What is Technology
Humans invent technology and it is with this that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Technology allows humans to control their environment and improve quality of life.Examples include
- Medicines - reducing the impacts that bacteria and virus have.
- Crop breeding - increasing yields and thus calorie intake.
- Just-in-time delivery systems - increasing profits of TNC's
Technology cannot be avoided; people in the developed world are reliant upon it:
- Agricultural technology - produced virtually all of our food due to mechanisation of the industry.
- Medical industry - is relied uptoon to fix the smalled of illnesses. Although bacteria and virus are now becoming less susceptible to our medicine.
- Petroleum & nuclear technology - supply on our energy needs which are ever-growing around the world.
The removal of technology for even a moment will have extreme effects, such as the global crisis in 2007/08 which created oil prices to rise up to $US147 a barrel.
Geographical patterns and access
The traditonal north-south divide is evident on a map, but the patterns of internet access is a lot more complex:
- Southern and eastern Europe have fewer users compared to northern Europe.
- Latin America have simplar levels to part of Europe, despite being less developed.
- Asia and especially Africa have a low percentage of users, but many Asian megacities such as Mumbia have internet levels of over 40% compared to rural areas which have less than 5%
Barriers to internet access include:
- Economics - In Uganda in 2006, it cost $2300 for an annual internet connection, this outside of most peoples economic means.
- Language - most website are in English, Chinese or Spanish.
- Content - needs to be what the people want to use, appropriate to the population.
- Electricity - requires electricity, and access to a computer.
- Internet servive provider - required to maintain and control the use of the internet
Geographical patterns and access continued
The level of development
The level of development in countries sometimes establishes and determines their accessibility and use of the internet across the world, however this is debatable in a number of regions depending on the sector of industry and other elements which would affect the useage pattern.
Air travel has a distinct global development. Some global regions are very well connected; these include areas like Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. While other places are peripheral these include Russia and Africa, these are only significantly connected to Europe.
Air travel requires infrastructure such as airports and air traffic control systems, these are lacks in many countries, suggesting some countries have been poorly intergrated into the global economy and as a result there is little demand for travel. This lack of infrastructure and connectivity means that new technology takes a lot longer to reach these areas.
We all suffer periods of environmental determinism - snow prevents travel, heat waves give many people sunburn. In the developed world this is unusual: sunscreen and snow ploughs are readily availalbe, for some people, technology is not readily availalbe and they are thus more vulnerable to the environment.
Agricultural technology means crop production is now determined much less by the environment and farmers are less vulnerable to the environmental hazards. Subsistence farmers in the developing world may have extremely limited access to any of this technology. Technology which includes - Irrigation, Pesticides, Fertilisers, Farm machinery and Hybridisation.
If these farmers had access to this technology then they would be less vulnerable and it would also increase their food security. As it would increase yields meaning there will be a better QOL. The best technology isn't required, such as GM crops; things like improved seed varieties, simple irrigation and fertilisers.
Barriers and Inequalities
Access to the numerous technologies is usually very strongly correlated to the level of economic development in the region. But there are many other factors:
- Physical reasons: Renewable energy technologies are only suited to cerain physical locations. Maili has a strong potential for Solar pannels. They are also looking into putting solar pannels in the Saharan desert.
- Political reasons: In N.Korea, internet access is not available to ordinary citizens. The government prevents use to restrict the flow of information that people recieve and also to ensure the correct political message is given agross.
- Environmental reasons: Certain groups shun the use of certain technologies, such as Organic farmers don't use pesticides.
- Religious reasons: Contraceptive technology is rejected by some religions such as the Roman Catholic Church
- Military reasons: Nuclear technology has been controlled by the international Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty which aims to prevent nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Barriers and Inequalities
Everyone has their own opinions on technolgoy. Many people are ethically uncomfortable with genetic engineering. People who reject technology are technophobes.
Human invent new technology every day, but it needs to be made. New technology is very expensive and investors and developers invest time and money into inventions and the law ensures they get a return on the investments.
- New inventions are protected using Interllectual property rights.
- A patent is given to the inventor of the new technology to stop it being copied.
- Inventors usually licence companies to manufacture the new technologies, they recieve financial royalties.
Royalties and expensives help keep the invention expensive until the patents exspire which is usually after 20 years. BUT a new drug could be prevented from being widely available because of the company that made it have put a patent on it. Companies in Brazil have begun to produce a generic drug to treat AIDS which has lowered treatment costs from $US500 to $US30 per patient
Technology and Development
Developed world ecomomies are increasingly knowledged based as we move from the industrial age to the information age. In a knowledge economy, ideas, information and services make money, not goods. This has been promoted by, Globalisation of markets and free trade, ICT, Networking using the internet technology and High-tech products and services.
Much of the developing world are still in the industrial age. With the complex parts of an Apple Iphone being made in Japan and NIC's, the simple components and assembly being made/completed in China. The LIC's such as Africa play no role.
Research and Development play one role in this technology divide
- Globally, usually US$1trillion is spent on R&D each year, 1/ of this is spent in the USA
- Developed world - 2,000-5,000 research personnel for ever 1mil people, but only 10-50 in the LIC's
R&D allows the technological developed to stay that way. Most technological innovations measured by the patents granted: in 2007 - 51% in the USA, 20% Japan and 16% from Europe. Developed world invest huge money into it, especially at University level.
It is hard for developing nations to catch up to the developed world, this is due to them needed a few things.
- Skilled reaserchers are required, meaning investments in Universities.
- Much R&D spending is done by TNC's - which there are few in the developing world.
- Government budgets are to tight and earmarked for water and housing projects.
- Labs and facilities are expensive.
NIC's such as Taiwan and S.Korea are becoming big spenders in R&D, with Samsung spending more then IBM in 2007.
Mobile telephones anre Lifestraws are examples of how nations have leapfrogged technology. Technolgocal leapfrogging is when a technology is adopted without a precursor technology. Other examples include Laptops and WiFi withought a hard wired network stage, or Solar panels and micro HEP without complex electricity transmissions.
Costs and Benefits
Most technologies are introduced with an 'aim' but this may have other unforeseen impacts referred to as externalities. These are the costs and benefits that are not accounted for in the financial cost of the product.The Green Revolution in 1960's and the Gene revolution in 1990's are examples of this.
Green revolution is the production of High, yielding crop varieties plus fertilisers, irrigation, and machinery the aim was to increase food security. It has worked in many places, such as two crop per year, it has also increased healthy diets. But it had introducted machinery which has lead to unemploymenty increaing urbainsation, Only the well off farmers could afford it, the increased fertiliser use lead to eutrophication, pesticides damanged biodiversity.
The gene revolution is when the gene makeup is alterned so they can resist pests, herbicides. they have increased exports which have increased farm expeorts, but farmers become dependant on he seeds which means the TNC's can increases seed prices. The public in countries such as the UK reject the technology. In Argentina, larger GM maize farmers have bought out the smaller farmers.
Dealing with externalities
Using technology has consequences; the more we use technology the greater the change a of a environemental impact. this is due to: Goods require resources, which have to be extracted and processed, Manufacturing causes pollution and Technology has to be powered or fuelled.
The technology advanced societies use the most energy sources and have the largest ecological footprints. Extensive use of technology leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and global warming with the potential to influence human life:
- Rising sea levels may flood coastal areas. Countries may be lost such as the Samoa.
- Increasing sea temperature may cause coral bleaching.
- Increased drought may lead to crop failure.
- Increase flooding with destroy homes and livelihoods.
There is now an increasing pressure to move towards polluters pay. meaning people treat the environment as a pollution sink, then they have to pay green tax. The EU set pollution quotas, exceed this quota and carbon credits must be bought. UK car tax is now linked to CO2 production. Congestion charge in London is another example.
These taxes are encouraged to reduce pollution.
Most inventions aim to make life better - new drugs, labour saving machines, or improved crops. But humans produce weapons too, so not all technology is benificial. Some technology is banned due to them having a massive consequces such as landmines, chemical weapons and CFC's
Technology is used as part of a development process. there is a difference between what's best and what's appropriate.
There are different strategies, such as intermediate technologies argue that the developing world would need to be fit for prupose. This means for the LIC's and developing world that the technolgoies fittted need to be low cost and easy to repair. High tech solutions means people rely on high tech companies. The intermediate technology is generally environmental friendly.
Intermediate is generally bottom-up with local people and organisations involved in the building and maintaning the technology. Large engineering projects are usually controlled by the government.
There are four strategies to which way people can go - Small is beautiful, The bigger the better, High tech is best and Renewable future
Contrasting approaches part 2
Small is Beautiful - Intermediate technology is best - low cost, simple, small scale, using local resources - A small dam was built in Ethopia, it was 300m long and 15m high. It was constructed mear Mek,ele to meet the demands of the local people, now they have readily available water.
The bigger the better - Mega-engineering projects that provide a one off solution at very high capital cost.
High tech is best - Most advanced solutions possible with the current technology available. The Tekeze Dam in Ethiopia, which is the talled dam in the world. It cost $224 million, and will be the 10th HEP in Ethiopia.105km of cable has been built to link the dam to the regions capital Mel,ele.
Renewable Furute - Alternative technolgy - lowest possible environmental impacts
The Big Fix
The best technology would be one that could reverse the effects of global warming. These fixes have been researched and referred to as planetary or geo-engineering.
The precautionary principle is argainst technology on the basis of possible unknown outcomes.
Past failures - The Aral Sea Disaster!!!
Transformation of the USSR arid land into productive cotton growing farmland. Dams and rivers were build on rivers to divert water along 40,000km of canals so 3.5mil hectares of land could be reached. But it caused the river to dry up, the Aral sea shrunk by 25% meaning the sea bed was exposed, this meant salt storms happened, this allowed chemical pollution to increase so local people had increased chances of cancer. Worst ecological disaster ever!!
Future posibilities - Artificial global dimming.
Reduce solar imput by creating an artificial aerosil blanket in the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space. Using aircraft. This will cool the planet by reflecting incoming solar radiation. But calculating the required Sulphur dioxide is hard, + Sulphur dioxide leads to acid rain.
Technology and Sustainability
Countries have very different attitudes towards technology and its environemtnal impacts. It is generally accepted that for huamns to have a high QOL, they need to live in a healthy environment.
Sweden have a high QOL and high ecosystem sustainability. Whereas the USA have a high QOL but a low ecosystem sustainability. Ghana have a low QOL but relativilty the same ecosystem sustainability.
Sweden manages to maintain high ecosystem wellbeing and a high human wellbeing. This is rare. Technology and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive. some hard choices have to be made if the use of technology is compatible with the concept of sustainability.
Some technologies fit sustainability better than others, such as Wind and Solar energy opposed to coal or gas. Current technologies such as the motor car, and large scale technological fixes such as mega dams don't fit this criteria
Future of technology
There are several possible futures because there is no presensory knowledge
- A diverge world - technological advances in the developed world, but an increase lack of access in the developing world. This would increase the technological/development gap.
- A convergent world - increase transfer of technology to the developing world, this would begin to bridge the development gap and the technological divide. But the law prevents this.
- Switching worlds - To a more renewable resourve based one. Making a powering technology with renewable resources aboids the negative outcomes.
There is some evidence of a convirging world, Chinas spend on R&D is growing clsoe to that of Japans, (23% 2001-2006) while the USA's is growing slowly (1-2% 2001-2007). In S.Korea companies spend about 6.5% on R&D whereas this number is only 5% in Europe.
In the LIC's, technology transfer currently relies heavilty on the work of NGO's and bodies such as the UK government. In 2008, Global environment facility (GEF) was given the responsibility for technology trander to the developing world. Technology includes: Efficient lighting, Efficient power generation, Fuel-cell buses. The GEF has the support of 180 countries and has a yearly budget of US$3Billion. Technology transfer needs to be both for development and environmental sustainability
- Technology allows humans to comtrol the environment and improve QOL
- Scales- from mega high tech projects to small-scale low cost projects and emerging nanotechnology to biotechnology.
- Access varies - north south divide, social cultural divide, political and economic factors.
- Barriers to development - physical, political, environmental, cultural, economcail, religous.
- Leapfrogging can narrow the tech/development gap.
- Leapfrogging - adaptation of advanced technology without precursor technology being adopted.
- Green revolution and GM crops cost and benefits vary SEEP.
- Approptiate technology, eg. desalinization plants vs rainwater harvesting
- Controversial technology - solving the worlds greatest problem - global warming.
- Techno-fix can be sustainable, may continue to increase carbon footprint.
- Future is hard to predict, divergent world, where we continue to pollutem or convergent where we transfer technology to narrow the tech/dev gap. or a green sustainable world