Technology plays an important part in almost every aspect of American life: business and industry, farming, urban development, health care, law, politics, banking, courtship, marital relationships, childrearing, schooling, religion, housekeeping and home maintenance, cooking and dietetics, shopping, social interactions, the spending of leisure time, and more. But the benefits of technology often have a price. For example, its relentless quest for "the new" necessarily makes our present possessions obsolete. Determination to keep up with "the better" or "the different" imposes challenges on both bank balances and human emotions. Technology encourages uniformity and predictability, thereby erasing the distinctiveness of communities and cultures.
Benefits and Costs
Technology's solutions to one generation's problems often create new ones for the next. Disposable diapers, for instance: Widespread usage did not begin until around 1970, when increasing numbers of mothers of infants and small children found employment outside the home. But, since their introduction, there have been concerns about their effects on the environment. By the early 1990s, soiled diapers amounted to 1.4 percent of the bulk in landfills, according to a study conducted in Arizona. Was that too much? And whatever the quantity, should disposable diapers be banned for other environmental reasons--for seepage of waste into groundwater, for example? Not necessarily. Debates over comparative environmental costs and benefits of using disposable as opposed to laundered diapers typically end in a draw. Washing diapers consumes energy and puts both human waste and detergents--another technolog-