Society and Engines
"A theory of the relationship between technology and society sees the historical development of technology as separate and independent of social, political, and economic forces. In this view, technologies arise independently, and then determine the shape of societies associated with them." (Monaco,J.)
Technological Influences on Society
Before the middle of the XVIII century, water, wind and animal power were the most basic, economical and most employed sources of power. This was until James Watt in Great Britain experimented with steam and soon discovered that it was another great alternative to use for power. It also helped the development of the Industrial Revolution.
Soon after, the first steam engine emerged contributing to the foundation of industrial technology. This simple act of innovation inspired other creative individuals to invent many types of devices and stimulated the use of machinery. In addition, modern machinery began to replace other primitive sources. For instance, internal-combustion engines came to substitute horse-drawn machinery.
Technology suffered a dramatical growth as many realized it was beginning to facilitate human life. By the middle of the XIX century, animals performed 52% of the work in an industrial country, machines did 35%, and the rest was performed by other sources of power. By the end of the XX century, 98% of the work was being done by machines and the people and animals were each performing only 1% of the work.
The Industrial Revolution marked the dramatic economic and social changes that transitioned the rural to the urban; that converted an agricultural and comercial society to a modern industrial society. These vast changes came about along with the creation of inventions and new forms of technology, which eventually originated the factory system of a large-scale machine production and a greater economic specialization.
This revolution has changed the lives of laborers. Most of the working population moved to the new cities and integrated urban factory centers where their living standards and economic base was improved.
Is Society Losing Touch with Nature?
During the XVII century, a new perception concerning people in relation with the environment emerged.
"Now the empire of man over things is founded on the arts and the sciences alone for nature is only to be commanded by obeying her."(Francis Bacon)
Many philosophers believed that the new industrial community was flourishing without having contact with either agriculture or any form nature. The relationship between these two entities has changed as the technology has been developing. Instead of humanity utilizing nature's resources in order to coexist, it chooses to control nature and to adjust it to serve human necessities. People belonging to the industrial community in a way managed to isolate themselves from nature.
Due to many misconceptions that arouse in the XIX century, the environment is continuing to be held in destruction. For instance, the supply of many of nature's resources have seemed abundant when in reality everything has its limits. This is one way humans have lost their connection with the environment and now became a threat to it. Another reason is that urban societies tend to forget that they are part of nature. Most people see themselves being apart from it and do not subject to her natural laws. In addition, in the late XIX century, many people believed in Charles Darwin's notions. That is, they saw nature as something that needed to be controlled, modified or adjusted to serve human needs. "To be free of natural forces required altering the very structure of natural systems."
The Growth of Engineering
Before the Industrial Revolution came about there were only two kinds of engineering: civil (involving the construction of builidings, bridges, and other structures) and military (involving the construction of cannons,fortifications, etc.). Nonetheless, throughout the years other forms of engineering appeared. For example, in 1871 the first professional organization involved with the fundamental art of mining and metallurgy (mining and metallurgical engineering)was formed. With the manufacturing of machines and engines a new profession came into existence in 1880, which was known as mechanical engineering. Four years later, electrical engineering came forth and fourteen years later, chemical engineering.
There are still many other branches of this profession that are present such as genetic engineering, aeronautical engineering, and industrial engineering, which are more modern.
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