How have computers changed society?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It is not absolutely clear whether technological innovations actually cause social change or whether they respond to it. Whatever the actual direction of causation, computers have enabled certain types of social change.

The most obvious areas in which computer technology is part of social change has to do with communication. Where once communication was limited by the speed of human or animal travel, now communication around the globe is virtually instantaneous. This means that people can affiliate with those who share their interests rather than merely their geographical locations far more easily than was possible in earlier periods, although we do have strong evidence of correspondence, at least among the elite, linking together people of shared interests or religious beliefs as early as Graeco-Roman antiquity.

Next, computers automate many jobs that were previously done manually, including not only manufacturing, but increasingly white collar jobs. This may be leading to increasing social inequality, with an information elite of people in managerial and creative jobs whose lives are as distinct from those with less education and fewer technical or creative skills as the lives of European aristocrats once were from those of peasants.

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