A Comparison of Three Perspectives on the Evolution of Technology
Social Impact of Technology
Technology progress refers to finding different or improved methods that are used to produce goods. Research and development are key for these changes to happen since it requires continuous improvement of the technology techniques which are then implemented in an industry or within our society. It has three phases; invention, innovation, and diffusion. In summary, they mean the creation of new technology, finding ways to incorporate it into existing technology, and the acceptance of this technology in society or industry. The Solow Residual is the most familiar method for measuring this technological progress. It tries to explain how technology progress could be the result of the peculiar changes in output that cannot be justified by changes in profits or any other relevant changes in the industry. This paper will therefore compare and contrast the perspectives of Gerhard Lenski, Leslie White as well as Alvin Toffler on technology progress.
Gerhard Lenski believed that society needed technology for it to survive. He believed that the technology level or abundance of information within a society dictated how advanced they would be. On the other hand, Leslie White believed that societies needed to secure more energy and utilize it in problem solving or development. This way the society that utilized this method would be more advantaged and would help in survival. Alvin Toffler’s perspective was different from Lenski’s or White’s since he believed that society would suffer due to information overload (Shaw, 2010). He argued that it will get to a point where the advancement in technology would be faster than how humans could adapt to innovations. Lenski also believes that the population capacity was limited to the ability to produce adequate food. He believed that the evolution of society and cultures required integration of population, production, and our environment.
Perspective of Gerhard Lenski
Gerhard Lenski is a sociologist who believes that technological advancements are the basic factor that shows or enables the evolution of our societies as well as cultures. Unlike the works of Leslie White who believed in the power of harnessing and consuming energy for evolution, he believed that information availability and relevance are the core of the social revolution. He believed that culture gets diverse as technology progresses. Also, he stated that more information meant that society was able to improve themselves and their environment and this plays a significant role in advancement (Lenski, 2013). He believed that are four different stages in which information is passed; the first stage is through genes. This is followed by sharing individual experiences. Then signs were and are used to communicate as humans also develop logic. The fourth stage is through symbols, language in addition to writing. His theory dictates that when communication develops, it translates to progress in the economic system, political system, trade, and other scopes of society.
The perspective of Leslie White
Leslie white was a functionalist and popularly known for being an anthropologist. His theory concentrated on cultural development in society. He believed that it contained three different phases; technology, ideological in addition to social organization (White, 2016). He believed that technological progress referred to the techniques of people in society. Also, he explained that technology was merely a problem-solving method for survival. His main concern however was how humans utilized energy to cater to their needs. According to White, the society that was able to harness more energy and utilize it effectively, eventually had an advantage over any other society. His law stated that evolution was measured by the consumption of energy by different societies.
He reasoned that there were different stages in which energy was utilized. For instance, it is used in our muscles. It is also utilized by having domestic animals. The third stage is when energy is utilized in plants. This then followed by humans utilizing it in natural resources such as coal or gas. Finally, when it is harnessed through an atom in the form of nuclear energy (Garland, 2012). His law explains how culture evolved by the energy amounts that are harnessed and consumed annually. His work is similar to that of Gerhard Lenski in that they both believe that technological progress was one of the factors that prove that there is an evolution in society.
The perspective of Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffler was a futurist who studied trends then concludes its direction. He is popularly known for the term ‘information overload’ since he predicted this before the age of computers and their innovations He predicted the social, as well as the economic impact of incorporating technology in our lives since there are very many devices connected to the internet and most of them, are mobile and the risks keep getting worse by the day since they are more powerful than the traditional computer. He also stated that “The illiterate in the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” (Strother, 2012).
The innovations are also affecting businesses since they need to keep up with the contemporary preferences for their consumers and this necessarily means the information technology department but also the management of different industries. This is in terms of the pressure that is put on businesses to keep up with the market drivers, internal demands in addition to data-driven requirements. Adaptation is a concept that most organizations struggle with but it is a strategy that they need to implement in their business plan in this fast-changing world. The information technology department as well as the management need to collaborate to ensure that the organization is flexible and effective strategies are put in place to keep up with contemporary trends.
Both Lenski and White believe that technological progress is the basis for society and cultural evolution. However, their theories differ in that the work or Lenski precedes and expounds on White’s work. Lenski talks about how information is relevant in advancing the environment in our society but White theory talks about how society’s evolution depends on how humans harness and utilize different sources of energy. They are both right and society depends on both information and technology, this is because the more information they have the more curious they will be in trying to innovate what they already have. In addition, with different ways to harness and utilize technology, they can focus their minds and energy on less tedious tasks.
The works of Lenski and Toffler are similar because they both talk about the relevance of information in our society. The difference between the two is that Lenski law states that information is necessary for the evolution of societies and culture but Toffler is worried about information overload and adaptability. Even if they would both agree that information is necessary for progress, Toffler predicted that there would come a time where people would have a hard time keeping up with contemporary trends. Also, Lenski described how the information would help in the development of economies but Toffler argues that management in organizations has a hard time keeping up with these trends and this affects their productivity. Society and culture have therefore been quite relevant in explaining technology progress.
Garland, N. L., Papageorgopoulos, D. C., & Stanford, J. M. (2012). Hydrogen and fuel cell technology: Progress, challenges, and future directions. Energy Procedia, 28, 2-11.
Lenski, G. E. (2013). Power and privilege: A theory of social stratification. UNC Press Books.
Shaw, W. H. (2010). Information overload. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 38(1), 2-2.
Strother, J. B., Ulijn, J. M., & Fazal, Z. (2012). Information overload: an international challenge for professional engineers and technical communicators (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.
White, L. A. (2016). The evolution of culture: the development of civilization to the fall of Rome. Routledge.
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