Technology and Society: The Influence of Machines in the United States

By S. Mckee Rosen ; Laura Rosen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEW SOCIETY

A Mature Nation.The march of American democracy— the winning of a continent, the building of cities and the harnessing of nature through science and industry—has conquered the last of the old frontier. But a new frontier remains to be met. For as an ancient thinker wisely put it: communities first arise among men so that they may live, but they continue only that men may live well. A nation in its youth may readily afford to spend its patrimony with reckless abandon; but a sound maturity demands that the utilization of its resources, natural and human, be directed to the widest common good.

Machines do not exist in a vacuum. They affect deeply all aspects of life, and their very existence gives rise to numerous and constant problems outside of the engineering field. The mechanical cotton-picker, for example, about which there has been much discussion of late, has tremendous possibilities. It is a great potential labor-saving device. The application of such a single innovation, however, would raise economic, social, and political problems of real magnitude. For experts have estimated that its adoption would mean the immediate displacement of half a million and the eventual ousting of four million cotton-pickers in the South.

The mechanical cotton-picker is but one case. What of the thousands upon thousands of machines which go into the making of present-day technology? This technology, it is often maintained, has grown in striking fashion but has never been fully assimilated within the social order. In other words, society is seeking appropriate economic and political methods for dealing with the impact which invention has made upon the social order in recent decades. Careful ob

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