Supp. Chapter 4, Lesson 3 Text
Lesson Three: Impact of Computing
Today's society looks very different than the one experienced by our parents and grand-parents. Technological and computing innovations continue to open new possibilities while potentially changing familiar ways of doing things. In this lesson, we'll explore some of the impacts that computing technology has on the way we live, work and play.
Technology Changes Lives
Many of the things that you do every day are shaped by technology. You are likely do those things in a different manner than someone would have 10 or 20 years ago. Consider how you might drive to a new place you've never been before. How would you get there? Originally you might have used folding, paper maps to plot your route. With the introduction of GPS systems, new GPS mapping units were created that you could place inside your car to receive turn-by-turn instructions. As technology improved, that GPS mapping technology become built into your smart-phone and even the car itself, removing the need to purchase a separate GPS unit.
Folding, paper maps are rarely used anymore; it's easier to pull up a map online and search for your destination. You can even receive live traffic updates, scan for restaurants and gas stations along your route and receive estimated driving times. Paper maps won't do any of these things for you!
Consider these other areas of your life that have changed recently or may change in the near future.
|Car driving||Self-driving cars are being developed that might one-day replace most or all human drivers. Will your children need to learn to drive? Will they even own a vehicle, or will self-driving taxis take them everywhere they need to go, on demand?|
|Movie watching||We used to watch movies in movie theaters. Development of large, flat-screen TVs meant that people increasingly choose to create their own home theaters. Movies used to be delivered to your home on tapes rented at stores like Blockbuster. Tapes were replaced by DVDs, and then mail-order services like Netflix began replacing your local rental store. Eventually, improvements in Internet services meant that many movies are now streamed on-demand into homes.|
|TV delivery||Television shows used to be delivered over-the-air by a handful of large broadcast companies like ABC, CBS and NBC. As cable television services became wide-spread, many other channels arose to fill programming needs, and all of those shows were delivered over cables to your home. Satellite TV services began to challenge cable, also delivering a wide variety of programming options over the air. Most recently, a new generation of "cord cutters" don't pay for traditional cable or satellite TV service at all! They simply stream TV shows and movies on-demand from Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV and similar online retailers.|
|Telephone service||Every house used to have a "land-line" phone which was directly wired into the phone system by phone cables. Cellular phone service is now so widespread and reliable that some families have chosen to simply disconnect their land-line phone and rely entirely on cellular service and smart phones for all communication needs.|
|Newspapers||News and information used to be distributed mostly by printed newspapers, and news organizations were supported by subscription fees. Those newspapers face increasingly tough competition from online news sites that can deliver rapidly changing updates with full-color images and videos for free to consumers.|
|Books||Printed books have been around for a very long time, but some consumers are increasingly turning to electronic readers such as Amazon's Kindle device. These e-readers allow you to instantly download and read any text with less cost and more convenience than purchasing a printed book. However, printed books still have some advantages such as the ability to deliver full color illustrations and unusual formats. Do you expect e-reader capabilities to improve over time and eventually replace printed books entirely?|
|Shopping||Most shopping used to be done at local brick-and-mortar stores. As the Internet grew and web sites increased in capability, many traditional local stores began facing very tough competition from online retailers. Some consumers prefer to simply order products online, without leaving home, and are content to wait a few days for arrival. Others are still more comfortable looking at the product in a local store and taking it home right away. Online retailers continue to try and improve delivery times and the online shopping experience in order to continue taking market share away from local stores.|
In what other areas of your life have you experienced change due to new computing technology?
Technology Impacts Jobs and Careers
As computers and technology improve, some jobs that used to be filled by humans are eliminated by software or automation that can do the jobs more cheaply and efficiently. Jobs that deal mostly with information, for example, are certainly subject to automation by software that can understand and process that information just like a human. Think about tax preparation or stock trading jobs. Software can certainly automate or eliminate human input from many of those functions. The software might simply enable a human CPA or stock trader to do their job more effectively, or it might replace that human entirely!
Similarly, jobs that used to require human interaction can now be done to some degree by software. If you need to chat with a customer service representative online or on the phone, your questions might be answered first by an automated "chat-bot" that knows how to respond to most problems. Your conversation might be handed off to a human if the subject is too complex or unusual for the chat-bot to handle.
There are many jobs that involve moving things in the real world, such as manufacturing assembly lines, driving vehicles, piloting planes, cleaning, cooking, waiting tables, taking orders and delivering goods to your door. Can you imagine how technology might assist or replace humans in each case? Self-driving cars, planes and drones might take over much of the driving and piloting work from humans. Similarly, an automated restaurant may rely on robots and automated systems to do the order-taking, cooking and food delivery. In all cases, humans may still need to be present to ensure things go smoothly, but their job functions could change from hands-on driver, cook or waiter. Instead, humans would be responsible for maintaining the automated systems and dealing with exceptions those systems might not handle, like an angry customer or a spilled drink.
It is possible that most jobs eliminated by software and robots will be largely low-skilled, boring or dangerous jobs that humans don't really want to do anyhow. That will free up humans to fill high-skilled, creative or unpredictable jobs where our ability to learn and adapt is critical. However, we have seen that as old categories of jobs are eliminated, it can be difficult for those humans to find new work in new industries. So, as you consider your own career choices, it may be smart to look ahead and wonder if the need for your skills might eventually be replaced by some combination of automated systems.
Computing Impact on Personal and Group Relationships
Computing technology continues to have a significant impact on many areas of our life. Some of that impact is good, while other effects are not as positive. On a personal level, how have your relationships changed? We used to talk with each other face-to-face or on the phone, but now we can email, text or chat online without ever seeing or speaking to the other person. This instant online communication allows us to readily reach anyone around the world, which is great. However, a large percentage of human communication is non-verbal (facial expressions and body language). So, how effectively are you really communicating when you rely on emails, texts and chats?
Similarly, our hand-held smart-phones and mobile devices offer a way to keep busy by reading, watching movies or playing games. We enjoy this instant access to all forms of entertainment, but what does it cost us in human interaction? How often have you gone out to dinner with your family, only to have everyone sit quietly around the table, playing with their phones instead of having a conversation? How many opportunities to meet someone in real life are wasted because you are focused on an online interaction?
The instant communications available online have been a huge advantage for many special interest groups. If you belong to an ethnic, social, economic or cultural group, then you can likely find and communicate with others that share your interests and backgrounds. The free exchange of ideas, supported by our computing technology, should make it difficult to censor any group based on their identity.
However, some communication services and social media platforms can and do censor posts and topics that go against their terms of service. Those terms of service are written and applied by humans that may have their own biases. In addition, identifying yourself as part of any particular group may open you up to bullying or persecution online, just as it would in your face-to-face relationships.
Managing the impact of new technology will be a challenge for our society, especially as the pace of change increases. Institutions and traditions that served multiple generations well might be replaced within a span of a few years by technical innovations. Those new services themselves might be rapidly replaced by even newer inventions. Our human ability to learn and adapt to change is more important than ever in our technical society.
Work with Me: Impact Analysis
In this exercise, you are going to choose from one of several topics around the impact of computing and conduct some online research to explore that topic. Your teacher may ask you to write a brief report detailing your findings or to discuss your results aloud.
Select one of the following themes for your research:
- How has technology changed a particular aspect of my daily life?
Select one of the examples given in the lesson (or pick your own topic) of how a traditional task, service or institution has been changed over time by technology. Conduct some online research to build a time-line and describe major developments. What are advantages and disadvantages of the change? Do you predict additional changes in this area, or was this a one-time transformation?
- How has technology changed the way I might participate in a particular future career?
Select a potential career that interests you, and perform some online research to see how that career role may have changed recently due to technology. Has technology provided assistance for human workers, replaced them completely, or had no impact? Provide a brief time-line of major events, if any. Do you predict that future technical inventions will have further impact on this career choice?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of having instant online communication and entertainment?
Conduct some online research to investigate how instant communications and online entertainment has impacted our personal behavior and relationships. Describe the symptoms and treatment for "Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)". Do you or anyone you know show the symptoms of this disorder? How much time does the average person spend online? Include any other interesting facts that your research uncovers.
When done, your teacher may ask you to discuss your results or to provide a brief written report.