Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: Science & Technology
Can Technology Replace Man ?
“Technology will become a facilitator, but never a controller. Technology might reduce the need for manpower, but certainly cannot replace it.”
Human beings are the parents of technology. They gave birth to technology, embraced it, nurtured it, developed it further and now it serves us by making our lives a lot easier.
Gone are the times when one had to search huge telephone directories to contact a friend, or send letters by post to communicate with our dear ones, spend hours in transportation, or do manual works like washing clothes with hands and spend hours in books to search for information. Now connecting with friends or searching for information is just click away. Technology has made our lives much easier and efficient. When machine does a manual work, saying washing clothes, it frees up human’s time to invest in other intelligent and brain consuming stuff, say a house wife can spend more time with her kids now to teach them. No doubt that technology has made our lives a lot easier!
With more of advancement and discoveries now we talk about artificial intelligence (computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages), food production has increased tremendously through the use of Biotechnology and genetic engineering. Surely, technological advances show people more efficient ways to do things, and these processes get results.
But why is there a fear that the same technology that humans created has the capability of taking over the manpower?
Companies are moving towards more of ‘automation’ that reduces the need for human labour force and increases the efficiency, making it more profitable for firms to replace human labour force with machine. Humanoid robots are believed to perform household menial tasks thus replacing housemaids. But this is not a new phenomenon as humans have been evolving with time.
Since 17th century the world has gone through three industrial revolutions. First steam power from mechanized production, followed by electricity for mass production and the recently electronics paved the way for ‘automated’ production. Each revolution changes the scope of human labor dramatically and has led to globalization and division of labour. Today we talk about the fourth industrial revolution that will change everything again.
Technology has increasingly permeated our lives and there have been rapid advances in manufacturing and artificial intelligence. Since the electronics revolution Human Labour has bridged the divide between limits of technology and demands of developing economies.
The fourth industrial revolution is eliminating the need for workers to operate as middle men between consumers and machines. That’s obviously not good news for low skilled and low paid manpower. Many jobs will be slowly phased out in favour of high tech automation.
For example, self-driving cars will eliminate the need for taxi drivers; drone delivery will cut off postal services (we see pizza being delivered through drones these days). Emerging technologies are already being able to replace huge number of workers. Just as the main barrier being the initial cost of setting up an automated infrastructure. As with more of technological innovations the cost is bound to decrease. Rich countries are sure to benefit.
But what about developing countries like India and China with huge pool of labour force? Artificial intelligence and robots are said to destroy their advantage of “low cost manpower” World Economic Forum has predicted that by 2020 most of the jobs will be lost increasing the existing gender and class gaps. Of course every industrial revolution has encountered the same issue, but this time it’s a cause of worry.
Some very intelligent people including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are skeptic of computers being so intelligent that they could overpower human intelligence. No doubt about the fear of human race getting replaced by intelligent computers (echoing films like the Terminator), but some others deny this fact too.
Having said that, how can we say that creation (technology) cannot replace the creator (manpower)?
MANPOWER as a whole means. Taking a broader perspective, manpower maybe judicial workforce, a voting population, teaching man force, a bunch of friends, soldiers and regiment leaders,a class of semi-skilled/skilled workforce, a group of ethical hackers, disaster management force, engineers with analytical and technical expertise, or a group of people who have vowed to change age-old practices.
We live in a democratic country, where judiciary is a separate body having power of maintaining law and order. Technology cannot be used to give final verdict or judgement for a boy who was involved in a rape case -it requires the discretion of the judges, analytical abilities of the law makers and ability to interpret the proofs to be able to announce the final verdict. However, technology can be used to classify and store the complaints online, which may reduce the complications and hence delay in finding old-lost files.
Similarly, robots in a country cannot be the voting population . We being a democracy , the citizens have the full fledged privilege to be able judge on themselves whom they think deserve to be in power. However, technology can make sure that free and fair elections are held, by using CCTV’s to have a watchful eye and hence take actions against the malpractices being followed during elections.
Human decision making and understanding are not only based on intelligence, but they are also based on experience and values. For a computer to attain such a level of sophistication is a fanciful idea as of now. To run a firm successfully technology is imperative but not at the cost of man power. For efficient use of technology and to increase productivity human minds are required.
Human Resources play a significant role in achieving the objectives of an organization by maintaining strong network of relationships across the organization. Maintaining relationships, keeping the motivation up, building strong bond and healthy relation between producers and consumers is not something that technology can do alone. Of course technology has bridged the gap in communication. Social networking, media and advertising help in marketing and attracting consumer base.
These startups are like a buzzword. Risk taking capabilities, innovation, perseverance and dealing with unforeseen circumstances is what it takes to run a startup, along with other essential resources. Again technology is required here; computers have become an integral part of lives today. But they are not the replacement of manpower skills.
When it comes to conservations of forests and environment, it has been found out that involvement of local tribes and communities easies the task and leads to more efficient management of natural resources. A study by researchers at the Wildlife Institute of India found that the lions and local tribe ‘Maldharis’ have an interdependent relationship that benefited both. Know-how of traditional practices has proved to be essential for conservation of wildlife.
World famous paintings of Pablo Picasso can only be created by a human with impeccable artistic acumen. It can only be photocopied by a machine. Incredible writing skills of J.K Rowling and William Shakespeare are another example where technology can’t replace it.
In moral sphere of life, technology cannot decide if some work you need to do abide by the principles of morality or ethnicity. A robot will only do things he has been commanded to do. He won’t judge if it is correct or wrong. But a whole population can decide what is the best in terms of ethnicity. For example : Getting freedom for the country by overthrowing foreign power is ethical according to utilitarian principle, but a robot cannot judge this.
Also, with more of automation and people losing jobs will ultimately reduce the buying capacity of people leading to loss of companies who went for complete automation at the first place. Technology surely helps us make our tasks easier but it is never a substitute for manpower. The skills which human brain possess, the communication with language and emotional bond which increases productivity at work can and should only be complemented and replaced by technology. Technology is not a panacea for all problems, human value education, and skills education is imperative to reap the benefit of increasing
Overdependence on technology will advance human development
The invention of steam engine was a watershed event in human history. The mechanization of work facilitated by this fuelled what we today know as 1st industrial revolution. This was accompanied by renaissance and the whole social, political and cultural structures of the time changed drastically due to this. Today when we stand on the brink of 4th industrial revolution which is based on digital revolution and as an extension of 3rd industrial revolution’s information and communication technology, one can not help but wonder whether the changes ushered by this will add or diminish to human development in totality.
While technological changes have always been an enabler and disruptor both in all spheres of human life, the velocity of change and impact of change will be much more rapid this time because of the all pervasive nature of technology today. So in this scenario it becomes extremely important that only the most ethical use of technology is done while keeping the human centric approach. We will have to analyse how dependence or overdependence on technology has affected our economic, social, political, cultural spheres of life and how it can be changed further. What changes are desirable and hence should be promoted, and what changes can have unintended catastrophic externalities and hence must be embraced with caution.
In the economic sphere technology has been a force multiplier. Whether be it in the field of production, packaging, transportation, logistics or delivery, technology has increased efficiency and efficacy both across the value chain. Digital financial inclusion has made, making payments so easy that in large transactions money hardly changes hand in physical form, it is all done by the click of a mouse. While mechanization and automation has made things more systematic and cost efficient, it has also led to machines replacing humans in factories for manual and repetitive work. While it frees humans to engage in more productive avenues but in the world especially in developing countries where unemployment is rampant, machines cannot and should not be allowed to replace the labour force. So what is needed is the well thought out human welfare centric approach in the use of technology and not just the maximisation of profits or the mad craze for technology itself. Like our Prime Minister suggested that companies should be given incentives to increase their labor force by giving them per employee subsidy instead of subsidy on value of production.
In the social sphere technology has contributed immensely in building human capital. Free Online courses, e health care services and social networking all have had great impact on human well being. Today e classes are being given to students in remote areas and also to students who want to learn on their own like part time learners and people already in jobs. Technology has brought learning, evaluation and certification all at our doorstep. National knowledge network (NKN), Coursera, unacademy, insightsonindia all are using technological platforms to deliver contents to students in geographically diverse areas and hence contributing to the logo” Padega india tab hi to badega india” (india will study and move forward). E health services through NOFN to every pachayat is also being mooted, there are already mobile health vans providing vaccination and primary health services to people in remote areas. Similarly for people with disabilities technology has been nothing less than a boon it has given ears to deaf, vision to blind and legs to crippled. But on the other hand technology has also facilitated geographical disintegration of families, the feeling of being virtually connected blurs the need of being physically together. It has created a whole class of isolated individuals immersed in their gadgets, not knowing how and why to interact with others. This gives birth to many psychological issues which may even extend to depravity and hence crimes. So while we need to promote technology for socioeconomic development, we will have to ensure that it is used properly and in a way that enhances well being.
On the political front technology has allowed more space for democratic participation. Through social media and other government initiatives like ‘myGov ‘people are today much more empowered to make their voices heard and ensure accountability from the executive. Regional issues evoke response globally forcing the rulers to act accordingly. Political revolutions like Arab spring are being facilitated by social media, making attempt for getting Democratic rights. But at the same time mobilization for riots and propagation of hatred is also being done using the same technological platforms. So what we need is censorship mechanism or at least a flagging mechanism that can identify quickly the deplorable use of such platforms for harming individuals life and liberty, and to ensure that technology is only used for furthering human rights and not for violating them.
Security has emerged as a key concern in this age of technological development where even a small group of individuals (Non state actors) can cause immense harm to humanity by getting their hands on lethal weaponary. Countries are competing with each other for technological superiority in warfare resulting in the development of weapons like nuclear, biological and chemical weapons which threaten the existence of human race itself. Groups like ISIS are using the same social networking sites to spread their venomous ideology and for recruiting new people. The need of the hour is for global cooperation resulting in reduction in global arsenal and also better protocols to ensure that under no circumstances these technological weapons reach the people/states with no value for human life and its sanctity.
On the Cultural front technology has made the world truly global. Hollywoods popularity across the globe and A. R. Rehman winning Oscar for his music, shows how the whole world is getting connected and aware of each others cultural niches. Different art forms are getting fused together and evolving because of technological reach of means of communication like internet (YouTube) and television. But at the same time technology has bombarded us with so much of popular culture from across the globe that regional and indigenous culture in many parts has reached on the brink of extinction. So the need of the hour is to modernise and promote indigenous culture while allowing free flow of values and arts along with artists.
So we can say that whether technology will enhance or impede human development will depend on how and for what purpose it is used. If we promote the ethical use of technology and if even the innovators try to analyse how their inventions can benefit or harm humanity, we can really achieve wonders. Historically reduction in poverty has never been so fast as it has been in last 2-3 decades especially in India and china. Therefore technology definitely has the potential to substantially enhance the human development and elevate material and moral worth of all but for that we will have to follow human centric approach. Needs and aspirations of people will have to kept in mind while developing and deploying technology. In this way we will be able to achieve a technologically driven commune of all the people of the world living blissfully together.
Manpower will always be more reliable if not as efficient as machines are. Machines only work till the time they are being provided energy from electricity or other sources, but a man can push his limits and endure pain. While technology can go haywire due to a simple wiring defect, humans can work through pain and injuries. So, technology might makes our lives easier but can’t mimic the human nature; and, it is our human nature that we make our own masters and it is also the reason why manpower will always be required in some shape or form, no matter how big or small. No matter how many factories employ machines to get their tasks done, those machines still have to be controlled or monitored by man. No matter how much technology develops, to develop new technology itself it will require manpower.
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