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 Many technology critics view the reduction of human labour and the time it takes to produce goods and services as a negative side effect of technological advancement. They see it as a cause of mass unemployment of workers, especially in the blue-collar working class. An Example of this is the telephone switchboard operator. Their numbers dropped from 421,000 in 1970 to 164,000 in 1996, a 60% decrease in employment. (Baase, 2008) This fear of technology eliminating jobs caused people to take radical measures, like seamstresses in the mid 1800’s destroying sewing machines or Luddites burning looms.

http://home.messiah.edu/~am1420/tech-in-print.html

 

However, I believe the opposite, where technology actually brings better efficiency to current industries and creates new jobs. In the instance of the clothing industry, sewing machines enabled seamstresses to make more than two shirts a day. This initially reduced the number of seamstress, but because companies were able to produce clothing much faster and at a lower price, the sewing machines affected the market and increased the demand for clothing. With this increase in demand, companies needed more seamstresses to operate the machines. Economist Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’ theory states that:

 

“If each consumer is allowed to choose freely what to buy, and each producer is allowed to choose freely what to sell and how to produce it, the market will settle on a product distribution and prices that benefit all” (Invisible Hand, 2011)

 

From Smith’s theory, we can see that when companies decrease the cost to produce a product, which in turns increases the supply of the product, the ‘Invisible Hand’ will help the market reach equilibrium by increasing the demand to match the supply. For all the non-economics majors, this basically means that, by making it cheaper to produce the products, companies increase the amount of product available on the market at the cheaper price. With Adam Smith’s theory of the ‘Invisible Hand’, we are able to predict that increasing the quantity of a cheaper product on the market will cause the consumers to want to buy more. I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I don’t need to buy something, but if I see it on sale, I just can’t stop myself from buying it! With an increase in demand, companies have to hire more workers to increase the amount of product they make.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/051110-do-robots-take-peoples-jobs

 

In addition to creating more jobs by increasing demand, technology also creates new jobs in industries created around the new technology. If we look closer at the telephone industry, we see that in light of the large decrease in jobs for switchboard operators, the number of long distance calls went from 9.8 billion to 94.9 billion. If that work was done manually, it would require half the adult population of the country to be operators. (Baase, 2008) Instead of increasing the number of jobs for telephone operators, technology created a new industry that brought many new jobs. By 1997, more than 109,000 people worked in the cell phone industry in the U.S. alone. (Baase, 2008)

 

Technology creates many more jobs in the long run by eliminating old, less-efficient jobs. However, the long-term social gains created by technology are not of large interest to a person who has just had their job eliminated. But with time they will see that the progress of technology makes goods and services cheaper and more readily available to consumers, while also creating new jobs.

References

“Invisible Hand.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 27 June 2011. Web. 20 July 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_hand.
 
Baase, Sara. A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
 
 
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In 1995 the FBI reported than online services/bulletin-board systems are becoming one of the most prevalent techniques for people to share pornographic pictures of minors and to identify/recruit children into sexually illicit relationships. I believe this is a major problem, and a large risk to kids, especially as children gain access to technology and the internet at younger ages. My 12-year-old cousin now has her own cell phone and an iPod touch, which fully enables her to access internet at any time, without her parents observing her online interactions. This scares me after hearing all the horror stories of young girls being abducted when they met a “friend” they found online. Not to mention all the graphic, violent, sexual content that can easily be found on the web. At least when the internet was in its infancy, pornography was a lot harder to find. Now thanks to search engines, web browsing, and spam emails, this graphic content can be just a mere click away. Something needs to be done to protect the innocents of our youth. Luckily there are many other that agree with me and have been working to shield children from harmful online materials.

Communications Decency Act(CDA)

The Communications Decency Act was the first act created to protect children from the dangers of the internet and shield them from harmful materials. While in place, anyone who made an obscene/indecent communication available to anyone under 18 would be subject to a fine and jail time. However the act didn’t last too long, it was too extreme and people felt it threatened the freedom of expression. The main arguments against it were: what it considered obscene/indecent was too broad and vague, and that it didn’t use the least restrictive means of accomplishing the goal of protecting children. Many believed the act was much like the law that was striken out in Michigan in 1957 because the courts felt it was reducing the adults in the state to reading materials that were only fit for children to read. With many adults feeling they were losing the freedom of expression from this act, the courts thought it was unconstitutional.

Child Online Protection Act(COPA)

This second act that was implemented was more limited than it predecessor. It made it a federal crime for websites to make materials that are harmful to minors as judged by community standards. The act achieved this by requiring websites with potentially harmful materials to have age verification on their sites. But much like the Communications Decent Act, first amendment supporters felt COPA threatened freedom of expression, so it was ended as well. However unlike the CDA, the COPA created some lasting good during it’s life. It established the Child Online Protection Commission, whose purpose was to study and report on ways to protect kids. The Child Online Protection Commission encouraged educational efforts and the use of technological protections such as filters.

Children’s Internet Protection Act(CIPA)

This is latest act, which is still in place. This act took a different approach from the last two acts, where it requires schools and libraries that participate in federal programs that provide money for technology, to install filtering software on their computers. Most schools and libraries rely on that funding, so this tactic really forces the institutions to follow the rules. Like before specific interest groups tried to block CIPA, like they had done with CDA and COPA. But the courts ruled that the CIPA doesn’t violate the first amendment because it doesn’t fine or jail content providers. It just requires public institutions to install a filtering software, which can be requested to be disabled by an adult.

It makes me feel better that there are people out there working to protect the youth from harmful online materials by creating acts such as the above three. I hope that the internet remains a safe environment for when I eventually have kids and they gain access to the internet!

When you want to have a private conversation with someone, about topics that you don’t want others to hear, do you have the conversation in a high traffic public place such as in the UC of the University?

Do you walk around with a sign on your back listing your name, birth date, and phone number?

The large majority of people will say no to the two questions above. That is because they want to have privacy for their personal information and life. What most people fail to see is that Facebook and other social networking sites are just virtual public places. These sites are no different from sitting in the Air Canada Center during a sold out game. There are many discussions about online privacy while using Facebook, regarding your personal information and how it can be used. I have a simple solution; don’t share information on these public sites which you don’t want to be shared! When it comes to the privacy on social network sites, two main issues arise.

The first issue is that everyone’s information is being shared with third parties such as ad agencies. In January 2011 Facebook announced its plans to allow third-party developers access to information such as address and phone numbers when users install their apps. (Reporter, 2011) Privacy experts warn that this could lead to Facebook users being the target of more scams, spam, and identity thieves. This is the greatest fear people have when it comes to using the internet, and it’s scary to see that Facebook openly claims that user’s information is actually being sold to third parties.

The second issue is when people have shared information come back to hurt them. “Friends may post racy profiles of friends as pranks, sometimes generating laughs, sometimes generating serious embarrassment and other problems.” (Baase, 2008) Information and pictures posted on these social network websites can lead to embarrassment or worse. In the case of a woman Nathalie Blachard, in Quebec who was on sick leave for a major case of depression, “her insurance agent described several pictures Blachard posted on the popular social networking site, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party, and on a sun holiday – evidence that she is no longer depressed.” (Depressed woman loses benefits over Facebook photos, 2009) This is a pretty extreme example, but it shows what harm can come from sharing personal stuff on social networking sites. My personal rule is if I don’t want my mom to see it, then it shouldn’t go on Facebook. (I actually have my mom and grandmother on Facebook, so this rule takes literal meaning for me!)

If people learned to screen what information they share with the world on these sites, it could dramatically reduce the amount of problems with identity theft, scams, and general embarrassment. Treat the online world like it’s the real world, and be aware that other people can see what you’re doing!

References

Baase, S. (2008). A gift of Fire. New Jersey: Pearson.

Depressed woman loses benefits over Facebook photos. (2009, November 21). Retrieved June 2, 2011, from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2009/11/19/quebec-facebook-sick-leave-benefits.html

Reporter, D. M. (2011, March 2). Outrage as Facebook changes its privacy rules AGAIN to share users’ phone numbers and home addresses with third party companies. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1361889/Facebook-privacy-rule-change-Phone-numbers-addresses-shared-parties.html

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