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Technology is the development of physical equipment, their processes, skills and knowledge to make effective use these advancements. However the innovation of new technology comes with its disadvantages. Externalities are the costs or benefits that a use of a technology creates for a third party. Consequently, due to the mix of costs and benefits, the philanthropist- Kranzberg famously said: “Technology is neither good nor bad, nor it is neutral. ” The externalities that I will pay the most emphasis on, are the negative unforeseen consequences of technological innovation.
With the exponential growth of the population and the demand for technology becoming greater by the day, we are now dependent on technology. However social factors such as health issues, economic factors such as the costs of fuel alternatives and environmental costs of a decrease in biodiversity make technological innovation a controversial subject. Technological innovation was sparked by the industrial revolution, and we are still reliant on the same fossil fuels today. Due to incomplete combustion of the fuel, carbon particulates are released into the air.
This is seen in not only the production of technology, but in transport too. Despite more cars becoming more fuel efficient, 99. 99% of all cars (1. 2bn worldwide) run on fossil fuels. Although some cars have catalytic converters, carbon particulates are released in the older cars. When consumed these particles can cause serious health issues such as asthma and in some cases lung disease. Serious health problems that can sometimes lead to fatalities. The automotive industry is worth over $1. 6 trillion, and provides 7. 25 million jobs.
It has few economic costs, but due to the rise of TNC’s leakage occurs at an astonishing rate. With Audi, Germany, Ford and Mercedes outsourcing in Mexico. Mexico receives on average 0. 67% of profits from those 4 companies. The leakage benefits the economy of the source country, damages the environment of the host country and its economy. Due to the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource companies have started to find different fuel alternatives. However these are very expensive therefore damaging the company’s economic state, whereas its aim is to increase its shareholder value.
Due to almost 100% of cars using fossil fuels, they release 4. 4bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year accelerating the enhanced greenhouse effect. As not only does this push us closer to the tipping point, but it also is absorbed by water, making it acidic threatening marine life. Overall the development of technology in the automotive industry generally benefits the economy, and with more and more cars implementing tech to produce less particulates there will be less breathing problems.
However the environmental cost is huge, with the vast amounts of C02 emitted each year, the worlds climate is becoming unstable. The Gene Revolution has lead to the development of genetically modified (GM) crops. This has increased yields of the crop, makes them more resistant to tough climates and can make them more nutritious. Making the crops more resistant to extreme conditions makes people dependent on these plants. However as they are more expensive to source, there has been the socio-economic impact of social polarisation- this is where the divide between the rich and the poor becomes more apparent.
This is because the poorer farmers get less business, as they don’t have the GM crop to sell on, furthermore the lack of money creates the secondary impact of not being able to afford healthcare or education for example. Monsanto is the one of the largest TNCs in the GM crop industry, and is now worth $15bn. Like the other automotive TNC’s mentioned in this assignment leakage occurs as they have a 45% premium on their employees, so most money goes back to the host country. The green revolution spreads technology that hasn’t been implemented outside industrialised nations.
Using fertilisers and pesticides on crops has transformed the agriculture industry, it most of the work done is to introduce modern irrigation systems and add chemicals to improve crop varieties and improve yields. This has led to less famine and has also contributed to the population growth (Increased from 4bn in 1930s when it was first introduced to 7. 125bn now). It has also caused many issues. The main social consequence is again health related as the consumption of these chemicals has lead to 1mn cases of pesticide poisonings in 2015 with 20,000 of these cases turning out to be fatal.
Due to the world grain production increasing by 230% between 1950 and 2015, clearing out 2 million acres of rainforests for grain. This in turn has decreased biodiversity in those areas by on average 2. 45% consequently unbalancing the local food web. In addition to this, biodiversity decreases, as only one type of crop is grown-Monoculture, as this is the crop with the highest yield. This limits the amount of animals that can situate themselves in that area. The use of agrochemicals has led to eutrophication, while over use of irrigation has created salinization of soils and droughts.
However for crops such as HYV rice, yields are low without these chemicals creating a dependency. The green revolution has shown the economical benefits of using chemicals, however, it has lead to many health related issues and threatens the life in the area due to bioaccumulation. Nevertheless due to its success farmers are dependent on these agrochemicals to provide for their family. Speaking of something we are dependent on, here s something some teenagers can’t live without: Mobile phones.
The mobile phone industry is the fastest growing industry worldwide, with its worth in 2013 being $200bn, this year it has surpassed $410bn. In the last 44 years we have gone from no mobiles being available to 5bn phones sold since. With the introduction of the smartphone, communication with business, friend and family has never been quicker and easier. Due to mobiles using microwave radiation to send and receive messages, they slightly warm areas of your body that they are in contact with, which could cause mutations. Although it is not proven, there are correlations with phone usage with brain tumours and low sperm counts.
My generation will be the first generation that has had mobile phones throughout their whole lives, and therefore the data collected about these health issues will be unprecedented. The externalities from the rise of mobile phones go under the radar. With the introduction of the smart phone, which can now do almost anything, many businesses have seen a decrease in sales as the phone has zoned them out. An example of this is the toy company Mattel, which has seen a $20 decrease in share price from 2013 to 2016 which correlates with the development of mobile gaming.
Another example of this knock on effect is the 70% decrease in digital camera sales since 2009, due to phone cameras becoming better and better. With the amount of mobile devices set to exceed the human population in the next 5 years, production is going to be faster than ever. In 2015 it was estimated that mobile production released 36mn tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere, due to the requirement of fossil fuels to work and make the machines for production. The versatility of the smartphone has changed our lives, and business’ across the globe.
However with its built in obsolescence, and the materials being hard to recycle, many mobiles are finding themselves on landfill sites harming the environment. Overall the economic impact of technological innovation is the greater than the other unforeseen consequences. The externalities it caused by the genetic, and the green revolution led to the secondary impacts of having a lack of money for healthcare and education. By damaging the potential of the future these technological innovations cannot be seen as sustainable.
As this development creates the social polarisation, between the rich and the poor, it also further increases the difference between the North South divide, as the money from the TNC’s such as Audi sees 99% of their money go back to Germany, and 1 % stays in Mexico. The environmental concerns are the second largest in my opinion due to the huge amounts of carbon dioxide emitted, and how close we are to the global temperatures tipping point and the further consequences this has. Finally I put social concerns last as they are mainly short term, and should be solved by new technology in the next decade or two.