the model of inanimate nature as the material basis. The same approach was taken to the development of semiconductors in microelectronics – and as a result computer technology began to use semiconductor crystals, such as silicon, in which the unit cell contained eight atoms. Moving along this path, humanity would create more and more sophisticated technologies in the future, such as molecular beam epitaxy, which nowadays is sometimes used to produce fine structures of the order of atomic dimensions, and new structures – the so-called structure with quantum dots (Lövbrand). The unique technologies of microelectronics would definitely allow and enable to combine lithography and subsequent alignment established anywhere by means of the same integral scheme. It indicates that we would have the technology, which is reproducible in any part of the world. Due to the achievements of fundamental science, X-ray physics, scattering of synchrotron radiation and neutrons, nuclear magnetic resonance, supercomputers would be primarily used to investigate the structure of biological objects in more details (Lövbrand).
The mankind would probably identify their complex three- or even four-dimensional spatial structure and study the mechanisms of functioning of these biological molecules (Jasanoff). This may lead to more rapid and sustainable development of biotechnology, which is known as any technology that uses a living organism or substance that is isolated from these organisms for the production or modification of the product, the improvement of a plant or an animal, or the creation of micro-organisms for specific purposes. Biotechnology is also called the science of using living processes of production (Lövbrand). The basis of biotechnology is genetic engineering which contains a set of methods and approaches aimed at obtaining the biological structures of software and intrinsic properties that would not be obtained by traditional breeding methods in the future. Undoubtedly, this aspect would have a noticeable impact on the future of the society.
The vast development of the computer industry and nanotechnologies would contribute to the fact that research in the field of biotechnology may probably acquire the technical nature. Presumably, the industrial molecular biology would create the most outstanding and remarkable products that may become biological microarrays (biochips), combining approaches of biotechnology with nanotechnology. Within this frame, the DNA sequencing would evolve from unique laboratory techniques to the major industrial process. The analysis showed that progress, science, and technology are impossible without the development of biotechnology specialized hardware, algorithms, and software. In biotechnology, the human body would be seen as a ‘unit’ that is theoretical, but then by applying some genetic modifications it would be possible to ‘repair,’ completely renew, or upgrade it. As a consequence, a man would be understood as a dynamic, flexible, and reprogrammable biological system. In the future, the permanent changes in the functional capacity of the human bodies are predicted.
The advent of biotechnology and nanotechnology based on information technology would make the society reconsider the relationship between the man and a machine, between genetics and computer ‘codes’ that would appear at the nanoscale level. Also, the future researches into the field of biotechnology and nanotechnology would urge people to review the concept of ‘life’ itself and the idea of ‘man,’ ‘machine,’ ‘technology,’ ‘treatment,’ etc. Nevertheless, the question of the point that separates the actual treatment in the usual sense of the biotechnological medicine and ‘modernization’ would be problematized.
In the future, hypothetically, the society would not come to the technological solutions based on the core principles of living nature. There would be, as Lövbrand point out, a new stage of development, when the technical and model copying of ‘man-like devices’ would take place by a relatively simple inorganic materials. Hence, the society would be ready to move to the reproduction of wildlife systems based on the advancements of nanobiotechnology.
The recent investigations (Lövbrand, Jasanoff) discovered that the most prominent development of computers is, the more people would simply resemble an ‘output’ of the direct computation process. The high IT would stimulate an increased degree of automation of all processes of creating, processing, and transmitting information, in other words, they would aim at excluding people from all technological information processing chains. The functioning of the future programmable computer would mean the automated state so that a person would only determine which program to operate and they would ‘ask’ it to start an action.
Jasanoff also believes that soon it would become possible to automate the creative side of human activity. Neurocomputers would be able to become a universal means of performing many intelligent functions in real time and in the real environment, thus, forcing a person to be off the scope of tasking.
The development of the information technologies would require the retraining of specialists and the change of the process equipment. The sphere of application of information technology would constantly be expanding. The forthcoming technological advancements would be more widespread, gradually becoming not only more convenient and straightforward to use, but more affordable as well.
Having analyzed the most recent viewpoints on the future societal development and the role of science and technology in this process, it is possible to state that the impact triggered by progress would be mainly negative. This is determined by the fact that machines and various technologies would supplant people. On the one hand, this would leave humans without any occupation and on the other hand, such situation would result in the lack of space for people. In addition to this, the design, production, and utilization of all the machines mentioned would harm the environment. Due to the various points of view, the benefits of scientific and technological influence on the society of the future would be very shortly superseded by the losses which are already evident today.