Technology: Then and Now

As we discussed the Industrial Revolution in class, I began to see parallels between the first industrialized country, Britain, and the United States in today’s world. Both societies were and are deeply affected by the new technology they developed. In Britain, the steam engine completely revolutionized transport and relations between different parts of the isle. Contact between people was facilitated, and the isle became more unified geographically. Goods were more easily transported, as were people. Culture was altered: phrases like “go off the track” and “toot your own whistle” became common figures of speech and many artists such as Claude Monet were impressed with the new technology, and strove to capture its majesty in art form. Today, mobile phones and computers encourage unity on a bigger scale. Now, anyone with a phone can call anyone else in the world. Anyone with a computer can essentially access information on the Internet about any country, any person, and any culture anywhere in the world. With one quick search, a person can immediately become more knowledgeable about a subject, too. People can also communicate with others through social networking sites easily as never before seen to man. Similarly, today’s culture has been altered: people can just “google it”, “tweet” about it, or “friend” or “follow” someone. Technology directly affects society. Do you agree? Do you find industrial Britain and the modern US similar and in what ways?


Access the following link for an example of Claude Monet’s work was inspired by the new technology (Gaire Saint Lazare, 1877):

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8 Responses to Technology: Then and Now

  1. dharbeck says:

    I agree that inventions such as the phone, cell-phone, computer and internet have impacted our society just as much as the major inventions of the Industrial Revolution. However in the past 10 years or so I would say we have only truly been improving on what has already been invented, and not creating anything too revolutionary. We are improving transportations by making better cars, trains, and improving unity throughout the world with faster internet and better phones, but these are not new inventions they are simply perfecting work already created. I think if I was to say my childhood was truly revolutionary there would have to be something as ridiculous as safe flying cars, that would remodel travel drastically.

  2. Drew says:

    Nice observation Madison, I think it’s fascinating how society adapts around the new things that we find and discover. I find it even more interesting how widespread the change can be, like you said with changes in lingo. What intrigues me the most is how a lot of changes are based upon greed. For example, I believe that Apple products very poorly branch off of each other. Not because they are flawed, but because of the desire for money. I think that a lot of the desire for better utilities was and still is because people think they could make more money if they create a better product. I believe that technology could be advancing far faster if the Apple products put all of their research into one utility. I don’t believe that they have been doing so. Facetime was at first only accessible with wifi, but there was a connection to the iphone’s cellular carrier. I think that that was so that Apple could make a new product, that could then run off of wifi, which they did (and they did much later in the future). Another example of greed I believe is the iPad mini. Honestly, I think it’s stupid. It’s just an iPad with a smaller screen, there are appreciable improvements to the system. I think the time put into a smaller screen could have gone into a product that could shape our everyday life and cause better productivity for all of the users. Because after all, don’t we want our products to be productive…

  3. ageyelin2015 says:

    I think that the rapid improvements in technology are similarities, but beyond that I see numerous differences. First, like David said, today’s innovations are more improvements than inventions. Also, the technology that is being developed today affects people more directly, and in more everyday ways. We are not inventing engines that can transport goods faster, but we are inventing personal items to make everyday life more convenient. Also, I think this is the source for Drew’s point about greed. The companies realize that they can try and “game the system” more effectively if the products are being bought by the thousands, by average people. Overall, I think that industrial Britain and modern US are similar in the way that both societies are making rapid technological improvements, but they are doing so in very different ways, and with different objectives.

  4. Heather Milke says:

    I agree that the changes were similar in terms of the way that the world interacts with each other. Life is changing drastically due to new technology now just like life changed due to the new technology of the Industrial Revolution. Our lives are extremely different that those of our parents from a technological standpoint. Although many of the new things are not necessarily inventions, but improvements, as I believe Alex and David said, the Industrial Revolution was like that too. Read page 722 of the textbook where they are talking about the early steam engines. The book discusses how people such as Watt were making the steam engine, something that had already been invented, better and more efficient.

    On another note, while one may argue that more was invented during the Industrial Revolution than there is now, I think that is not necessarily true. I agree that there maybe was more physical invention then in terms of machinery, think of all the virtual invention that happens now. People are creating computer programs and applications that did not exist before to help them do..well just about anything.

    Finally, A+ for bringing Monet into this because he is my favorite…well one of my many favorites at least! It’s extraordinarily interesting to see him portraying something new and man made compared to his usual bridges, haystacks, and water lilies (things in nature). Interestingly enough, his style is still very impressionistic and similar to many of his nature-themed paintings. It’s really cool how the Industrial Revolution seeped into aspects of culture just like the French Revolution did!

  5. AlexP says:

    I think that is a very interesting point you make, Heather in your second paragraph. While I do see where Alex and David come from, I would tend to agree with you that it isn’t necessarily true that there are fewer inventions these days then before. I know there are and have been many inventions throughout the past decade, but it can be deceiving to people because some of these inventions were/are not life-changing inventions that can alter a way of life drastically like inventions during the Industrial Revolution. In that respect, I think that there were more useful inventions made during the Industrial Revolution than today. Also, building off of Drew’s point of inventions coming from greed, I believe laziness, even more than greed, is the true motivation for inventions. People these days can be so lazy with household chores or other manual labor, so they devise machinery to help them minimize their work. However, I guess this is why the Industrial Revolution in Britain was so successful because after all, this is exactly what they strove towards. They wanted more efficient work, so they built things such as the railroad tracks and the steam engine.

  6. sweiswasser2015 says:

    Heather and Alex, while I can definitely find merit in your argument in terms of there being fewer recent inventions, I tried to argue this in a recent speech I gave that discussed the setbacks of modern technology and this was one of my points. However, Dr. Korfhage then discussed this point with me and mentioned the idea that nobel prizes are still rewarded for truly nuanced inventions and discoveries. That is not to say, however, that modern technology is a good thing necessarily. I definitely agree without a doubt that society is far lazier and decadent because of modern technology. Modern electronics encourage this laziness. News is so easily accessible and communication barely requires effort anymore. This laziness is particularly evident by the fact 57% of people talk more online than they do in real life, as according to Facebook Statistics of 2011. This laziness really makes me question as to whether or not technology is necessarily good for society. Laziness undermines effort and effort encourages the invention of creative solutions. Madison, this is where I believe your comparison comes into play. Yes the Industrial Revolution and the modern technology revolution bear similarities in terms of drastic societal change, I don’t necessarily agree that modern technology causes widespread unity, especially according to my aforementioned statistic that discussed physical interaction vs. online interaction. However, the inventions that allowed for more efficient mobility during the Industrial Revolution like the more efficient locomotives did indeed allow for unity as people could better access one another and see each other. The modern technology revolution and the Industrial Revolution also differ in that effort was necessary into finding information and solving problems. When the British realized in the mid 1800s that water could not suit their needs for energy, they turned to finding new and better solutions like coal. When coal supply proved to be a problem, they turned to new options. However, technology today enables us to find the solution to any small problem, inhibiting our brain from exercising our abilities to solve our own problems.

  7. Dr. K says:

    This has been a very interesting discussion. I appreciate everyone’s points. David, I’ve seen your argument raised a lot recently. There was been concern that there are fewer and fewer of what the business professor Clayton Christensen calls “empowering innovations” (and it’s funny you mention the flying cars, because that’s what everyone mentions–like in this article). Whether that’s true, and why that’s the case, is not clear. Is it possible to run out of ideas? Or have we, as Sarah suggests, just gotten too lazy and too comfortably to innovate. Or, as Alex says, will laziness encourage us to innovate?

    Drew, is there a problem with greed (or more politely, desire for profits) in business? Isn’t that what makes business run? Can business run on altruism?

    And going back to Madison’s original post, I see a couple then-and-now similarities. One is our ever expanding world (trains then, internet now). The other is increasing speed. The question remains whether technology makes us better off or not.

    • Ben says:

      In response to the Altruism vs “Profit-Mindset” of business:

      The Industrial Revolution was the movement from sole proprietorship and individual craftsmanship to mass production and profit making. In a sense, it was a movement toward a calculated profitability focus. Then and now, business is defined as the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit. While there may be components of altruism in a business’s strategic plans, the focus of the business must be on creating profit, as that is its cited responsibility to shareholders. An example of such would be Starbucks’s altruistic approach to build a sense of community in its stores. It helps to make a connection with the customer, but ultimately its goal is to use that connection to generate revenue for profit.

      There is one exception to the profit focus rule, which are not-for-profit organizations. By their definition, they are altruistic entities required to use their revenue surplus to meet their mission.

      Besides not-for-profit, has anyone ever seen a completely altruistic company?

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