Science & Technology in the Postmodern Society
This paper will explore how science and technology have been applied toward fostering continuing growth and prosperity during the twenty-first century. The true impacts of this era on humankind have yet to be fully realized, but its influence on what is known as the "postmodern society" is important as humanity continues to evolve with its technologies and their applications in the twenty-first century. The contemporary postmodern society has seen, as a result of these advancements, many amazing achievements, such as the Internet, ultra-efficient modes of transportation, and successful treatment of disease. An in-depth review of each of these three critical areas and their impact on postmodern society will be explored.
Keywords Biofuels; Carbon Footprint; Genetic Revolution; Information Technology; Postmodern; Renewable Energy
Social Change: Science
In 1900, the noted British physicist William Thomson Kelvin, speaking to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, proudly proclaimed that "there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now” and that “all that remains is more and more precise measurement." Kelvin's declaration was not the only short-sighted prediction he would offer. He also predicted that radio had "no future," that "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible," and that "X-rays will prove to be a hoax" (anecdotage.com).
Kelvin's comments were indeed gross underestimations of the future of technology. Then again, few at the turn of the twentieth century could fathom the advancements humanity would see during the course of that century. In medicine, manufacturing, transportation and, of course, computer science, humanity leapt forward tremendously in terms of scientific and technological capability during that pivotal century. Even in the last few decades before the twenty-first century, such advancements were critical not only for significantly improving efficiency and increasing productivity but for integrating international systems and fostering new forms of global commerce.
This paper will explore how science and technology have been applied toward fostering continuing growth and prosperity during the twenty-first century. The true impacts of this era on humankind have yet to be fully realized, but its influence on what is known as the postmodern society is important as humanity continues to evolve with its technologies and their applications in the twenty-first century.
Life in Postmodern Society
The term postmodern has often been considered a matter of perspective. It refers to a period of change that succeeds a previous period that featured a fundamental shift in development and modernization. In technological terms, an example of a previous transition from modern to postmodern is the change that occurred in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Kelvin was certainly not alone in his views: the introductions of improved telephony, the automobile, and aviation in the early twentieth century were the stuff of fantasy only a few decades earlier. Nuclear energy and space travel, which became commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s, were considered equally fantastic concepts for those of the pre–World War II period.
In the latter twentieth century, another postmodern era took shape. This time, society witnessed the introduction of computer technology, new energy sources, and fantastic advances in medical research (amongst other arenas). Over the course of only a few decades into the twenty-first century, telephones and computers have become smaller and yet far more powerful tools of communicating with people around the globe. While oil and coal remain the most used forms of energy, alternative sources of energy, once considered novel and hardly mainstream, have been transforming virtually every industry. Even medical science, an ever-evolving field throughout human history, has taken substantial leaps forward since the late twentieth century, saving and extending lives and answering questions that were once considered as elusive as the Sphinx.
Postmodern society has seen, as a result of these advancements, many amazing achievements, such as the Internet, ultra-efficient modes of transportation, and the successful treatment of disease.
At the end of the twentieth century, University of Montana philosophy professor Albert Borgmann commented on what he saw as both beneficial and detrimental to society concerning the explosive growth of the information technology industry. Computers and other forms of data collection hardware do indeed make the business process easier and more controlled, he argued, but by simplifying every aspect, it also creates something of a gulf between the item being controlled and the person responsible for its control. In other words, the less the operator needs to think about the process, thanks to the introduction of computers, the less connected to the process the individual becomes. Nevertheless, in his work, Borgmann acknowledges that the evolution of information technology (IT) in the postmodern era has helped pursue an important goal of humanity: "Information technology is rendering the entire earth ever more transparent and controllable" (2000, p. 191).
Indeed, information technology has become an invaluable tool for communicating, conducting business, and transferring data in the postmodern era. Early in its history of use, such technology was only available for those who could afford its relatively high price tag. However, the overwhelming diversity of the information technology marketplace has made personal computers, cellular phones, and other forms of IT hardware both available and affordable for many.
Even in the poorest regions of the world, the prevalence of information and cellular technology is indicative of its fantastic growth over a relatively short period. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of mobile telecommunications users in Africa jumped 58 percent, from 7.5 million to 77 million. In Asia, the number of users over that same period increased 34 percent (LaFraniere, 2005). The number of cellular and mobile phone subscribers in developing countries increased to 1.4 billion between 2000 and 2005, a five-fold jump.
Computer use has also seen major increases in use among poor nations. In India, only five people per 1,000 used the Internet in 2000 — four years later that figure rose suddenly to 23 per 1,000. While the poor in India may not be purchasing personal computers in great volume, the subcontinent has enabled the use of "shared" computers by introducing computer kiosks into rural areas, and in light of the public demand, the government and private companies planned to bring hundreds of thousands more to these areas (Kuriyan, Ray & Kammen, 2008).
Information technology and cellular telephony, which have become increasingly intertwined, have helped usher in a new era of data collection and storage, information transfer and communication. Business is conducted at a far faster rate and at greater efficiency. Governments and nongovernmental organizations are able to more effectively and quickly track the effectiveness of programs and services. Valuable information is more readily available in every part of the globe. In the eyes of many, a world that was once separated by oceans and great geographic distances, and then later separated by the borders of nation-states, is becoming more and more interconnected into what many have termed a global community.
There are concerns among some that the increased globalization that accompanies the prevalence of information technology has unintended consequences. While such technology has helped bring into a global network millions of people who would otherwise have lived in isolation from the rest of the world, such a...
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