Nye ch. 6

Does technology make us all richer?  Certainly in one sense poor people today have a lot more than poor people did 100 years ago.
Technology makes us richer in the sense that we have more things, but is that the only sense in which we want to be richer?

what did conservatives think of the modern era?

old cartoon showing liberalism
Watch out for Nye's use of the word "liberal."  He is using it in an economic history sense--technological/economic liberals believe that technological progress and economic growth are good things. 
Nye is using liberal to mean pro-technology, pro-economic growth (as in economic liberalism)

Is technological progress and economic growth always a good thing?  Most of you probably automatically answer yes, but in this chapter you need to stop and think about that.  Think about this in terms of quality of life.
Does technology make us richer?  Yes, it gives us more things--a higher standard of living.
Is a higher standard of living the whole story?  Does it give us a better quality of life?
Standard of living is what we can buy--food, clothing, shelter, etc.

an argument that technology improves our quality of life

one attempt at wider measures, for England:
quality of life measures

Does technological progress and economic growth lead to more damage to our environment?  Do the factories that made more products cause more pollution?  Economic growth reduces the natural places we can visit and enjoy.
economic sustainabillity vs wealth
 How far should we go to protect the environment at the cost of economic growth?

Graph to right--is getting wealthier (country by country) good for the environment?

What about quality of life?

Consider the example of Walmart
Does technology give us improved quality of life?
Is impact on the environment a reason to question progress?
technological progress may mean environmental harm that reduces quality of life
So we may want to take seriously the environmental costs of technological progress

Questioning the harm done by technology is not new:

what was the result of such questioning?
A couple of examples of how this has shifted:
Yes, technology makes us richer, but we aren't will to pay the price of a much worse environment

Yes, the use of technology makes our production more efficient, but does it make our work experience worse (chapter 7)?
  • increased productivity in agriculture  is one measure of how technological progress makes us richer--for each person employed in agriculture our technological agriculture produces enough food to feed more and more people.
  • factories make more at lower cost and with fewer workers
  • by 1920 many workers could afford consumer goods made cheap by mass production, including automobiles
  • in the 1950s predictions were common that by the end of the century people would work less than 30 hours a week and have more vacation time and be able to retire younger.  This was a prediction that existing trends would continue.  Technology would continue to take away the burden of work
 Technological progress and economic growth have made our lives better for the last 150 years 
Is the progress we have seen in standards of living sustainable?
  • can we keep going the way we are going without increasing environmental damage
  • irrigation leads to the build up of salt in the soil which makes it un-farmable
  • our farming practices result in the cumulative loss of topsoil
  • global warming, due both to the internal combustion engine and much of the generating of electricity, is predicted to result in an increase in sea level of 3 meters by 2050 and 7 meters by 2100--what would the effect of that be on coastal cities like Charleston?
video game cartoon
Can technology solve these problems without it costing more

Are we ready to face limits?

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
HIST 1220
last updated 11/13/19