Technology ? as defined by the US National Academy of Science (cited in Jones 1996, p.17) ? is a perishable resource comprising knowledge, skills, and the means of using and controlling factors of production for the purpose of producing, delivering to users, and maintaining goods and services, for which there is an economic and/or social demand.
Ever since the Industrial Revolution (1780s), the impact of technology has been subject to public debate over its effect on employment ? does it cause unemployment or does it underlie the huge increases in standards of living (Jones 1996, p.11)? While it is difficult to ascertain the relationship between technology and employment, all that can be said with any certainty is that technological advancement has the capacity to create revolutionary economic and social changes (Jones 1996, p.21). In order to provide a clear analysis of the impact of technology on employment, we need to take into account the consequences of technological transitions and seek to relate these to social, economic, political, and cultural factors occurring at the time.
The relationship between technology and employment is at the same time complex and volatile (Mokyr 1990, p.52). To illustrate, the term ?Luddite? was coined in the early 19th Century to describe mindless machine-breaking (Jones 1996, p.21). The Luddites were skilled cloth-weavers who believed that technology would destroy their livelihood and opportunities for work (Jones 1996, p.22). They were opposed not to the knitting and lace-making machines as such, but more to the ?de-skilling? involved as these machines replaced workers which, inevitably led to the destruction of craft industries during this period (Jones 1996, p.24).
Historically though, the impact of technology has been to increase productivity in specific areas and in the long-term, ?release? workers thereby, creating opportunities for work expansion in other areas (Mokyr 1990, p.34).