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The Impact Of The Computer Essay, Research Paper

The introduction of the computer, and its related technologies, has had a significant impact on many areas of our everyday lives. Unfortunately, this has not always been for the better.

Technology is often debated in society as to whether it has a positive or a negative influence on our lives. Many people believe that technology can only cause harm whereas others strongly defend technology as it has made their lives much more leisurely and enriching than it would have been in the past. In my opinion both of these views are true to a certain extent, firstly I will deal with the positive aspects of Information Technology (IT).

Today information is essential for our society, its production, elaboration and transmission is at the center of the cultural, political and economical fields, which are the basis of society. Information is important for culture as educational institutions are constantly promoting the learning and the use of information technologies at schools, it is relevant in politics as governments are trying to adopt IT for making improvements in the storage of data, and finally it is essential for economy as now it is one of the main sources of business and of employment.

At present the quantity of information available to the people is much higher than before, and this is mainly due to the introduction of IT, advances in the nature and performance of IT continues at a rate expressed by Moore s law named after George Moore of IBM who, in the 1970s, observed that computing processor power doubles every 18 months. This trend has been sustained for over 30 years and will continue. Keeping up to date with this rate of progress in each area of technology is not feasible for a non-IT person, and very challenging for IT people.

Computers have been steadily moving in on an increasingly wide area of our lives they are everywhere and are used for a wide variety of purposes, not all of which are immediately obvious; we wear them on our wrists and they can be found embedded in everything from washing machines to high tech medical equipment. With this increasingly pervasive use of computers come many issues that directly effect society as a whole.

Increasing power and speed of modern computer technology is allowing for the first time, computers to start to make actual decisions beyond the primitive yes/no type operations of the past. The whole idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could become a reality in this Millennium as advanced AI s, have to date, been taught how to play games such as chess. Neural-Net-Computers are also being developed to mimic the brain s pattern matching abilities, and if they are exposed to hundreds of thousands of examples they could in the future be used in credit risk assessment, crime analysis etc.

On the information superhighway, the internet, the world is a very small place and distance, nationality, income are irrelevances, but the existence of such a network with high speed, world wide communications together with satellites, has meant that news, ideas and other information can be spread, world-wide in the blink of an eye and with this now possible, some of the traditional constraints have been loosened. The development of the Internet means that no longer is an individual limited to working in an office or factory, many professions can now work form their homes.

The business world has also benefited greatly from computer technology and such ease of communication. The spreadsheet application has revolutionised accounting, vast amounts of money are handled by computers and exist solely in a kind of banking cyberspace, video conferencing has meant intercontinental meetings can be held without any party leaving the comfort of their office.

The next most prevalent effect that I think computers and related technologies have had on society would be the advances their use has had in the fields of medicine and science. Computers have become a standard tool in everything from brain surgery to astrophysics. Many of the life prolonging medical techniques of today are only possible since the advent of computers and the technologies they have spawned. Before the computer age there were no cat scans, laser treatment, or fibre optics operations and now these are commonplace. From personal experience, I had my eyes treated by laser and now no longer need to wear glasses/contact lens. This procedure is only available due to advances in technology.

However there is always a flip side to every coin and in this case I think the negative aspects of computers and technologies are as follows:

No matter how much faster and more efficient computers let us do our work, it doesn t mean that there is less work to do, just that there s time for more and more work. What about improvements in the quality of life? People are under a lot of stress, and seem to have less time to spend with family and friends this is not social progress. The environment seems to be in a state of continual degradation as a result of technological progress . As for unemployment, crime and inequality of living standards technological societies still have all these problems in abundance.

The advent of any new technology has always created divisons in society. Basic computer skills are a necessity for most office and clerical jobs nowadays, and yet many people avoid the use of new technology, either because of fear, suspicion or an opposition to progress and change. Already credit cards allow us to order goods over the telephone. It is thought by many that transactions and actions that nowadays demand physical presence, such as shopping and even confession ( with more and more people becoming Internet converts, it was probably only a matter of time before God went on-line. Now, instead of going to confession, a new site allows you to repent at your leisure. [1]) will soon be conducted primarily by electronic means, this idea may seem good on paper however for those people whose trip to the local shop or church is their social outlet of the week, technology will become a hindrance to their daily lives.

The so called information superhighway makes a variety of different services and types of information available at the touch of a button, to the point where its next to impossible to avoid exposure to one kind or another. It happens very often that the information you get on the Internet, especially with search engines is too much. In the Web you may easily get lost when you are looking for something as you are usually overwhelmed by an amount of information that is misdirected and irrelevant for you. With the Internet you cannot have the same experience as for instance with a book, where the material is selected and organized with some coherence. There is no way to distinguish the brilliant from the trash, you can never be sure that what you are reading is true.

The Internet is also awash with pornography, gambling and violence, which leads the user to question whether or not the Internet should be censored. However no one likes to be denied access to information that they consider it their right to know, though who gets to decide what is allowed? How do we prevent children from viewing this type of information? Who could be trusted to watch and maintain that everything is above board? And who watches the watchers to see that our rights aren t violated? It s a complex issue yet to be resolved.

Perhaps more than most things freedom of information is so very dangerous when in the control of the unscrupulous. Virtual cash is obviously much easier to hide than the tangible kind a prime example comes to mind Nick Leeson, Barings Bank!

The dependency on computers creates other problems. Computers allow us to do complicated tasks with a push of a button. Naturally, people prefer doing a task the short and easy way over doing the same task the complicated way. This idea can be seen with the increasing use of calculators in math s classes. It is easier to push a couple of buttons than to memorize the math s tables. However, people must learn why something works before taking a shortcut.

IT is not always the clean technology that it is often seen to be. Firstly a lot of material (plastics, metals etc.) goes into its making, which eventually will end up in a dump as it is not biodegradable and newer technology is constantly being developed. Secondly, technology uses quite a lot of electricity, which can contribute to the pollution of the atmosphere, and it also emits significant levels of radiation Silicon Valley is now one of the most polluted areas on the planet . [2]

Computers have now replaced people in performing traditionally slow, boring or dangerous jobs. Many manufacturing processes have now been automated, and the word processor, database and spreadsheet have reduced the number of office staff needed to perform a particular function.

Although many people stereotype technology and computers as a disadvantage to the working environment it is true to say that in many industries the use of technology and computers has increased the level of output and productivity thus creating an increase in employment and increasing need for research and development in the technological field to serve society. So in conclusion, the impact of computers and its related technologies on our society is neither completely positive nor negative in my opinion.


[1] Log on and leave your sins behind by Patrick Brennan, Irish Independent, Thursday, March 9, 2000

[2] Turning away from Technology by Stephanie Mills, Sierra Club Books 1997

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