Society and The Role That Computers Play In USA
The microeconomic picture of the U.S. has changed immensely since 1973, and the
trends are proving to be consistently downward for the nation’s high school
graduates and high school drop-outs. Of all the reasons given for the wage
squeeze international competition, technology, deregulation, the decline of
unions and defense cuts technology is probably the most critical. It has
favored the educated and the skilled, says M. B. Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of
U.S. News ; World Report (7/31/95). Since 1973, wages adjusted for inflation
have declined by about a quarter for high school dropouts, by a sixth for high
school graduates, and by about 7% for those with some college education. Only
the wages of college graduates are up.
Of the fastest growing technical jobs, software engineering tops the list.
Carnegie Mellon University reports, recruitment of it’s software engineering
students is up this year by over 20%. All engineering jobs are paying well,
proving that highly skilled labor is what employers want! There is clear
evidence that the supply of workers in the unskilled labor categories already
exceeds the demand for their services, says L. Mishel, Research Director of
Welfare Reform Network.
In view of these facts, I wonder if these trends are good or bad for society.
The danger of the information age is that while in the short run it may be
cheaper to replace workers with technology, in the long run it is potentially
self-destructive because there will not be enough purchasing power to grow the
economy, M. B. Zuckerman. My feeling is that the trend from unskilled labor to
highly technical, skilled labor is a good one! But, political action must be
taken to ensure that this societal evolution is beneficial to all of us. Back
in 1970, a high school diploma could still be a ticket to the middle income
bracket, a nice car in the driveway and a house in the suburbs. Today all it
gets is a clunker parked on the street, and a dingy apartment in a low rent
building, says Time Magazine (Jan 30, 1995 issue).
However, in 1970, our government provided our children with a free education,
allowing the vast majority of our population to earn a high school diploma.
This means that anyone, regardless of family income, could be educated to a
level that would allow them a comfortable place in the middle class. Even
restrictions upon child labor hours kept children in school, since they are not
allowed to work full time while under the age of 18. This government policy was
conducive to our economic markets, and allowed our country to prosper from 1950
through 1970. Now, our own prosperity has moved us into a highly technical
world, that requires highly skilled labor. The natural answer to this problem,
is that the U.S. Government’s education policy must keep pace with the demands
of the highly technical job market. If a middle class income of 1970 required a
high school diploma, and the middle class income of 1990 requires a college
diploma, then it should be as easy for the children of the 90’s to get a college
diploma, as it was for the children of the 70’s to get a high school diploma.
This brings me to the issue of our country’s political process, in a
technologically advanced world.
Voting & Poisoned Political Process in The U.S.
The advance of mass communication is natural in a technologically advanced
society. In our country’s short history, we have seen the development of the
printing press, the radio, the television, and now the Internet; all of these,
able to reach millions of people. Equally natural, is the poisoning and
corruption of these medias, to benefit a few.
From the 1950’s until today, television has been the preferred media. Because
it captures the minds of most Americans, it is the preferred method of
persuasion by political figures, multinational corporate advertising, and the
upper 2% of the elite, who have an interest in controlling public opinion.
Newspapers and radio experienced this same history, but are now somewhat
obsolete in the science of changing public opinion. Though I do not suspect
television to become completely obsolete within the next 20 years, I do see the
Internet being used by the same political figures, multinational corporations,
and upper 2% elite, for the same purposes. At this time, in the Internet’s
young history, it is largely unregulated, and can be accessed and changed by any
person with a computer and a modem; no license required, and no need for
millions of dollars of equipment. But, in reviewing our history, we find that
newspaper, radio and television were once unregulated too. It is easy to see
why government has such an interest in regulating the Internet these days.
Though public opinion supports regulating sexual material on the Internet, it is
just the first step in total regulation, as experienced by every other popular
mass media in our history. This is why it is imperative to educate people about
the Internet, and make it be known that any regulation of it is destructive to
us, not constructive! I have been a daily user of the Internet for 5 years (and
a daily user of BBS communications for 9 years), which makes me a senior among
us. I have seen the moves to regulate this type of communication, and have
always openly opposed it.
My feelings about technology, the Internet, and political process are simple.
In light of the history of mass communication, there is nothing we can do to
protect any media from the sound byte or any other form of commercial
poisoning. But, our country’s public opinion doesn’t have to fall into a nose-
dive of lies and corruption, because of it! The first experience I had in a
course on Critical Thinking came when I entered college. As many good things as
I have learned in college, I found this course to be most valuable to my basic
education. I was angry that I hadn’t had access to the power of critical
thought over my twelve years of basic education. Simple forms of critical
thinking can be taught as early as kindergarten. It isn’t hard to teach a young
person to understand the patterns of persuasion, and be able to defend
themselves against them. Television doesn’t have to be a weapon against us,
used to sway our opinions to conform to people who care about their own
prosperity, not ours. With the power of a critical thinking education, we can
stop being motivated by the sound byte and, instead we can laugh at it as a
cheap attempt to persuade us.
In conclusion, I feel that the advance of technology is a good trend for our
society; however, it must be in conjunction with advance in education so that
society is able to master and understand technology. We can be the masters of
technology, and not let it be the masters of us.