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The Impact of Technology on Society The Origins of Man to Present Day


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Title: The Impact of Technology on Society The Origins of Man to Present Day

The Impact of Technology on Society The Origins
of Man to Present Day
  • Dr. David Gibbs
  • Department of Computing and New Media
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Stevens Point, WI 54481

Dr. David Gibbs Fulbright Fellow 2008 University
of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Wisconsin, USA
  • Dr. David Gibbs
  • Department of Computing and New Media
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Stevens Point, WI 54481

Wisconsin, USA
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Facts
  • Population 5,648,124 (2007) (20th)
  • Land Area 65,503 sq mi. (23rd)
  • Statehood 1848
  • First explored 1634 (French, Jean Nicolet)
  • Main industries
  • Agriculture (milk, cheese, peas, potatoes, beans)
  • Industry (paper, machinery, autos)
  • Service (insurance, medical, higher education)
  • Over 14,000 lakes

University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
  • Established 1894
  • Enrollment 8600 combined grad/undergrad
  • Comprehensive programs
  • Largest major fields of study
  • Education
  • Natural Resources
  • Biology
  • Computing

University of Wisconsin System
26 Campuses 2 Doctoral Institutions 11
Comprehensive 13 Two Year Universities approximat
ely 160,000 students
Wisconsin Technical College System
16 Districts Blackhawk Chippewa Valley Fox
Valley Gateway Lakeshore Madison
Area Mid-State Milwaukee Area Moraine
Park Nicolet Area Northcentral Northeast
Wisconsin Southwest Wisconsin Waukesha
County Western Wisconsin Indianhead
About Dr. Gibbs
  • Raised on a farm? in rural Wisconsin
  • Undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Physical
  • Masters Degree in Computer Science
  • Ph.D. In Educational Technology
  • Teaching Experience
  • 2 years secondary school
  • 27 years university

My Family
Impact of Technology
  • Interaction of humans and their
  • Origins to present
  • Present to 2047

  • Neil Postman
  • Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
    Technology (1993)
  • Ray Kurzweil
  • The Singularity is Near When Humans Transcend
    Biology (2005)
  • Life in America (1955 2008)
  • convenience, immediate gratification, pleasure
    seeking, the disappearance of childhood, stay
    young at all costs, quarterly stock earnings
    reports, maxim of efficiency

Neil Postman
  • 1931-2003
  • NYU Professor of Communications, media theorist,
    and cultural critic
  • 18 books, 200 articles

Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
Author Neil Postman Published in 1993
Postmans Writings
  • Television and the Teaching of English (1961).
  • Linguistics A Revolution in Teaching with
    Charles Weingartner (Dell Publishing, 1966).
  • Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969) with
    Charles Weingartner.
  • Teaching as a Conserving Activity (1979).
  • The Disappearance of Childhood (1982).
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death Public Discourse in
    the Age of Show Business (1985).
  • Conscientious Objections Stirring Up Trouble
    About Language, Technology and Education (1988).
  • Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
    Technology (1992).
  • The End of Education Redefining the Value of
    School (1995).
  • Building a Bridge to the 18th Century How the
    Past Can Improve Our Future (1999).

Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
  • Technopoly
  • Postman coined the term in part because no term
  • Culture
  • Patterns of human activity and the symbolic
    structures that give such activity significance.

Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
  • Legend of Thamus
  • from Platos Phaedrus (a dialog between Socrates
    and Phaedrus)
  • King Thamus entertaining Theuth, the inventor of
    numbers, calculation, geometry, astronomy, and

Theuth, to Thamus
  • Theuth, the inventor, to the King, on his
    invention of writing
  • Here is an accomplishment, my lord the king,
    which will improve both the wisdom and the memory
    of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure
    receipt for memory and wisdom.

Thamus, to Theuth
  • King Thamus, on Theuths writing
  • Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer
    of an art is not the best judge of the good or
    harm which will accrue to those who practice it.
    So it is in this you, who are the father of
    writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring
    attributed to it quite the opposite of its real
    function. Those who acquire it will cease to
    exercise their memory and become forgetful they
    will rely on writing to bring things to their
    remembrance by external signs instead of by their
    own internal resources.

What will be the impact of writing?
  • King Thamus, on Theuths writing continued
  • What you have discovered is a receipt for
    recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom,
    your pupils will have the reputation for it
    without the reality they will receive a
    quantity of information without proper
    instruction, and in consequence be thought very
    knowledgeable when they are for the most part
    quite ignorant. And because they are filled with
    the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they
    will be a burden to society.

What are the lessons of Theuth Thamos?
  • Cultures negotiate with technology technology
    "giveth" and technology "taketh away.
  • It is a mistake to suppose that any technological
    innovation has a one-sided effect. Every
    technology is both a burden and a blessing at

What are the lessons of Theuth Thamos?
  • Technologies create new definitions of old terms,
    and this process takes place without our being
    fully conscious of it. (memory, wisdom)
  • There will always be "winners" and "losers" as
    the result of a new technology.

What are the lessons of Theuth Thamos?
  • Technologies create experts, those with
  • Those who have control over the workings of a
    particular technology accumulate power.
  • There will always be "winners" and "losers" as
    the result of a new technology.
  • At the start of a technological journey, you
    can't simply conspire to be a winner.

What are the lessons of Theuth Thamos?
  • New technologies compete with old ones - for
    time, for attention, for money, for prestige, but
    mostly for dominance of their world-view.
  • Technological change is neither additive nor
    subtractive. It is ecological.

Writing as a Technology
  • Why does Postman begin his book with this story?
  • Why do I begin this talk with it?
  • What does this have to do with any new technology

Legend of Thamus
  • Thamus was right but only half-right, as was
  • Writing is not just a burden it is both and
    at the same time a burden and a blessing.

Social Aspects of Technology Course
  • First written assignment
  • entitled Benefits and Harms of Technology
  • technology as broadly defined in the assignment
  • 6 technologies
  • 3 positive, or beneficial
  • 3 negative, or harmful
  • Oral presentation and defense of those
    technologies in class
  • Examples cell phones, television, i-pods,
    nuclear power

Technology is non-neutral
  • ALL technologies bring blessings and burdens.
  • CHALLENGE find a technology that is either ALL
    good or ALL bad.
  • REALIZATION you cant choose to use a technology
    only for good (or bad)
  • MYTH It all depends upon how you use it

With apologies to Clint Eastwood
  • Regarding Technology, NOT the Good and Bad, BUT
  • The Good AND Bad, and the potentially Ugly

Technopoly The Surrender of Culture to
  • A Taxonomy of Culture
  • a timeline describing the intersection of
    Tools/Technology and Culture
  • Tool-Using rocks, fire, to 1770s
  • Technocracy 1770s to 1910
  • Technopoly 1910 to present (i.e. 1993)

The Taxonomy stage 1
  • A Tool-Using Culture (rocks, fire, to 1770s)
  • Tools either
  • solved the immediate problems of physical life,
    such as
  • water power, windmills, plow
  • served the symbolic world of art, religion,
  • cathedrals, castles

The Taxonomy stage 2
  • Technocracy (1770s to early 1900s)
  • A society loosely controlled by social custom and
    religious tradition
  • Tools moving Europe from a tool-using culture to
  • Clock
  • Printing press
  • Telescope
  • Origins of the scientific method

The Taxonomy stage 2, contd
  • Technocracy
  • Began in late 1700s
  • 1765 James Watt, steam engine
  • 1776, as defined by Adam Smith in Wealth of
  • Roughly corresponds to the Industrial Revolution
  • Communications Revolution began
  • Books (now affordable/available), telegraph,
    typewriter, transatlantic cable, photography
  • Life began to speed up

The Taxonomy stage 3
  • Technopoly (early 1900s present i.e. 1993)
  • The submission of all forms of cultural life to
    the sovereignty of technique and technology.
  • Began in early 1900s. When?
  • Henry Fords model T (Huxley 632 AF) ?
  • 1925 Scopes monkey trial ?
  • 1910 Frederick Taylor, Scientific Management
    EFFICIENCY maxims applied to the Interstate
    Commerce Commission hearings between the Railroad
    and Labor force

The Principles of Scientific Management by
Frederick Taylor
  1. the goal of human labor and thought is
  2. technical calculation is superior to human
  3. human judgment cannot be trusted (plagued by
    laxity, ambiguity, unnecessary complexity)

The Principles of Scientific Management by
Frederick Taylor
  1. subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking
  2. what cannot be measured either does not exist or
    is of no value
  3. the affairs of citizens are best guided and
    conducted by experts

Why did Technopoly prosper in America?
  • The American character.
  • The genius and audacity of American capitalists
    (to say nothing for the resources available which
    they might exploit).
  • Morse, Bell, Edison, Rockefeller, Astor, Ford,

Why did Technopoly prosper in America? (contd)
  • The success of twentieth century technology in
    providing convenience, comfort, speed, hygiene
    and abundance.
  • "To every Old World belief, habit or tradition
    there was and still is a technological
  • to prayer, the alternative is penicillin
  • to family roots, the alternative is mobility
  • to reading, the alternative is television
  • to restraint, immediate gratification
  • to sin, psychotherapy

Definition of Technopoly
  • A Technopoly is a society that believes that "the
    primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and
    thought is efficiency, that technical calculation
    is in all respects superior to human judgment ...
    and that the affairs of citizens are best guided
    and conducted by experts." (p. 43)
  • In 1993, Technopoly existed primarily in America.
  • Where does it exist today?

Taxonomic Stages of the Interaction of Culture
and Technology
  • To summarize
  • Tool-using
  • Technology is integrated into the culture
  • Technocracy
  • Technology attacks the culture
  • Technopoly
  • Technology becomes the culture and efficiency
    is the paramount goal

  • We make our tools and forever after they shape
    us. Marshall McLuhan
  • The medium is the message. McLuhan
  • Men have become the tools of their tools.
    Henry David Thoreau

Truisms (Wordnet an obvious truth)
  1. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a
  2. To a man with a pencil, everything looks like a
  3. To a man with a camera, everything looks like an
  4. To a man with a computer, everything looks like
  5. To a man with a grade sheet, everything looks
    like a number.
  6. To a man with the scientific method, everything
    is solvable by science or engineering.

An Observation
  • Each technological advance increases the
    efficiency of its predecessor. (Thats why its
    accepted as an advance.)
  • NOTE that the scientific method is itself an
    improvement in efficiency over its
  • NOTE that natural selection takes place between
    competing technologies.

Gibbsian Truism
  • Technology serves to distance people.
  • Warfare fists, rocks, spears, arrows, guns,
    cannons, chemical warfare, airborne bombs,
    missiles, biological agents. NOW air drones,
    robots as proxy battlefield soldiers, ABMs fired
    from the other side of the world.

Gibbsian Truism
  • Technology serves to distance people, 2nd
  • Communications between humans gestures, spoken
    language, smoke signals, glyphs, cursive writing,
    printing press, telegraphy, radio, telephone,
    television. NOW Internet (email, blogs, text
    messages), chats, virtual worlds (2nd Life).
    SOON total VR immersion

Gibbsian Truism
  • What technology makes easy to do, we tend to do.
  • (A corollary of a law of human nature known as
    the path of least resistance.)

Creation of Because-You-Can
  • TAKE the truism
  • What technology makes easy we tend to do
  • ADD
  • Capitalist zeal, replete with marketing
  • Because You Can Technologies (BYC)

What is a (BYC)? Because-You-Can
  • When the only possible answer to the question
  • Why would they create that?
  • is
  • Because you can!
  • you have identified a BYC.

BYC Examples
  • Screaming monkey phone call
  • Gene bank your pet only 1500
  • No tears onions
  • Segway

What typifies Technopoly?
  • These phenomena typify Technopoly
  • Information overload
  • Scientism
  • creation of expertise
  • and a result
  • the disappearance of childhood

The Information Revolution leads to Information
  1. Printing press Gutenberg 1450
  2. Telegraph Morse, 1844 (U.S.)
  3. Photograph Herschel and Daguerre, 1840s
  4. Broadcasting radio 1920s, TV 1950s
  5. Personal computer 1980s
  6. Internet, WWW 1990s gtgt volume, speed, cost,
    multiple formats

sipping from a fire hose
  • What techniques do you use to manage information
    and info tools?
  • mandatory quiet periods? (devices turned off?)
  • Take a day off, e.g. Sunday?

towards Scientism
  • Technopoly values efficiency, information,
    predictability, and reliability.
  • The scientific method was developed via the
    discovery of natural law, i.e. "nature's laws".
  • The combination of the two applied to social or
    human situations is "Scientism."
  • What is problematic about this?

  • Social scientists believe that the study of human
    behavior, when conducted according to the
    rigorous principles established by the physical
    and biological sciences, will produce objective
    facts, testable theories, and profound
    understandings of the human condition.
  • Examples

The Disappearance of Childhood
  • Childhood was socially constructed, as a result
    of the printing press
  • In the middle ages humans became adults at 6 or
    7 (when they could speak)
  • Starting with the reformation literacy
  • Books gt reading writing gt schools curriculum
    gt school children
  • A new class of human, with special status and
    protections from all things adult.

The Disappearance of Childhood, contd.
  • Childhood is disappearing, as a result of mass
    media primarily television
  • TV is non-linguistic primarily de-coding images
    (turn off the volume some time)
  • Requires no skills and develops no skills
  • Unrestricted access, liberal doses of all things,
    including those thought of as adult
  • Erases the dividing line between children and

Observations in support of The Disappearance of
  • Apparel
  • Sports recreation
  • Emphasis on youth culture (for adults)
  • Emphasis on being older (for youth)
  • Social statistics of adult behaviors of children

Regarding the graphical predominance of modern
mass media
  • TV, movies text is dead
  • The early Internet text is not dead
  • txt msgs o ys it is
  • The more recent Internet If its not dead, its
  • Speaking computers (in monotone) Yes, text is

Technology and Malta
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Government
  • Information Access
  • Commerce

Technology and Education in Malta
  • Times of Malta February 15, 2008
  • Talking point Great Teachers

Technology and Health Care in Malta
Technology and Government in Malta
Technology and Commerce in Malta
RFID Chips Radio-frequency-identification
  • Components
  • Chip (with unique ID)
  • Antenna
  • Reader

RFID chips (syn tags, transponders)
  • Passive Tags
  • No internal power source
  • Activated by a reader
  • Active Tags
  • Contain a battery, thus larger
  • Used in electronic toll gathering (right),
    parking lots

Parking Lot with RFID
Whats on the chip?
  • EPC electronic product code
  • EPC and RFID
  • 96 bit code i.e. 296, or 7.92 x 1028 unique ids
  • How BIG a number is 1028?

ASIDE How BIG a number is 1028?
  • Innumeracy is rampant in America
  • Estimation is a forgotten skill
  • Understanding probabilities nonexistent
  • Excessive exposure to big (or small) numbers
    results in numbness, apathy
  • David Beckham contract with LA Galaxy
  • 130m
  • U.S. population
  • just over 300 million
  • U.S. national budget, proposed, Feb. 4, 2008
  • 3.1 trillion, or 3.1 x 1012

More big numbers
  • U.S. National Debt
  • Over 9 trillion and increasing 1.5bn per day
  • Number of days a human lives (on average)
  • 28,105 (77 years X 365 days)

How BIG a number is 1028?
  • There are 7.5 x 1018 grains of sand on earth
    (according to Howard C. McAllister, University of
    Hawaii) http//
  • How many things can be tagged with 1028 unique
  • Everything? Clearly, some folks think so
  • The Internet of Things

Early applications of RFID
  • automatic highway toll collection
  • supply-chain management (for large retailers)
  • pharmaceuticals (for the prevention of
    counterfeiting 46bn annual losses)
  • e-health (for patient monitoring)

RFID anywhere, everywhere
  • More recent applications
  • sports and leisure (ski passes)
  • tracking cattle (carcasses)
  • personal security (tagging children at schools)
  • access to bars like the Baja Beach Club in
  • military ID (dog-tags, etc.)
  • login to your computer! (at right)

RFID in public private sectors
  • RFID in E-government
  • drivers licenses
  • passports (immediately hacked in the U.K.,
    where 3m were issued)
  • currency
  • RFID readers are now being embedded in mobile
  • Nokia, released RFID-enabled phones for
    businesses with workforces in the field in
  • launched consumer handsets in 2006.

RFID tracking valuable assets
  • Pets
  • Livestock
  • Vehicles
  • Ore (ore?)
  • Asset Tracking
  • Man Tracking

RFID and humans
  • Kevin Warwick, University of Reading professor
    and self-proclaimed first cyborg
  • Chip planting for fun (opening doors) oops
    also for profit
  • Chipping as a serious business
  • Senior citizens
  • Infants

The movement needs leaders
  • Tommy Thompson, former Bush cabinet member
    (former Wisconsin governor), member of the board
    of Applied Digital to get chipped (July 2005)
  • No he wont (December 2005)
  • Legislation passed by his former state (June 2006)

Retail Purchases?
  • Put items in your cart
  • Walk out!
  • (provided you have an RFID yourself embedded or
  • And he causeth all, both small and great, rich
    and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in
    their right hand, or in their foreheads.
  • And that no man might buy or sell, save he that
    had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the
    number of his name. Rev 13 16-17

  • Good
  • Market-supply management
  • Simplifies some pressures (toll booths, secure
    passage, queues in checkout lines)
  • Bad
  • Big-brother, done to ourselves by ourselves
    (what technology makes easy to do we tend to do)
  • Ugly?
  • What uses havent we even thought of?

Summary of the Age of Technopoly
  • Taxonomy
  • Tool-using (integrate)
  • Technocracy (attack)
  • Technopoly (become)
  • Efficiency is paramount
  • Scientific method is a belief system
  • Subordination of human thought to expert and
    machine decisions

Discussion Questions
  • Let us accept Postman's taxonomy, if only for the
    sake of this question, in which cultures have
    moved from tool-users to technocracy to
  • What do you see as the next phase?
  • What elements of Technopoly will be strengthened?
  • What will be a defining characteristic of the
    next phase?

What to do, what to do?
  • Reverse the truisms in your own life
  • Stop distancing people (HOW??)
  • Dont always do what technology makes easy to do
  • Remember the human what do you value? In
    daily life? In others?
  • Remember the sacred theres a reason those
    belief systems have been around for millennia

What to do? Postmans version
  • "A resistance fighter understands that technology
    must never be accepted as part of the natural
    order of things, that every technology - from an
    IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a
    computer - is a product of a particular economic
    and political context and carries with it a
    program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or
    may not be life enhancing and that therefore
    require scrutiny, criticism, and control."

Next Presentation March 5 The Impact of
Technology on Society Present Day to 2047 and
  • 2047? Why 2047?
  • The projected date of the Singularity.
  • a future period during which the pace of
    technological change will be so rapid, its impact
    so deep, that human life will be irreversibly

To the Singularity
  • Three technologies in succession, Genetics (G),
    Nanotechnology (N), and Robotics (R), forming the
    GNR revolution will pave the path to the
  • The Singularity will represent the culmination
    of the merger of our biological thinking and
    existence with our technology, resulting in a
    world that is still human but that transcends our
    biological roots.

To the Singularity, contd.
  • The Singularity will allow us to transcend the
    limitations of our biological bodies and brains.
    We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality
    will be in our own hands. We will be able to
    live as long as we want (a subtly different
    statement from saying we will live forever).