Has the increasing power and ubiquity of technology made our lives better overall? Think about this in relation to the radical social, economic and political changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
Technology has greatly improved our lives in many ways. It’s allowed us to be better connected and learn much more about our world than we ever thought possible. The constant sharing of information has allowed much expansion and progress in today’s society. However, it has somewhat replaced human communication which is quite a saddening side effect. Rather than pick up a phone, or set a lunch date, people will send a few quick text messages or emails and be done with their communication. I think it’s quite disheartening that technology has amounted to embody the fears of some of people of the age: that it has replaced the need for humans. I think the loss of this kind of humanity can only be restored by a rejection of technology, but humans are too addicted to the power, accessibility, and ease that it provides their daily lives. ~Ashley
Classic question. (not in a bad way!) I honestly can’t imagine my life without the technology and innovation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. However, the readings about Manchester and other towns that obliterated the countryside make me question whether the technology-infested life we have today was really necessary. Perhaps it was inevitable, but did we have to have an Industrial Revolution to continue human life? Could we have just stayed an agrarian society forever? Would a less dramatic Industrial Revolution have prevented the large-scale environmental issues we have today? On the other hand, advances in technology allow more thought to be given to other areas such as medicine, politics, etc. as time and resources are freed up and advance society for the better. Pretty much the bottom line is all of life sped up after the Industrial Revolution…was it necessary? -Becca
This question makes me think of Emerson’s “society never advances” idea from English last year (sorry to bring it up again!) The inventions and progressive mindset of the Industrial Revolution certainly advanced the economy and allowed for improvements in medicine and scientific theory. However, I think the long-term disadvantages of technology have outweighed the benefits. The lack of real communication and reliance on machines caused by the Industrial Revolution seem to have robbed us of basic human skills. In this sense, we are moving backwards. And as Becca said, our lives are more fast-paced, and we all seem to be racing toward one goal, and then another. Human ambition has created an environment in which we feel pressured to complete ten college applications and make straight A’s just to keep up with the “requirements” set by society. While I agree that technological advancement is inevitable, I think we are in control of how much it affects us personally.
Technology has made our lives easier, but it can be argued either way as to whether it has made our lives “better.” The advances in agriculture allowed for more people to be fed, and the eventual advancements in medicine have saved the lives of millions of people. On the other hand, the social unrest that spurned from the awful conditions of factory workers, for instance had a negative affect on society. Also, technology has made it easier to live an inactive, indoors, and secluded life. Whether or not technology has improved our lives overall, fact of the matter is that this advancement was inevitable. Humans as a whole are never content with just staying where they are. We are always trying to improve our current situations. Even now that we are faced with all of the huge environmental problems the Industrial Revolution caused, we are searching for new technology to solve them instead of realizing it was technology that started it all. - Erin
I feel like this was an SAT essay question…
I think the ultimate benefit of the Industrial Revolution is the concept of the “shrinking world.” Though at the time, this phrase related mostly to train travel, since then technology has linked the world in infinite ways. The printing press, though invented well before this revolution, linked people through ideas published in newspapers as literacy rates rose. Steam ships additionally made trade with other countries easier and more efficient, and connected people continents away. Today, we are linked by endless technological advancements: planes, cars, phones, the internet, and more. Because of this we are aware of the greater world around us, instead of knowing only the place we were raised in, as many people prior to the industrial revolution did, cut off from the rest of the world. With these connections, we have unlimited outlets to improve our world, though some might argue that it opens up just as many problems. I’d like to stay positive for now, though. The interconnectedness of the world today, and all of the benefits of a "shrunken" world, for the most part, started here. -Alexis
In regards to the changes the Industrial Revolution caused almost directly after it gained momentum, I would say that the widening of the gap between lower and higher classes led to more resentment of the upper class and radical ideology that targeted the rich instead just the conservatives. The concept of making money off of money was also developed during that time which also a major point of controversy and an idea hated by many liberal radicals. The worsening of living and working conditions for the poor gave rise to much more radical social and political movements as well. However, I do think that these various injustices sped up the democratic process, as they caused the working class to agitate for their rights more. In regards to the lasting effects of the Industrial Revolution and today's world, I would really rather the Industrial Revolution had never happened. Technological advancements have made our lives easier, but not necessarily better. As other people mentioned, it encourages laziness and causes people to stay inside all the time and miss out on real life. The easy access to food has contributed to obesity, the medical advancements have contributed to overpopulation, the creation of the social media has created countless problems such as over-sharing personal information, cyber-bullying, not being able to escape from your peers, and of course, the earth/environment is dying. And I know you hate Lord of the Rings Mr. Edwards, but I have to point out that J.R.R. Tolkiens' series was an allegory for the Industrial Revolution ( “everything green and good in this world will be gone” “nobody cares for the woods anymore” Saroman cutting down Fangorn Forest to “fuel his machine of war”) because it is fun and he was right about the huge problems it has caused. Kristen.
It’s difficult to say that the advancement of technology solely has made our lives better without referring to the negative things that come with it as well. I believe that the Industrial Revolution and the innovation of that era spawned a better opportunity to have more comfortable lives for people but there were always a few drawbacks. Such as pollution and smog from factories lowering air quality. The increase in factories causing a major population shift as countries began to urbanize, making the cities become overcrowded and dirty. So a lot of the workers that were originally farmers but were searching for a better life in the city ultimately faced the same fate of exploitation in the factory. The poor working class didn't get to marvel and appreciate the effects of the industrial age, because it was this technology that made labor cheap allowing the owners to make them work long hours for low wages. So indirectly the Industrial Revolution definitely modernized societies but it also caused a greater class difference as well. Thus speeding up the process towards angry working class people adopting Karl Marx’s socialist principles and violently overthrowing the middle class. - Chuka
There are multiple ways to evaluate the effects of improved technology; on one hand, railroads and steam-engine ships physically connected the world, and advancements like radio, telephone cables, and internet allow for instant communication, further eliminating the hindrances of distance with regards to human interaction. On the other hand, as Ashley points out, technology has also made communication less personal and less significant, as a constant fear of being alone/left behind induces us to constantly talk to each other about copious amounts of nothing. While factories and machinery have increased product production levels, increasing the availability of stuff in general, the environmental effects force us to wean ourselves off of our dependence on coal/oil/natural gas, whereas as individuals, we have become more stuff-obsessed and materialistic (this might go along with pressures to get into good colleges and get good jobs and earn lots of money so that one day somewhere you will be able to buy stuff). —Connie
Technology, like most things in this world, is a double-edged sword. Means of transportation and communication are some of the positives that have arisen. People in New York can do business with people in London and Shanghai simultaneously, a feat that is impossible without powerful technology. Some of the negatives are the decline of face-to-face interactions and the rise in the number of environmental problems. As is commonly said, people of our generation are constantly texting each other, and some become so engrossed in that that they forget how to interact with people without their phone. The earth is facing numerous problems today, and many of those are directly related to the increase in the power and availability of technology. Burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment, but it would not be such a huge problem if things such as cars were not readily available to so many people. Technology allowed the population boom seen during the Industrial Revolution, because we became able to support many more people. However, the increased number of people has taken a toll on the earth over time. Technology has solved many problems and will continue to do so, but would those problems even exist without technology? -Sam
I think that the advancements of technology during the Industrial Revolution spurred on the spread of liberalism and new political, social, and religious ideas, which does better society. However, as the world shrank, we grew even further away from the simple faith and innocence that we used to possess. The world was no longer ruled solely by God – factory owners dominated the lives of their employees and determined their life or death, machines grew to achieve the impossible, and humans grew further away from the animals we are. Whether that’s good or bad can be argued, but I think that in gaining the “interconnectedness” (as Alexis said) of the world, we also ended up losing our sense of wonder. The world was known and people communicated with one another now – that’s great and all, but where is the mystery? Maybe I’m just an idealist who wants there to be something more out there. I think it’s both, which I know is pretty much a cop-out of an answer. - Leora
I think that the benefits of technological advancement outweigh the negative aspects. Increased globalization has led to an economy and society that would have been out of the question even 50 years ago. During the revolution people were more reluctant than today to accept new tech, but it was able to advance the society as a whole. Modern factories and machinery would remain quite dangerous for some time, but their purpose was more important. Work could be completed much more easily, and with the telegram communication was faster. I agree with Chuka that this also may have widened class differences. the poor could not afford new things, and the rich usually became the innovative thinkers who would invent and improve existing technology. Even today technology separates the lower and upper classes. Although an argument could be made against the benefits of modernization, the I.R. was arguably able to transform the worldwide system of living more than any other event in history.