This article provides information about the role of technological transformation in human progress:
Technological transformation has always played a crucial role in the progression of human societies from one stage to another. This transformation has widely influenced the economic, social, cultural and political institutional arrangements of the society by introducing changes in the nature of work participation in the organisation of production. The transformation of human societies from pre-industrial/agrarian to industrial and then again to post-industrial has widely been shaped by the innovation of new technologies.
At the beginning of the 19th century, far-reaching changes in the social and economic lives of mankind were ushered by science, engineering and technology. The changes of that era were marked by the concerted efforts to abolish slavery and large- scale expansion of centralised factory production and the creation of industrial classes — workers and capitalists.
This was characterised by production of manufactured goods, and acquisition of new skills required for industrial manufacturing. The latter half of the 20th century witnessed the advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), which heralds a new phase in the history and the changes brought about by it in the social and economic fabric are effectively unique. During this period, there was a phenomenal expansion of computer communication, electronic technology and service economy.
Along the time, change has also been marked in the pattern of work participation. In the wake of industrialisation and rapid urbanisation there has been shift in the pattern of work participation from agricultural to non-agricultural economy not only in the developed but also in the developing parts of the world. However, this shift has taken a new turn in the wake of the emergence of the post-industrial society whereby work participation increased in the service economy including those in the telecommunications, transport and marketing.
It is significant that till the early decades of the last century a large segment of the workers of the industrialised nations like those of France, United Kingdom, America, Belgium, Japan etc. were in agriculture. Presently though agriculture accommodates substantive proportion of workforce, there has been increasing contribution of service sector to the GDP both in developed and developing countries.
The blue-collar worker emerged very fast from the last quarter of the 19th century and then growth become very fast till the second half of the 20th century. Indeed the industrial workers grew phenomenally in the first half of this century in factories, mines, and transportation and by 1950s they emerged to be the actual majority of the working population in the industrialised countries.
However, in last 40 years they have declined equally rapidly first as proportion of the total and since the early 1980s, even in absolute numbers. The emergence of service sector as a potential avenue for employment and earning has paved the way for the emergence of knowledge economy both in developing and developed countries. Agricultural wave, industrial wave and information age are the three stages of economic evolution of humanity according to Alvin Toffler. Presently the human society is undergoing the third wave i.e. the information wave, which is marked among others by exposure developments in information technologies and predominance of service employment.
In his book The Third Wave Toffler describes three types of societies, based on the concept of ‘waves’ – each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside:
i. First Wave is the society after agrarian revolution and replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.
ii. The main components of the Second Wave society are nuclear family, factory-type education system and the corporation. Toffler writes: “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardisation, centralisation, concentration, and synchronisation, and you wind up with a style of organisation we call bureaucracy”.
iii. Third Wave is the post-industrial society. Toffler would also add that since late 1950s most countries are moving away from a Second Wave Society into what he would call a Third Wave Society. He coined lots of words to describe it and mentions names invented by other people, like the Information Age.
The roots of information society idea are closely associated with the idea of post-industrialism. Although the scientific and industrial predecessors of electronics based information technologies can be found in late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was during the Second World War and its aftermath that the major technological breakthrough in electronics took place: the first programmable computer, the transistor, source of microelectronics — the true core of Information Technology Revolution. Manuel Castells contends that the new information technologies, which include microelectronics, computers, and telecommunications diffused widely in 1970s accelerating their synergistic development and converging into a new paradigm.