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Chapter 2 

Winners and Loses: The Differential Effects of Technological Change

Main Idea: This chapter describes how technology can be a subversive process that results in the modification or destruction of established social roles, relationships and values. In each these technological changes there are "winners and losers."
  • Technological advance will impact society by modifying or destroying established social roles, relationships and value. In particular, technological advance can: 
    • A. Restructure Power 
    • B. Redistribute wealth 
    • C. Changes social roles 
  • Fear of losing (power, wealth, status) can cause a reaction against technological change as we see in the Luddites or in the Farmer's Anti-Automobile Society.
  • Who wins and who loses raises the question of who decides which technologies will be developed. The decision to develop and deploy a new technology is often shaped by the distribution of power in society.
  • While technological advances and innovations have profound impacts on society, technological progress can not solve society's most fundamental problems.  The attempt to solve social problems with technology can be referred to as a "technological fix." Problems with the technological fix: 
    • Difficult to determine the real role technology plays in solution 
    • Results are often uneven (works for one not another) 
    • Only eliminates the surface problem, not the roots. 
  • Why can't technology solve social problems?
    • The problem itself is often diffuse. 
    • When we deal with social problems we are dealing with complex human behaviors, fears, motivations. 
    • Root cause of problem cannot be isolated.
  • History demonstrates that the attempt to convert social problems into technical ones fails. At the root of such attempts is a belief in technocracy: "The governance of society by engineers and other people with technical expertise, who attempt to develop policies based on technical and "scientific" principles.  The best example may be Frederick Taylors' "Scientific Management."

Study Questions:
Who were the Luddites?
What is the meaning of the term "technocracy"?
Why is technology unable to solve social problems?
What is scientific management?
Who is Frederick Taylor?
Give an example of how technological innovations can cause a change of social roles.


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