In 2018, it is easy to recognize that technology and culture are certainly effective on each other. New technology arises everyday impacting the environment, relationships, and societal norms. It’s easy to get lost in the mix and lose sight of how things used to be or the direction society is headed.

Robert Winthrop White, a famous sculptor, was quoted as saying, “Technology shapes society and society shapes technology.” He was right.

Technology Carries the Dichotomy of Good vs. Evil

There are two schools of thought on the topic of the benefit of technological advancements. When asking, “how does technology affect our society,” there is not cut-and-dry answer and largely the argument is subjective.

Some will applaud the positive effects of social media saying that it brings extended families closer together and allows us to connect with loved ones across a great distance. Others will point out some of the more negative effects of technology and say that social media cheapens relationships and has brought a sense of narcissism to society.

Similarly, some will point out that medical advancements brought about by technological research are obviously welcomed by society at large. Others will counteract that statement and say that modern medicine has created capitalist monsters like big-pharma and even created new medical problems.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to reach a fact-based consensus on the level of impact technological advancements have on our current society and will have on our future. However, we will do our best to highlight some of the advancements in technology that have had the most cultural and societal impact.

1. Live and Online Streaming

Netflix introduced online streaming as an add-on service to its mail-out DVD service in 2007. At the time, online video streaming was limited mostly to small clips. The service eventually took off and now online streaming account for a huge chunk of our video consumption.

This advancement did not stay limited to just online streaming of movies, however. Social media platforms have also rolled with the revolution in video streaming and created a whole new opportunity category for interaction. Live video streaming has become one of the most popular mediums on social media and is actually outpacing other more traditional forms of advertising. 

2. Crowd-Sourced Funding

If you’ve been on the internet in the past 8 years or so, chances are you’ve come across a campaign requesting your support. Maybe it was a new product being developed, a charity to donate to, a one-time cause that needed financial support or something completely different. Regardless, there is no denying that crowd-sourced funding has taken over the internet in many regards.

Kickstarter is one of the leading platforms for this type of funding. They went live in 2009 and since then other crowd-sourced funding websites have appeared like GoFundMe and Patreon.

Today, almost anyone can ask for societal, financial support for almost any cause. This shift has taken some of the cultural shaping power away from larger financial institutions and placed it in the hands of the “little guy.”

3. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

The rise of augmented reality and virtual reality systems have certainly had an impact on society over the last few years. Augmented reality and virtual reality are frequently shortened to AR and VR so you may recognize those terms more easily.

The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is miniscule. Virtual reality is fully-immersive and meant to create realistic representations of an exclusively fabricated environment. Augmented reality is non-immersive and enhances reality rather than attempting to replace it. 

Augmented reality and virtual reality are forecast to revolutionize several industries including e-commerce, gaming, marketing and entertainment.

4. Multi-Use Rockets

Chances are you probably didn’t recognize a rocket as a recent technological advancement, and you’re correct. The first rocket launched successfully into space took off in 1942. However, recently, two private companies have created prototypes of multi-use rockets.

These rockets are different from the rockets we know to be common today because they are able to be at least partially reused after an initial launch. While there is not a perfect design yet, SpaceX and Blue Origin are quite near a perfect reusable launch system.

These revolutions will make space travel and orbital launch more feasible in the near future.

When Asking, “How Does Technology Affect Society,” It’s Important To Keep a Level Head

Technological advancements are often received with skepticism, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not always easy to have the foresight to understand the impact of technological advancements.

Technology and culture an undoubtedly intertwined, and as we can see with some of the most recent technological advancements, the pace at which we progress is picking up.

Exciting times are ahead and like the quote at the start of this article says, “Technology shapes society and society shapes technology.” Society has the power to manipulate the direction of technological advancement to do the most good for humanity at large.

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