Sunday, December 16, 2012

How technology and complexity impacts society - an essay

     This essay is about the computer technology and its impacts to the society. One application of the computer technology is Electronic Banking. The complexity in Electronic Banking and its consequent effects will be used here as an example.

     The aim of this essay is to discuss how the computer technology impacts the society and show how the complexity of the technology affects more than just the equipment and devices. To accomplish this aim, the discussion will be separated in two parts.


Part 1:
Computer Technology and its impacts on society  
   Today, the computer technology is all around us. In our homes we have our laptop, notebook, tablet, and desktop computers. Smartphones, cell phones, telephones, mp3 players, e-readers have computer technology built into them. Even our televisions, blu-ray players, receivers, home theater systems, wireless speakers, and remotes have
computer technology in their circuit boards. In offices, computer technology is seen in printers, copying machines, fax, projectors, and air-conditioners. In factories, computer technology is incorporated in moulding, drilling, cutting, sawing, forming, milling, extruding machines, measuring instruments, testing equipment, and even tools.
     Computer and the internet transformed the way we live our lives. We communicate faster, travel faster, do our work faster, and even prolong our life expectancies as computer technology is applied in medical industry. People spend an incredible amount of time in social networking sites, video-calling, chat boards, and emails to connect to their family, friends and loved ones. In search engines, almost any topic you want to search for has a result and an answer. Anyone can upload a video, capture a video, and even broadcast himself.
     Recipes and cookbooks for local and international dishes are now available on the internet which provides a great deal of help in the preparation of our day to day food. Programmable coffee makers, juice makers, stoves, refrigerators, and microwaves offer big help in the kitchen. Libraries, research institutions, online universities and distance learning schools made a big impact on the educational and paper industry.
     Electronic Banking also revolutionized the old-fashioned way of banking. Through the use of the computer technology and electronic machines, it made banking fast, easy, flexible, and convenient. There are also banking networks and alliances that allow you to withdraw your money in another country through the use of other banking
machines on branches of other banks. The way you access or conduct banking transactions are also state-of-the art. Banking can now be done over a phone, computer, cell phone or smartphone.
     The above examples illustrate only the positive side. The other side of the story is that evil-minded people are also using the computer technology for their unlawful, fraudulent, black propaganda, or even terrorist activities.
     Having shown both sides of how the computer technology is used, we will see how a technology involves not only technical aspects but the non-technical and external factors connected directly or indirectly to the technology. The invention of the light bulb and the beginning of Microsoft Corporation are used as examples.
    There is more to the history of a technology than the technical details.
     The technology behind the light bulb encompasses more than the device. To start with, there are people. Behind Edison’s genius was the organization of people that support him.
     By 1878, Edison had at Menlo Park a staff of 30 scientists, skilled tradesmen, draftsmen, and others working under his command and supervision. 
     The consumers also play a big role. If a better, safer, alternative solution costs the consumers less than their existing provider, they would likely to adopt the technology. 
     Aside from the manufacturer, consumers, and competition, there are a lot more behind the technology. Many issues be it social, political, business, personal, and other matters complicated the issues that go along with the technical aspects of the technology.      
     Lawsuits over patents would also get in the way of the technology.
Beginning in 1885, Edison's lawyers filed a series of lawsuits against the
infringers to his company's technology, and court battles lasted for years.
    Another big influence is brought about by the media that delivers news to the general public. Edison often used the media to his
own advantage, and he convinced the public that AC was dangerous and unsafe source of power.
     Company mergers radically change the organization of the newly formed company. Among major changes, as a result of merging are change in stock ownership, management, responsibilities, procedures, supervisors, structure of workers, and more importantly the sharing of information which relates to the development of new
technology and new products. 
      In 1889, Edison's companies that manufacture his electrical equipment were merged into the Edison General Electric Company.  In 1892, J.P Morgan who took over the company, merged it with Thomson-Houston to form General Electric (GE).
     Microsoft is one of the pioneers in software industry that provides operating systems to computers. Started from operating systems for computers, Microsoft has expanded rapidly throughout the years and now operates in multiple areas of business such as servers, phones, consumer electronics, video games, digital products, computer hardware, office suite, information technology consulting, automotive software, advertising and more. Because of its success, competitors are attracted to follow. But Microsoft would not be as successful as today if it was not in the first place selected by IBM. Outside of the technology world, there was a social factor, the chairman of IBM worked with the mother of Bill Gates.
     When IBM created its personal computer, the PC, their staff looked for prospective companies to provide them their PC's operating system. Digital Research did not accept IBM's offer and the staff interviewed Bill Gates and members of his small company, Microsoft. IBM is a lucrative company to deal with and Bill Gates took this huge opportunity to convince IBM that Microsoft would be the perfect choice. IBM chairman John Opel had served on the board of the United Way with Bill Gates's mother and thought it would be nice to do business with the son of Mary Gates (mother of Bill Gates).
     With the creativity and innovation of Bill Gates he was able to start from a small software company into a multi-billion-dollar company whose products are used all over the world.

Part 2:
Electronic Banking and its Complexity  
     As we have seen in Part 1 how technology impacts the society in general and encompasses more than the device, this time in Part 2, we will see how the complexity of Electronic Banking and its impacts.
      Edison’s invention of the simple light bulb in his laboratory led to the invention of one device to another up to the invention of the computer that followed in the later years.
          If you open a computer and see the tiny microchips, resistors, capacitors, transistors and other electronic components and not to mention the complicated wirings, you wonder how are these assembled, connected, and more importantly is that they work and provide a certain functionality. If you open a microchip, it is complex that you even need a microscope to see the wirings alone. Even more wonderful is that the motherboard is connected with other components that are in turn connected to the parts to make up the hardware of a computer. But for a computer to work, it needs many different softwares to drive the hardware. These softwares are programs containing millions of lines of code written by computer programmers. To see even more complexity, these computers are connected and networked to other computers and peripheral devices that are located thousands of miles overseas, over the other continent, over the other side of the world. Let’s say your bank is in North America, if you make a banking transaction in Asia from another bank, it is amazing how you are able to access your money and the system updates your current balance to reflect the withdrawal you just made.
     But that’s when everything is working well. How about when one major component broke down? What if a major fault occur in the program? How is it going to affect the whole worldwide network? An example of this complexity problem is the bug or code error in AT&T in 1990.
     AT&T had a software bug in the computers that control its long-distance telephone network. In January 1990, the bug caused multiple shutdowns and AT&T's switching computers made the long-distance system non-operational for an unbelievable nine (9) hours. During that time, only about half the 100 million phone calls placed with AT&T was accommodated.
     In Electronic Banking, if a similar major code problem would happen, imagine the impact of it to the network of computers of different banks. Possible problems would be the discrepancies of balances, loss of accounts, and information. Even worse is the effect on the costumers. Loss of money, loss of trust in Electronic Banking industry, lawsuits, and bankruptcies are just some of the complications and troubles as a result.

Technology can make huge impacts on society. The combination of one technology and another will make up a complex system. While technology can contribute to our progress on the one side, the complexity of interrelated technologies, if not controlled within safe limits, can bring disastrous effects and even ruin the long hard years of development and advancement in technology that we now enjoy.

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