Research Paper on the Future Shape of Communication and its Social Impact
Nowadays the development of science, new technologies and especially communication produces a significant impact on social life as well as on the life of each individual. Such changes that take place in the contemporary world provoked numerous discussions as for structural changes in human society and even in the world system of international relations. Anyway it is obvious that the role of communication and new technologies will only increase. At the same time it is necessary to remember that currently people get to be more and more informed. Moreover, they are simply overwhelmed with information and in the future the situation will be even more serious when the information would be receive permanently and every individual would be simply bombarded with new information via new and sophisticated means of communication.
Naturally, such a perspective stimulates specialists to re-think the role of communication and new technologies, their wide implementation and possible impact on an individual, human society and the world at large.
The future defined by digital umbilical cord
The unparalleled progress that human society has never observed before provokes numerous discussions as for the future development of society and its structure. At this respect, it should be pointed out that the role of new technologies, communication and media will constantly increase to the extent that it is possible to speak about a kind of digital umbilical cord that will define the future society, notably its ideology, preferences and even behaviour of individuals.
In fact, nowadays there are a lot of arguments as for the role of communication and technologies in this world. On analysing the main trends, it is possible to estimate that “the future society would be the information society” (Dolan 1996:49) and this is where the main discussions get started.
The main problem is that different specialists view the future information society, which features, by the way, may be already observed in well-developed countries, in different ways. On the one hand, it is possible to view the information society as an absolutely new and unique shape of the society . On the other hand, there is a different view on the information society as the logical continuation of the current relations within human society during its long historical development.
As a result, the future society will be either an absolutely new form of society or simply another step in the development of social relations within the traditional society. At the same time, it is necessary to realise what really provokes such discussions in the contemporary society.
Obviously, the main reason for the development of the future information society and discussions concerning it is the development of new technologies and communication systems. At this respect, it is noteworthy that the development of communications and new technologies, especially IT and computing have played a dramatic role in the development of the contemporary society and “affected practically all spheres of life, including social, economic and political” (Dolan 1996:157).
The development of new technologies makes communication really easy and eliminating all barriers. Nonetheless, specialists argue whether such a progress made by modern science is positive or negative and what would be the consequences of such a shift for human society and the life of an individual within such a society, the information society, as it has been defined above.
The universe constructed by media and constant supply of individuals with information
Obviously, the increasing importance and significance of new technologies, especially in the sphere of communication can really change the social life at large and the life of an individual in particular. At this respect it should be said that nowadays it is practically impossible to avoid the impact of the wide implementation of new technologies, communication and media because they constantly involve new spheres of every day life and in the future they would probably be everywhere. Furthermore, the growing impact of communication creates certain “dependence of individuals on information they receive from media” (Ellerman 2003:105).
At first glance the high level of development of information technologies and the development of communication contributes to the general progress of society that can be assessed positively. To put it more precisely, it is evident that new technologies and improvement of communication systems, the development of IT and Internet practically eliminated physical frontiers separating people and even nowadays people can easily communicate regardless the place where they physically are in the world. In the future such a development would play even a more significant role and probably the virtual world would gradually become even more important than physical world. What is meant here is that due to a high level of the development of communication people wouldn’t need to communicate physically, especially if they are very distant geographically from each other. In such a situation the development of communication technologies would eliminate this problem by providing the possibility for direct communication via different means of communication from a traditional phone to the most sophisticated means using IT or Internet.
Furthermore, the development of new technologies will necessarily provide people with the possibility to have ample access to a variety of information that really open new horizon for personal development. For instance, the development of communication and new technologies, or the development of artificial intelligence, could be used in educative purposes. It means that people could use the information they have access to in order to learn something new they currently need. In such a situation the role of the contemporary education system would be reduced to the extent, which would teach students just how and where to get information they need. Consequently they would not really need to undergone the current stages of education instead they would simply learn how and where to get information and they would be able to study individually, probably on the basis of some programs especially developed for this purposes.
The new relationship between the communication universe and the future society and individuals
It is obvious that the development of new technologies would be applied in all spheres of human life that can lead to the change of the relationship between the universe created by the communication and the further development of society and individuals “affected dramatically by new communication environment” (Dolan 1996:229). At this respect, the role of new technologies and communication may be particularly significant in economic and political sphere. For instance, in economy the role of humans would probably increase in highly technological processes where a human being could not compete with a computer or a robot. As for politics, it is noteworthy to mention that Boden warns about the development of artificial intelligence and its application in politics: “political destruction could result from the exploitation of AI (and highly centralised telecommunications) by a totalitarian state” (2001:348).
In such a context, the development of artificial intelligence seems to be particularly perspective since it contributes to impersonal character of the learning process that, in its turn, would deprive the students from various prejudices from the part of teachers or their peer groups. Moreover, it should be said that the development of information society, being accompanied by the development of communication and new technologies, would make the education a lifetime process that would be constant and unstoppable, i.e. an individual would constantly learn some new information, acquire new knowledge as long as life endures.
However, the development of communication and new technologies may not always be positive only. It also has a number of drawbacks and hidden threats to individuals and society at large.
First of all, it should be said that in social sphere the development of new technologies and communication naturally eliminates geographical borders, makes the communication more accessible and easy but, on the other hand, the virtual world threatens to gradually substitute totally physical communication between people. What is meant here is the idea that even nowadays such a trend is observed in developed countries, especially in large cities. To put it more precisely, this trend is the possible problems in communication between people in the result of the development of new technologies, increasingly tense rhythm of life, and paradoxically communication systems. Such a deterioration of interpersonal communication and relations between people may be the result of lack of experience in direct physical communication between people.
As a result people turn to be in a kind of isolation of their virtual world, where they communicate not with real individuals but rather with virtual individuals. For instance, if an individual communicates via Internet with other people whom he/she does not know in person than it is impossible to estimate that he/she really communicates with these people because there is no guarantee that these people present themselves as they really are. Often they simply create certain image of themselves they would like to be and it is this artificial, virtual image people usually deal with communicating in the virtual world.
Such a situation naturally leads to the problem of traditional communication between people because they simply get used to communicate in virtual world and they cannot start normal communication and relations with real and not virtual individuals. This problem exists nowadays but in the future it will only deteriorate since new technologies would tend to develop virtual world through different sophisticated means of communication.
However, it is not the only negative effect of the development of new technologies and communication. For instance, a very serious problem may be personal privacy, as some specialists estimate “the ever increasing use of electronic commerce as well as other type of electronic transaction raises concerns about privacy” (Boden 2002:365). It is particularly dangerous because the electronic world has the capacity of “building reliable information and maintaining them for a very long time” (Boden 2002:366).
Furthermore, the high level of information received by individuals regularly provides them with ample possibilities to develop their knowledge in certain spheres, increase their educational level but this creates another problem, which may cause a new polarization of society. What is meant here is the fact that each individual is unique and people have different abilities to acquire new information and knowledge. The latter is crucial for an individual in the information society, where the knowledge, or to put it more precisely the individual’s ability to produce new knowledge or use it effectively, help people to occupy a higher social position. As a result the people who have a chance to receive better education, who have larger access to information are in the privileged position compared to those who lack such possibilities.
Consequently, it is obvious that those people, who currently receive better education and thus they have better opportunities to use their knowledge effectively, producing some kind of intellectual products like software, for instance. These people could form the future elite of the information society. In stark contrast, those people who are currently deprived of a possibility to receive higher education, for instance, would be deprived in the future to use the knowledge and information they receive effectively. As a result, they would be deprived by the new ruling elite which, even having equal access to the same information and knowledge as the rest of the society, would use them effectively and create some new products, for instance, while other members of the society would be simply unable to create something new on the basis of these information and knowledge. In other words, there is a potential threat of the division of the future information society on producers and consumers of knowledge or information and the gap between these two large classes would only widen and, to a certain extent, it would be “natural process because of the difference between individual intellectual abilities” (Berger and Luckmann 2001:392) but the situation may be improved basically through improvement of the current education system that involve possibly larger categories of people. Otherwise the possibility to receive better education independently in the future due to the development of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, would not be realised effectively.
Potentially, there are a number of other threats, such as the development of totalitarian states because of the use of new technologies and communication systems by the government, which would make the personal information about individuals accessible to the government or state services. Also, the development of new technologies and communication threatens by economic crises that may be the result of wider implementation of computers and robots in production processes depriving masses of people to be employed, etc. All these possible problems should be solved as soon as possible.
In conclusion, it is possible to say that the development of new technologies and communication is unstoppable but this development should be regulated wisely in order to prevent possible social, economic and political problems mentioned above. This can be done only through the thorough analysis of the possible consequences of such a rapid development of new technologies and public control over their implementation in the national and even international scale. On the other hand, it does not mean that new technologies should not be developed. In contrast, they should but it is necessary to use them effectively, exploiting their possible effects and minimizing their negative consequences. Anyway, the progress cannot be stopped but it can be properly directed and accompanied by structural changes not only in technologies but also in the whole society and all spheres of life.
1. Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. LA: McGraw Hill, 2001.
2. Boden, Margaret A. The Age of Intelligent Machines: The Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence. New York: New Publishers, 2002.
3. Dolan, Therese. Inventing Reality. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1996.
4. Ellerman, Evelyn. Mass Communication in Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2003.
5. Mitchell, Peter, R. and Schoeffel John. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. New York: Routledge, 2002.
6. Ritzel, George. The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life. New York: Touchstone, 2004.
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