Relationship between Science, Technology, and Society

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Science and Technology

Science has contributed a lot to modern technology. The aim of science is to explain how and why things happen in the universe. The aim of technology is to make things happen or work. Technology is therefore an application of science. Not all of technology is based on science and nor is science necessary for all of technology. For example, tools and implements were made from iron centuries before humans understood the structure of iron as a metal.

Increasingly though, modern technology applications such as nuclear power generation, space travel, medicinal breakthroughs and many more, rely heavily on scientific findings and outcomes.

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Impact of Science and Technology on Society

Science and technology have had a major impact on society and their impact continues to grow rapidly. (See also: Understanding Technology).

Advantages of science and technology

Rapid means of transport enabled us to live farther away from workplaces. Remote means of communication enabled us to work remotely without the need for travel. Novel means of entertainment changed the way we spend our leisure time.Environment and housing, food and clothing, quality of life and life expectancy, every indicator of health, comfort, security, has improved dramatically with the impact of science and technology.

Downsides of science and technology

In the name of progress, we have also created nuclear weapons to wreak havoc on other nations, polluted the environment around us and globally, depleted natural resources, displaced large populations to build dams, destroyed forests and other forms of natural beauty, aided unemployment and insecurity, and much more.

Let us explore some of the major technology impacts – both positive and negative – on society.

The Internet

Perhaps the most significant development in recent decades has been the progressive use of the Internet. It is now the preferred medium of communication for every single aspect of life, from ordering pizza to texting a friend, from buying milk to getting instant news updates. It has changed every single aspect of everyday existence – from the way we live and the way we work to the way we relate with other people and even to the way we think. The benefits to individuals and to society are truly immense – freedom, convenience, collaboration, speed, knowledge, learning, entertainment, and so on.

 

There are also many societal downsides of the use and spread of the internet that responsible youngsters and adults need to be aware of –

  • Screen exposure – children are exposed to bright screens from a very early stage. This can be detrimental to their eyesight and overall health
  • Internet addiction – children, and even adults, tend to get hooked onto the internet via their devices, to the exclusion of any other form of social interaction
  • Social isolation – over-reliance on the internet affects people’s interactions socially, they tend to isolate themselves from society
  • Privacy loss – inadequate controls or misuse of the internet can lead to cyber-crimes such as online fraud, identity theft and other loss of private information

Social Networking

An important byproduct of the internet has been the growth and availability of dedicated websites and applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and many more,to interact with other users – friends, family, even strangers – and to find other users of similar interests and inclinations as ours.

This too has tremendous benefits to society – instant communication ability, furthering knowledge boundaries, developing new hobbies and pursuits, building professional careers, and generally becoming popular in a group of acquaintances, to name just a few.

 

The problems associated with social networking are similar to those of the internet, but some more issues can crop up –

  • You may be subjected to cyber-bullying and trolling based on the views you hold and share
  • You may be drawn into and influenced by fringe groups that are racist or have other such undesirable inclinations such as cyber-crimes
  • Peer pressure, keenness to “belong” or “be included”,could lead to mental and emotional traumas such as depression, isolation, even suicide

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Genetic Engineering

The discovery of genes and the ability to map the genomes of humans, plants and animals, has led to remarkable advances in many fields, notably in food and medicine. This relatively recent technology innovation has created a new field known as Genetic Engineering.

Scientists have embarked on artificially reconstructing DNA in seeds, plants and animals with diverse benefits, mostly focused around issues of hunger and health –

  • To make food taste better, last longer, be more nutritious
  • To increase crop yield, reduce water, fertilizer and pesticide usage, make plants more resistant to disease
  • To grow food with more health-giving qualities and to reduce or eliminate disease or infection causing nature of foods (for example, potatoes when fried are less likely to cause cancer)
  • To create infertility in insects which spread disease, such as mosquitos
  • To clone animals and other organisms, though the benefits of this are less evident

As with all technological advances, genetic engineering too can have adverse impact on our lives. Foremost is the ethical issue of whether humans should interfere with nature and create food and animal strains that are “not natural”. Genetically modified crops could create allergies in some people or may even be toxic. Gene transfers in plants may not suit all species. Pollen produced by genetically modified plants could be toxic to insects and to the plants that these insects carry it to.

Duty to Society

Technology, as we have seen, has immense potential to do good and also equally the potential to harm. From an ethical standpoint, science and technology need to maximize the benefits and minimize, or even eradicate the nasty ill effects. Duty to Societyis one of the important Ethical Practices that ought to govern scientific inquiry, research and applications of technology.(See also: Nature of Science – Ethical Practices)

Check Point

  1. Which statement is true?
    1. Science makes things work
    2. Technology explains how things work
    3. Science is an application of technology
    4. Technology makes things work
  2. Which is NOT an advantage of science and technology to society?
    1. Rapid means of transport
    2. Remote means of communication
    3. Depletion of natural resources
    4. Novel means of entertainment
  3. Which of these is NOT a negative impact of the Internet on society?
    1. Freedom and convenience
    2. Screen exposure
    3. Social isolation
    4. Privacy loss
  4. Which of these is NOT an advantage of social networking to society?
    1. Instant communication ability
    2. Cyber-bullying and trolling
    3. Developing new hobbies and pursuits
    4. Building professional careers

5. Genetic engineering has made progress in many fields, notably in ______ and ______.

Answer Key

  1. d) Technology makes things work
  2. c) Depletion of natural resources
  3. a) Freedom and convenience
  4. b) Cyber-bullying and trolling
  5. Food, Medicine

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