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Technology and Culture in the United States Today: A Brief Essay

Chris is an engineer, thinker, and philosopher who enjoys exploring futuristic ideas and technology.

Humans and technology have existed alongside of each other since the beginning of time. By definition, technology is anything that is manmade whose purpose is to solve some problem or make something easier. From the earliest stone tools, clubs, and arrow heads to the fastest and most complex computers and particle accelerators, technology has allowed us to prevail as the dominant species on the earth. Man has been given the intellect to design, build, and construct these devices, which improve the overall quality of life, and expand the knowledge base for the whole of humanity.

Importance of Technology Today

Technology has played a huge role in human culture. It has become a very integral part of our lives; many people could not do without it. The modern conveniences and the power and freedom that technology provides us has changed the way we think, act, and socialize. Technology enables the disabled, empowers the powerless, and educates the uneducated. Technology has solved thousands of problems in our world and made the lives of millions upon millions of people infinitely better. There is a direct correlation between improved technology and a higher quality of life.

In today’s world, the younger generation is growing up with the Internet, computers, and a plethora of mobile devices. This has a significant impact on our culture. The impacts technological use (and in many cases, dependence) can already be seen all around. No teenager is ever seen without a smart phone, instant messaging, or social networking. These technologies enable them to have instant, anytime communication with all of their friends and family. The generations of old did not have that option. Kids today also have the power of the Internet at their fingertips. Just about any piece of information can be found within minutes, sometimes seconds, with the Internet. This enables them to learn at their own pace, perform research on topics, and keep informed about world events from a wide range of perspectives.

Cultural Influences of Technology

Technology has had a definite impact on culture in the United States. Back in the day, it used to be "cool" to carry around boom boxes and listen to them loudly. Next came the Sony Walkman and eventually other devices that took over schools and children's lives all across America. Today, the Internet (and especially social networking) has likely made the most significant contribution to our culture. We now live in a world where anyone can become famous and you can reach the masses with a single tweet or like. Social media sites have allowed minorities to be heard and have even helped in the proliferation of far left and/or right wing ideologies. In addition, memes and other awkward, funny, or ironic messages and trends have invaded everyone's lives.

The computer, as iconic as it is, has changed our culture significantly.  These days, no one could imagine life without them.

The computer, as iconic as it is, has changed our culture significantly. These days, no one could imagine life without them.

Consequences of Technology

Even though technology has made the world a better place, no piece of technology comes without its consequences. There are two sides to every coin. Modern convenience has been a key player in the obesity of America. Computers, television, and other forms of technological entertainment have lead Americans to seek an ever more sedentary lifestyle. In addition, there are many people today that are addicted to computer and video games. These individuals play the games for as long as is physically possible and may never even leave their house. The relationship that modern people have with the outdoors is also crumbling. Research suggests that a growing number of people don’t venture outside of manmade structures for recreation anymore. This has lead to disconnect and sometimes even a disgust with nature and the natural world.

Other consequences of technology include the potential challenges that can arise when you become too dependent on electronic devices. If the system gets hacked or the power is shutdown, you're left without working technology to continue your day. If a situation like this were to occur on a large scale, it would be pure chaos for modern America. Only those who still retain the knowledge of living simple lives without modern technology would be able to easily endure the loss of power and the internet.

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Final Thoughts

Even with the potential consequences, a world without technology would be a primitive and possibly a sad one. Humans could not possibly sustain the current population levels without existing technology, nor could we maintain any sort of economic growth. On the other hand, the future looks to be an interesting one. New technologies emerge everyday that will help to improve our quality of life. Furthermore, new developments in cognitive science, nano-technology, and virtual reality may one day allow us to transcend what it means to be human today. One day, people may become immortal or live their lives completely in a virtual world. The possibilities that humans may have in the future are unknown, but technology will always be with us, and it's not going away.

Comments

Christopher Wanamaker (author) from Arizona on March 30, 2011:

Pierre, those are all valid points; in general, I agree with you. There is something to said though, about the personal prosperity of those who have lost their jobs because a new piece of technology made them obsolete. That sort of thing happens all of the time.

I guess what I'm trying to communicate (which I will definitely expand upon in the future) is that technology is neither good nor bad, but there are always consequences to its use. I also recognize that it is a necessity to sustain the current population levels on this planet.

Pierre Savoie from Canada on March 29, 2011:

Information technology saves on time and resources. A single worker gets more done today because all his information is stored in one big office computer. There is no more need for a battery of file-clerks to dig up information for him and carry the files around on carts, while back in the office the worker promises people to get back in touch in a day or two when information about their accounts is dug up. No, he can provide answers instantly with blinding speed. Fewer trees are consumed, and fewer brick-and-mortar buildings need to be built.

Technology leads to prosperity and is a chief difference between us and the Third-World. A single American farmer purchases ONE combine, and does the work of hundreds of Third-World manual-laborers harvesting grain by hand. Because of efficient transportation, the price of a ton of grain has evened out all over the world, but the difference is that the American has produced the ton himself, and when he gets paid it's all his. The manual laborers have to split the money hundreds of ways, and individually stay poorer.

Money used to have to be CARTED across the country, in the form of bank-notes or gold, but it is all electronic INFORMATION now, so it saves on fuel consumption at least from the banking sector of business. Physical money is now less important.

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