Columbia prof asks: “Where did the benefits of technology go?”

Sometimes people ask such good questions they blow me away. I know I’m going to be asking myself this one for quite few days and I’ll be reviewing in my mind snippets out of Columbia Professor Steve Unger’s Feb 10, 2012 article and other answers I think of myself. It’s a great question!

As a young engineer, a half century ago (Wow! Time does fly), I was fascinated by the ideas I was wrestling with, mainly dealing with various aspects of what is now called computer engineering. I greatly enjoyed my work in research and development. But I did have concerns over possible misuse of what we were developing, particularly about possible military applications. I dealt with this mainly by avoiding work on military projects.

A lesser problem involved economic effects. Would technology applicable to the automation of various processes eliminate many good jobs, causing hardship for displaced workers? I didn’t worry too much about this. My assumption was that a lot of tedious jobs would be taken over by machines, freeing up people to do more interesting work, working hours would be reduced, and everybody would benefit when automation lowered production costs. Let’s look at this more closely. What actually happened?

How Technological Advances Can Make our Lives Better

There are a number of ways that scientific and technological advances can benefit us. I will mention just a few. Applications to sanitation, health care, and medicine can result in longer, healthier lives for many. Great improvements in transportation can enrich our lives by facilitating travel over both long and short distances. There are also a number of ways that technology can make life more pleasant thru enhanced entertainment facilities. A major factor is the labor saving nature of technology ranging from bulldozers replacing pick and shovel work, to powerful computers eliminating the need for tedious calculations in connection with many engineering projects. Let’s look at this one more closely. . . .continue on Steve Unger’s blog

Leave a Reply