Technology in Modern America, the effects on society

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Technology in Modern America

U.S. Wage Trends

The microeconomic picture of the U.S. has changed immensely since 1973, and the trends

are proving to be consistently downward for the nation's high school graduates and high

school drop-outs. "Of all the reasons given for the wage squeeze - international

competition, technology, deregulation, the decline of unions and defense cuts - technology

is probably the most critical. It has favored the educated and the skilled," says M. B.

Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report (7/31/95). Since 1973, wages

adjusted for inflation have declined by about a quarter for high school dropouts, by a sixth

for high school graduates, and by about 7% for those with some college education. Only

the wages of college graduates are up.

Of the fastest growing technical jobs, software engineering tops the list. Carnegie Mellon

University reports, "recruitment of it's software engineering students is up this year by over

20%." All engineering jobs are paying well, proving that highly skilled labor is what

employers want! "There is clear evidence that the supply of workers in the [unskilled labor]

categories already exceeds the demand for their services," says L. Mishel, Research Director

of Welfare Reform Network.

In view of these facts, I wonder if these trends are good or bad for society. "The danger of

the information age is that while in the short run it may be cheaper to replace workers with

technology, in the long run it is potentially self-destructive because there will not be enough

purchasing power to grow the economy," M. B. Zuckerman. My feeling is that the trend

from unskilled labor to highly technical, skilled labor is a good one! But, political action

must be taken to ensure that this societal evolution is beneficial to all of us. "Back in 1970,

a high school diploma could still be a ticket to the middle income bracket, a nice car in the

driveway and a house in the suburbs. Today all it gets is a clunker parked on the street, and

a dingy apartment in a low rent building," says Time Magazine (Jan 30, 1995 issue).

However, in 1970, our government provided our children with a free education, allowing

the vast majority of our population to earn a high school diploma. This means that anyone,

regardless of family income, could be educated to a level that would allow them a

comfortable place in the middle class. Even restrictions upon child labor hours kept

children in school, since they are not allowed to work full time while under the age of 18.

This government policy was conducive to our economic markets, and allowed our country

to prosper from 1950 through 1970. Now, our own prosperity has moved us into a highly

technical world, that requires highly skilled labor. The natural answer to this problem, is

that the U.S. Government's education policy must keep pace with the demands of the

highly technical job market. If a middle class income of 1970 required a high school

diploma, and the middle class income of 1990 requires a college diploma, then it should be

as easy for the children of the 90's to get a college diploma, as it was for the children of the

70's to get a high school diploma. This brings me to the issue of our country's political

process, in a technologically advanced world.

Voting & Poisoned Political Process in The U.S.

The advance of mass communication is natural in a technologically advanced society. In

our country's short history, we have seen the development of the printing press, the radio,

the television, and now the Internet; all of these, able to reach millions of people. Equally

natural, is the poisoning and corruption of these medias, to benefit a few.

From the 1950's until today, television has been the preferred media. Because it captures

the minds of most Americans, it is the preferred method of persuasion by political figures,

multinational corporate advertising, and the upper 2% of the elite, who have an interest in

controlling public opinion. Newspapers and radio experienced this same history, but are

now somewhat obsolete in the science of changing public opinion. Though I do not

suspect television to become completely obsolete within the next 20 years, I do see the

Internet being used by the same political figures, multinational corporations, and upper 2%

elite, for the same purposes. At this time, in the Internet's young history, it is largely

unregulated, and can be accessed and changed by any person with a computer and a

modem; no license required, and no need for millions of dollars of equipment. But, in

reviewing our history, we find that newspaper, radio and television were once unregulated

too. It is easy to see why government has such an interest in regulating the Internet these

days. Though public opinion supports regulating sexual material on the Internet, it is just

the first step in total regulation, as experienced by every other popular mass media in our

history. This is why it is imperative to educate people about the Internet, and make it be

known that any regulation of it is destructive to us, not constructive! I have been a daily

user of the Internet for 5 years (and a daily user of BBS communications for 9 years), which

makes me a senior among us. I have seen the moves to regulate this type of

communication, and have always openly opposed it.

My feelings about technology, the Internet, and political process are simple. In light of the

history of mass communication, there is nothing we can do to protect any media from the

"sound byte" or any other form of commercial poisoning. But, our country's public

opinion doesn't have to fall into a nose-dive of lies and corruption, because of it! The first

experience I had in a course on Critical Thinking came when I entered college. As many

good things as I have learned in college, I found this course to be most valuable to my basic

education. I was angry that I hadn't had access to the power of critical thought over my

twelve years of basic education. Simple forms of critical thinking can be taught as early as

kindergarten. It isn't hard to teach a young person to understand the patterns of

persuasion, and be able to defend themselves against them. Television doesn't have to be a

weapon against us, used to sway our opinions to conform to people who care about their

own prosperity, not ours. With the power of a critical thinking education, we can stop

being motivated by the sound byte and, instead we can laugh at it as a cheap attempt to

persuade us.

In conclusion, I feel that the advance of technology is a good trend for our society;

however, it must be in conjunction with advance in education so that society is able to

master and understand technology. We can be the masters of technology, and not let it be

the masters of us.


Where have the good jobs gone?, By: Mortimer B. Zuckerman

U.S. News & World Report, volume 119, pg 68 (July 31, 1995)

Wealth: Static Wages, Except for the Rich, By: John Rothchild

Time Magazine, volume 145, pg 60 (January 30, 1995)

Welfare Reform, By: Lawrence Mishel (Feb 22, 1994)

20 Hot Job Tracks, By: K.T. Beddingfield, R. M. Bennefield, J. Chetwynd,

T. M. Ito, K. Pollack & A. R. Wright

U.S. News & World Report, volume 119, pg 98 (Oct 30, 1995)

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