Science, Technology, and Society

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The social and cultural factors - the attitudes and the beliefs attached to economic, political, and social organization - influence the role that science and technology play in a given society. In their turn, the spread of new knowledge, products, and processes derived from scientific and technological progress transforms social structures, modes of behaviour, and attitudes of mind. The role of technical change in the process of economic growth is recognized by all theories of development. But what precisely is that role? In particular, what part did science and technology play in the economic and social transformations that accompanied the Industrial Revolution from its beginnings? Answers to these questions can be neither easy nor, consequently, swift, requiring as they do a subtle analysis, a long-term historical perspective, and reference to examples drawn from different branches of social science [2, 14].

Today the ways in which technical change transforms attitudes, institutions, and societies cannot be reduced to a simple linear relationship that is automatic, i.e. deterministic. Technology is one social process among others: it is not a question of technical development on the one hand and social development on the other, as if they were two entirely different worlds or processes. Society is shaped by technical change that, in turn, is shaped by society. Conceived by man, technology eludes his control only in so far as he wants it to. In this sense, society is defined no less by those technologies that it is capable of creating than by those it chooses to use and develop in preference to others [15].

Indeed, the present situation is very different from the expansion of mechanization encouraged by the development of machine tools and the steam engine in the nineteenth century. The spread of the "new technologies" (electronics, computers, telecommunications, as well as new synthetic materials and biotechnologies) creates far greater disparities than...
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