Exploring the Impact of Technology

When viewed over long periods of history, the impact of technology becomes clear, but what about more recent technological advancements? Sometimes it’s harder to tell what impact things are having on our life when we’re busy with day-to-day activities? Do you ever stop to wonder whether mobile phones are a good thing? Can you imagine life without the Internet? Would your life be better or worse without these modern inventions?

Information communication technology (ICT) has undoubtedly had a huge impact on our way of life, but how can we measure it?

To evaluate this kind of change, we look at three areas of impact:

  1. Social Impact – the effect on how we live.
  2. Physical Impact – the effect on where we live and with what technology.
  3. Cultural and Ethical Impact – the effect on personal thoughts, feelings and values.

What was life like before mobile phones, smart phones, MP3 and 4 players, digital cameras, personal computers, laptops, Wifi, Bluetooth, broadband and remote controlled multi-media?

Choose one technological device and investigate its impact using the grid in the Exploring the Impact of Technology worksheet. Organise your ideas to present back to the class. This activity has been devised for students aged 14-16 but can be used outside of this age range.

Social Impact

There is no doubt that technological change brings about social change. Consider the social impact of technology in relation to the following statements. Technology can…

  • Replace people in the workplace, as IT is often more efficient and reliable.
  • Cause a breakdown in social interaction, disassociation with your peer group and weakening of the family unit as communication becomes more faceless and remote.
  • Cause social inequality – people with money have more opportunity to acquire technology, which enables them to acquire even more wealth. Those without may well turn to crime to keep up with society.
  • Lead to alienation because it can create jobs that require no specialist knowledge.
  • Hinder as well as assist the communication skills which are the key to advancing civilisation.
  • Promote undesirable human traits e.g. instant response at the push of a button has led to a culture of impatience.
  • Eliminate regional and national borders for both business and leisure, in terms of access to knowledge.
  • Make it easier to become a victim of crime through identity theft and or harassment/cyberbullying.
Physical Impact

Technological change also brings about physical changes to the environment in which we live. Now consider the physical impact of your chosen technology in relation to the following statements:

  • By the year 2000 technological developments had removed traditional barriers that defined technology a century earlier – time, distance and space.
  • Advances in technology develop cyclically, where each technology is developed with knowledge and understanding. This in turn creates new knowledge and understanding that drives technological change.
  • Since the middle of the last century the rate of technological change has accelerated, creating an increased dependence on technology in the Western world.
  • The world of electrical lighting and appliances, electrical power, cars, planes, ships and consumer culture has created a century of inescapable technology.
  • The age of electronics has created a new world of choices from mobile phones to notebook computers, making communication and access to information easier and almost instantaneous.
  • Technological advancement is killing our planet, but only technological change can save it.
  • The Internet age has created a virtual world which presents a whole new risk to personal wellbeing and safety in both the transfer of sensitive information and in the faceless encounters with which we engage without really knowing who we are communicating with.
  • Wifi has changed the way we conduct both our business and personal lives, but has also created new opportunities for crime in both the theft of the wireless enabled devices and the personal information contained on the network.
Cultural and Ethical Impact

Technological change can also lead to heated debate on the ethics and cultural implications of our actions and reactions. Now consider the cultural and ethical impact of your chosen technology in relation to the following statements. Include ways in which you would minimise any personal risk presented by your technological focus:

  • War has been – and will continue to be the driving force for technology and innovation. Power and wealth are linked.
  • Technology leads to greater social economic division, particularly across generations.
  • Social traditions and structures are becoming lost in the age of technology.
  • Technology often conflicts with cultural or religious beliefs. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.
  • Advances in technology allow man to defy nature.
  • There is a positive and negative impact to all technologies e.g. being able to trade worldwide at the click of a mouse has led to global economic growth for businesses and fraudsters alike.
  • Remote communications have led to an increase in deception, fraud and miscommunication. Threatening the safety of our own identities and allowing cyberbullies into our homes.

Resource Downloads

Information Exchange Challenge

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Information Exchange Debate

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Information Exchange Online

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Mobile Information Exchange

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Traditional Information Exchange

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