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5. tech causes more problems than it solves.

A number of respondents to this canvassing about the likely future of social and civic innovation shared concerns. Some said that technology causes more problems than it solves. Some said it is likely that emerging worries over the impact of digital life will be at least somewhat mitigated as humans adapt. Some said it is possible that any remedies may create a new set of challenges. Others said humans’ uses and abuses of digital technologies are causing societal harms that are not likely to be overcome.

The following comments were selected from among all responses, regardless of an expert’s answer to this canvassing’s main question about the impact of people’s uses of technology. Some of these remarks of concern happen to also include comments about innovations that may emerge. Concerns are organized under four subthemes: Something is rotten in the state of technology; technology use often disconnects or hollows out a community; society needs to catch up and better address the threats and opportunities of tech; and despite current trends, there is reason to hope for better days.

The chapter begins with some overview insights:

Larry Masinter , internet pioneer, formerly with Adobe, AT&T Labs and Xerox PARC, who helped create internet and web standards with IETF and W3C, said, “Technology and social innovation intended to overcome the negatives of the digital age will likely cause additional negative consequences. Examples include: the decentralized web, end-to-end encryption, AI and machine learning, social media.”

James Mickens , associate professor of computer science at Harvard University, formerly with Microsoft, commented, “Technology will obviously result in ‘civic innovation.’ The real question is whether the ‘innovation’ will result in better societal outcomes. For example, the gig economy is enabled by technology; technology finds buyers for workers and their services. However, given the choice between an economy with many gig workers and an economy with an equivalent number of traditional middle-class jobs, I think that most people would prefer the latter.”

Michael Aisenberg , chair, ABA Information Security Committee, wrote, “Misappreciation of limits and genesis of, e.g., AI/machine learning will produce widely disparate results in deployment of tech innovations. Some will be dramatically beneficial; some may enable abuse of law enforcement, economic systems and other fundamental civic institutions and lead to exacerbation of gaps between tech controllers/users and underserved/under- or mis-skilled populations (‘digital divide’) in what may be a significant (embed limitations on career/economic advancement) or even life-threatening (de facto health care or health procedure rationing) manner.”

The problem is that we are becoming more and more dependent on machines and hence more susceptible to bugs and system failures. Yaakov J. Stein

Peter Lunenfeld , a professor of design, media arts and digital humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine,” predicted, “We will use technology to solve the problems the use of technology creates, but the new fixes will bring new issues. Every design solution creates a new design problem, and so it is with the ways we have built our global networks. Highly technological societies have to be iterative if they hope to compete, and I think that societies that have experienced democracy will move to curb the slide to authoritarianism that social media has accelerated. Those curbs will bring about their own unintended consequences, however, which will start the cycle anew.”

Yaakov J. Stein , chief technology officer of RAD Data Communications, based in Israel, responded, “The problem with AI and machine learning is not the sci-fi scenario of AI taking over the world and not needing inferior humans. The problem is that we are becoming more and more dependent on machines and hence more susceptible to bugs and system failures. This is hardly a new phenomenon – once a major part of schooling was devoted to, e.g., penmanship and mental arithmetic, which have been superseded by technical means. But with the tremendous growth in the amount of information, education is more focused on how to retrieve required information rather than remembering things, resulting not only in less actual storage but less depth of knowledge and the lack of ability to make connections between disparate bits of information, which is the basis of creativity. However, in the past humankind has always developed a more-advanced technology to overcome limitations of whatever technology was current, and there is no reason to believe that it will be different this time.”

A vice president for research and economic development wrote, “The problems we see now are caused by technology, and any new technological fixes we create will inevitably cause NEW social and political problems. Attempts to police the web will cause freedom of speech conflicts, for example.”

Something is rotten in the state of technology

A large share of these experts say among the leading concerns about today’s technology platforms are the ways in which they are exploited by bad actors who spread misinformation; and the privacy issues arising out of the business model behind the systems.

Misinformation – pervasive, potent, problematic

Numerous experts described misinformation and fake news as a serious issue in digital spaces. They expressed concern over how users will sort through fact and fiction in the coming decade.

Stephanie Fierman , partner, Futureproof Strategies, said, “I believe technology will meaningfully accelerate social and civic innovation. It’s cheap, fast and able to reach huge audiences. But as long as false information is enabled by very large websites, such social and civic innovators will be shadow boxing with people, governments, organizations purposely countering truthful content with lies.”

Sam Lehman-Wilzig , a professor of communications at Bar-Ilan University specializing in Israeli politics and the impact of technological evolution, wrote, “The biggest advance will be the use of artificial intelligence to fight disinformation, deepfakes and the like. There will be an AI ‘arms race’ between those spreading disinformation and those fighting/preventing it. Overall, I see the latter gaining the upper hand.”

Greg Shatan , a lawyer with Moses & Singer LLP and self-described “internet governance wonk,” predicted, “I see success, enabled by technology, as likely. I think it will take technology to make technology more useful and more meaningful. Many of us pride ourselves on having a ‘BS-meter,’ where we believe we can tell honestly delivered information from fake news and disinformation. The instinctual BS-meter is not enough. The next version of the ‘BS-meter’ will need to be technologically based. The tricks of misinformation have far outstripped the ability of people to reliably tell whether they are receiving BS or not – not to mention that it requires a constant state of vigilance that’s exhausting to maintain. I think that the ability and usefulness of the web to enable positive grassroots civic communication will be harnessed, moving beyond mailing lists and fairly static one-way websites. Could there be ‘Slack for Community Self-Governance?’ If not that platform, perhaps something new and aimed specifically at these tasks and needs.”

Oscar Gandy , a professor emeritus of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “Corporate actors will make use of technology to weaken the possibility for improvements in social and civic relationships. I am particularly concerned about the use of technology in the communications realm in order to increase the power of strategic or manipulative communications to shape the engagement of members of the public with key actors within a variety of governance relationships.”

An expert in the ethics of autonomous systems based in Europe responded, “Fake news is more and more used to manipulate a person’s opinion. This war of information is becoming so important that it can influence democracy and the opinion of people before the vote in an election for instance. Some AI tools can be developed to automatically recognize fake news, but such tools can be used in turn in the same manner to enhance the belief in some false information.”

A research leader for a U.S. federal agency wrote, “At this point in time, I don’t know how we will reduce the spread of misinformation (unknowing/individual-level) and disinformation (nefarious/group-level), but I hope that we can.”

A retired information science professional commented, “Dream on, if you think that you can equate positive change with everybody yelling and those with the most clout (i.e., power and money) using their power to see their agendas succeed. Minority views will always be that, a minority. At present and in the near future the elites manipulate and control.”

A research scientist for a major technology company whose expertise is technology design said, “We have already begun to see increased protections around personal privacy. At present, it is less clear how we might avoid the deliberate misuse of news or news-like content to manipulate political opinions or outcomes, but this does not seem impossible. The trick will be avoiding government censorship and maintaining a rich, vigorous exchange of opinions.”

Privacy issues will continue to be a hot button topic

Multiple experts see a growing need for privacy to be addressed in online spaces.

Ayden Férdeline , technology policy fellow at the Mozilla Foundation, responded, “Imagine if everyone on our planet was naked, without any clear options for obtaining privacy technology (clothing). It would not make sense to ask people what they’d pay or trade to get this technology. This is a ‘build it and they will come’ kind of scenario. We’re now on the verge, as a society, of appropriately recognizing the need to respect privacy in our Web 2.0 world, and we are designing tools and rules accordingly. Back in 1992, had you asked people if they’d want a free and open internet, or a graphical browser with a walled garden of content, most would have said they prefer AOL. What society needed was not AOL but something different. We are in a similar situation now with privacy; we’re finally starting to grasp its necessity and importance.”

We’re now on the verge, as a society, of appropriately recognizing the need to respect privacy in our Web 2.0 world, and we are designing tools and rules accordingly. Ayden Férdeline

Graham Norris , a business psychologist with expertise in the future of work, said, “Privacy no longer exists, and yet the concept of privacy still dominates social-policy debates. The real issue is autonomy of the individual. I should own my digital identity, the online expression of myself, not the corporations and governments that collect my interactions in order to channel my behaviour. Approaches to questions of ownership of digital identity cannot shift until the realization occurs that autonomy is the central question, not privacy. Nothing currently visible suggests that shift will take place.”

Eduardo Villanueva-Mansilla , an associate professor of communications at Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru, and editor of the Journal of Community Informatics, wrote, “I’m trying to be optimistic, by leaving some room to innovative initiatives from civic society actors. However, I don’t see this as necessarily happening; the pressure from global firms will probably too much to deal with.”

An international policy adviser on the internet and development based in Africa commented, “Technology is creating and will continue to evolve and increase the impact of social and civic innovation. With technology we will see new accountability tools and platforms to raise voices to counter societal ills, be it in leadership, business and other faculties. We must however be careful so that these innovations themselves are not used to negatively impact end users, such issues like privacy and use of data must be taken on in a way that users are protected and not exposed to cybercrime and data breaches that so often occur now.”

Jamie Grady , a business leader, wrote, “As technology companies become more scrutinized by the media and government, changes – particularly in privacy rights – will change. People will learn of these changes through social media as they do now.”

Technology use often disconnects or hollows out community

Some respondents commented on rising problems with a loss of community and the need for more-organic, in-person, human-to-human connection and the impact of digital distancing.

Jonathan Grudin , principal researcher at Microsoft, commented, “Social and civic activity will continue to change in response to technology use, but will it change its trajectory? Realignments following the Industrial Revolution resulted from the formation of new face-to-face communities, including union chapters, community service groups such as Rotary Club and League of Women Voters, church groups, bridge clubs, bowling leagues and so on. Our species is designed to thrive in modest-sized collocated communities, where everyone plays a valued part. Most primates become vulnerable and anxious when not surrounded by their band or troop. Digital media are eroding a sense of community everywhere we look. Can our fundamental human need for close community be restored or will we become more isolated, anxious and susceptible to manipulation?”

Rebecca Theobald , an assistant research professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said, “Technology seems to be driving people apart, which would lead to fewer connections in society.”

The program director of a university-based informatics institute said, “There is still a widening gap between rural and urban as well as digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ As well, the ability to interact in a forum in which all members of society have a voice is diminishing as those with technology move faster in the digital forums than the non-tech segment of the population that use non-digital discourse (interpersonal). The idea of social fabric in a neighborhood and neighborly interactions is diminishing. Most people want innovation – it is the speed of change that creates divisions.”

An infrastructure architect and internet pioneer wrote, “The kind of social innovation required to resolve the problems caused by our current technologies relies on a movement back toward individual responsibility and a specific willingness to engage in community. As both of these work against the aims of the corporate and political elite as they exist today, there is little likelihood these kinds of social innovations are going to take place. The family and church, for instance, which must be the core institutions in any rebuilding of a culture that can teach the kind of personal responsibility required, were both hollowed out in the last few decades. The remaining outward structures are being destroyed. There is little hope either families or churches will recover without a major societal event of some sort, and it will likely take at least one generation for them to rebuild. The church could take on the task of helping rebuild families, but it is too captured in attempts to grow ever larger, and consume or ape our strongly individualistic culture, rather than standing against it.”

Angela Campbell , a professor of law and co-director of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University, responded, “I think there will be efforts to address the social and civic impacts of technology but they may not be sufficient. In particular, I am concerned about the impact of overuse or over-reliance on technology with respect to children and teens. I am concerned about the safety of children online, not just from predators but from peers (bullying). Overuse may also contribute to physical maladies such as obesity, bad posture, eye problems, ADHD, insufficient sleep and even addiction. While technology can help to educate older children (not preschoolers who need to interact with humans and objects), it needs to be selected [and] used carefully and should not subject children to commercialism or invade their privacy. My other major concerns are job loss and discrimination. It seems inevitable that many jobs will be eliminated by technology, and while technologies may generate new jobs, I suspect there will be fewer jobs, and those that remain will require certain skills. It will be important, and difficult, to ensure that everyone is able to have employment and to make enough to live at a reasonable level. As competition for jobs increases, I am also worried about how big data allows hidden discrimination in education, health and employment.”

A researcher based in North America predicted a reining in of the digital in favor of the personal: “Between email and phones, I think we’re close to peak screen time, a waste of time, and it’s ruining our eyes. Just as we have forsaken our landlines, stopped writing letters, don’t answer our cellphones, a concept of an average daily digital budget will develop, just as we have a concept of average daily caloric intake. We’ll have warning labels that rate content against recommended daily allowances of different types of content that have been tested to be good for our mental health and socialization, moderately good, bad, and awful – the bacon of digital media. And people who engage too much will be in rehab, denied child custody and unemployable. Communities, residences and vacation areas will promote digital-free, mindfulness zones – just as they have quiet cars on the train.”

Society needs to catch up and better address the threats and opportunities of tech

Some of these experts said that the accelerating technological change of the digital age is making it difficult for humans to keep up and respond to emerging challenges.

A chair of political science based in the American South commented, “Technology always creates two new problems for every one it solves. At some point, humans’ cognitive and cooperative capacities – largely hard-wired into their brains by millennia of evolution – can’t keep up. Human technology probably overran human coping mechanisms sometime in the later 19th century. The rest is history.”

There is a gap between the rate at which technology develops and the rate at which society develops. We need to take care not to fall into that gap. Louisa Heinrich

Larry Rosen , a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, known as an international expert on the psychology of technology, wrote, “I would like to believe that we, as citizens, will aid in innovation. Smart people are already working on many social issues, but the problem is that while society is slow to move, tech moves at lightning speed. I worry that solutions will come after the tech has either been integrated or rejected.”

Louisa Heinrich , a futurist and consultant expert in data and the Internet of Things, said, “There is a gap between the rate at which technology develops and the rate at which society develops. We need to take care not to fall into that gap. I hope we will see a shift in governance toward framework-based regulation, which will help mitigate the gap between the pace of change in technology and that in government. At the very least, we need to understand the ways in which technology can extend or undermine the rules and guidelines we set for our businesses, workplaces, public spaces and interactions. To name just one common example, recruitment professionals routinely turn to Facebook as a source of information on prospective employees. This arguably violates a number of regulations designed to protect people from being denied work based on personal details not relevant to that work. How do we unravel this conundrum, bearing in mind that there will always be another social network, another digital source to mine for information about people? Taken from another angle, there is a significant gap between what users understand about certain bits of technology and the risks they take using them. How can we educate people about these risks in a way that encourages participation and co-creation, rather than passivity? As the so-called Gen Z comes of age, we will see a whole generation of young adults who are politically engaged at a level not seen in several generations, who are also native users of technology tools. This could bring about a positive revolution in the way technology is used to facilitate civic engagement and mutually empower and assist citizens and government. Technology provides us with powerful tools that can help us advance socially and civically, but these tools need to be thoughtfully and carefully put to use – when we encode barriers and biases into the applications that people need to use in daily life, whether intentionally or no, we may exclude whole segments of society from experiencing positive outcomes. We are living through a time of rapid and radical change – as always, the early stages feel uncomfortable and chaotic. But we can already see the same tools that have been used to mislead citizens being used to educate, organise, motivate and empower them. What’s needed is a collective desire to prioritise and incentivise this. New Zealand is leading the way with the world’s first ‘well-being’ budget.”

Bulbul Gupta , founding adviser at Socos Labs, a think tank designing artificial intelligence to maximize human potential, responded, “Until government policies, regulators, can keep up with the speed of technology and AI, there is an inherent imbalance of power between technology’s potential to contribute to social and civic innovation and its execution in being used this way. If technology and AI can make decisions about people in milliseconds that can prevent their full social or civic engagement, the incentive structures to be used toward mitigating the problems of the digital age cannot then be solved by technology.”

Gene Policinski , a journalist and First Amendment law expert at the Freedom Forum Institute, observed, “We forget how new the ‘tech revolution’ really is. As we move forward in the next decade, the public’s awareness of the possibilities inherent in social and civic innovation, the creativity of the tech world working with the public sector and public acceptance of new methods of participation in democratic processes will begin to drown out and eventually will surpass the initial problems and missteps.”

Gabriel Kahn , former bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, now a professor of journalism researching innovation economics in emerging media at the University of Southern California, wrote, “We are not facing a ‘Terminator’-like scenario. Nor are we facing a tech-driven social utopia. Humans are catching up and understanding the pernicious impact of technology and how to mitigate it.”

Kathee Brewer , director of content at CANN Media Group, predicted, “Much like society developed solutions to the challenges brought about by the Industrial Revolution, society will find solutions to the challenges of the Digital Revolution. Whether that will happen by 2030 is up for debate. Change occurs much more rapidly in the digital age than it did at the turn of the 20th century, and for society to solve its problems it must catch up to them first. AND people, including self-interested politicians, must be willing to change. Groups like the Mozilla Foundation already are working on solutions to invasions of privacy. That work will continue. The U.S. government probably won’t make any major changes to the digital elections framework until after the 2020 election, but changes will be made. Sadly, those changes probably will result from some nastiness that develops due to voters of all persuasions being unwilling to accept electoral results, whatever the results may be.”

Valerie Bock of VCB Consulting, former Technical Services Lead at Q2 Learning, responded, “I think our cultures are in the process of adapting to the power our technologies wield, and that we will have developed some communal wisdom around how to evaluate new ones. There are some challenges, but because ordinary citizens have become aware that images can be ‘photoshopped’ the awareness that video can be ‘deepfaked’ is more quickly spreading. Cultural norms as well as technologies will continue to evolve to help people to apply more informed critiques to the messages they are given.”

Bach Avezdjanov , a program officer with Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression project, said, “Technological development – being driven by the Silicon Valley theory of uncontrolled growth – will continue to outpace civic and social innovation. The latter needs to happen in tandem with technological innovation, but instead plays catch-up. This will not change in the future, unless political will to heavily regulate digital tools is introduced – an unlikely occurrence.”

A computing science professor emeritus from a top U.S. technological university commented, “Social/civic innovation will occur but most likely lag well behind technological innovation. For example, face-recognition technology will spread and be used by businesses at a faster pace than social and legal norms can develop to protect citizens from any negative effects of that technology. This technology will spread quickly, due to its various positives (increased efficiencies, conveniences and generation of profits in the marketplace) while its negatives will most likely not be countered effectively through thoughtful legislation. Past Supreme Court decisions (such as treating corporations as persons, WRT unlimited funding of political candidates, along with excessive privacy of PACs) have already undermined U.S. democracy. Current populist backlashes, against the corruption of the Trump government, may also undermine democracy, such as the proposed Elizabeth Warren tax, being not on profits, but upon passive wealth itself – a tax on non-revenue-producing illiquid assets (whose valuation is highly subjective), as in her statement to ‘tax the jewelry of the rich’ at 2% annually. Illiquid assets include great private libraries, great private collections of art, antiques, coins, etc. – constituting an assault on the private sector, that if successful, will weaken democracy by strengthening the confiscatory power of government. We could swing from current excesses of the right to future excesses of the left.”

Despite current trends, there is reason to hope for better days

Many of the experts in this canvassing see a complicated and difficult road ahead, but express hope for the future.

Cheryl B. Preston , an expert in internet law and professor at Brigham Young University Law School, said, “Innovation will bring risk. Change will bring pain. Learning will bring challenges. Potential profits will bring abuse. But, as was the decision of Eve in the Garden of Eden, we need to leave the comfortable to learn and improve. If we can, by more informed voting, reduce the corruption in governmental entities and control corporate abuse, we can overcome difficulties and advance as a society. These advances will ultimately bring improvement to individuals and families.”

John Carr , a leading global expert on young people’s use of digital technologies, a former vice president of MySpace, commented, “I know of no proof for the notion that more people simply knowing more stuff, even stuff that is certifiably factually accurate, will necessarily lead to better outcomes for societies. But I do harbour a hope that if, over time, we can establish the idea that there are places on the internet that are reliable sources of information, it will in the medium to longer term help enough people in enough countries to challenge local demagogues and liars, making it harder for the demagogues and liars to succeed, particularly in times of national crisis or in times when war might be on the visible horizon. I used to think that if the internet had been around another Hitler would be impossible. Recently I have had a wobble on that but my optimism ‘trumps’ that gloomy view.”

Mike Douglass , an independent developer, wrote, “There is a significant realization that a stampede to create connections between anonymous people and devices was a bad idea. It’s up to the technologists and – more importantly – those who want to make money out of technology – to come up with a more measured approach. There’s a reason why gentlemen obtained letter of introduction to other gentlemen – one shouldn’t trust some random individual turning up on your doorstep. We need the equivalent approach. I’ve no idea what new innovations might turn up. But if we don’t get the trust/privacy/security model right we’ll end up with more social media disasters.”

Hume Winzar , an associate professor and director of the business analytics undergraduate program at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, predicted, “With more hope than evidence, I’d like to think that reason will eventually overcome the extraordinary propaganda machines that are being built. When the educated upper-middle classes realise that the ‘system’ is no longer serving them, then legal and institutional changes will be necessary. That is, only when the managers who are driving the propaganda machine(s) start to feel that they, personally, are losing privacy, autonomy, money and their children’s future, then they will need to undermine the efforts of corporate owners and government bureaucrats and officials.”

Carolyn Heinrich , a professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, said, “My hope (not belief) is that the ‘techlash’ will help to spur social and civic innovations that can combat the negative effects of our digitization of society. Oftentimes, I think the technology developers create their products with one ideal in mind of how they will be used, overlooking that technology can be adapted and used in unintended and harmful ways. We have found this in our study of educational technology in schools. The developers of digital tools envision them as being used in classrooms in ‘blended’ ways with live instructors who work with the students to help customize instruction to their needs. Unfortunately, more often than not, we have seen the digital tools used as substitutes for higher-quality, live instruction and have observed how that contributes to student disengagement from learning. We have also found some of the content lacking in cultural relevance and responsiveness. If left unchecked, this could be harmful for far larger numbers of students exposed to these digital instructional programs in all 50 states. But if we can spur vendors to improve the content, those improvements can also extend to large numbers of students. We have our work cut out for us!”

In the field I follow, artificial intelligence, the numbers of professionals who take seriously the problems that arise as a consequence of this technology are reassuring. Pamela McCorduck

Heywood Sloane , entrepreneur and banking and securities consultant, wrote, “I’m hopeful the it will be a positive contributor. It has the ability to alter the way we relate to our environment in ways that shrink the distances between people and help us exercise control over our personal and social spaces. We are making substantial progress, and 5G technology will accelerate that. On the flip side, we need to find mechanisms and processes to protect our data and ourselves. They need to be strong, economic and simple to deploy and use. That is going to be a challenge.”

Pamela McCorduck , writer, consultant and author of several books, including “Machines Who Think,” commented, “I am heartened by the number of organizations that have formed to enhance social and civic organization through technology. In the field I follow, artificial intelligence, the numbers of professionals who take seriously the problems that arise as a consequence of this technology are reassuring. Will they all succeed? Of course not. We will not get it right the first time. But eventually, I hope.”

Yoshihiko Nakamura , a professor of mechno-informatics at the University of Tokyo, observed, “The current information and communication technology loses diversity because it is still insufficient to enhance the affectivity or emotion side of societies. In this sense I can see the negative side of current technology to human society. However, I have a hope that we can invent uses of technology to enhance the weaker side and develop tomorrow’s technology. The focus should be on the education of society in the liberal arts.”

Ryan Sweeney , director of analytics at Ignite Social Media, commented, “In order to survive as a functioning society, we need social and civic innovation to match our use of technology. Jobs and job requirements are changing as a result of technology. Automation is increasing across a multitude of industries. Identifying how we protect citizens from these changes and help them adapt will be instrumental in building happiness and well-being.”

Miles Fidelman , founder, Center for Civic Networking and principal Protocol Technologies Group, responded, “We can see clear evidence that the internet is enabling new connections, across traditional boundaries – for the flow of information, culture and commerce. It is strengthening some traditional institutions (e.g., ties between geographically distributed family members) and weakening others (e.g., the press). Perhaps the most notable innovation is that of ad hoc, network-centric organizations – be they global project teams, or crisis response efforts. How much of this innovation will make things better, how much it will hurt us, remains an open question.”

A technology developer active in IETF said, “I hope mechanisms will evolve to exploit the advantages of new tech and mitigate the problems. I want to be optimistic, but I am far from confident.”

A renowned professor of sociology known for her research into online communications and digital literacies observed, “New groups expose the error of false equivalence and continue to challenge humans to evolve into our pre-frontal cortex. I guess I am optimistic because the downside is pretty terrible to imagine. It’s like E.O. Wilson said: ‘The real problem of humanity is the following: We have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.’”

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essay about how technology is bad

Image credit: Kristina Closs

Technology might be making education worse

Listen to the essay, as read by Antero Garcia, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education.

As a professor of education and a former public school teacher, I’ve seen digital tools change lives in schools.

I’ve documented the ways mobile technology like phones can transform student engagement in my own classroom.

I’ve explored how digital tools might network powerful civic learning and dialogue for classrooms across the country – elements of education that are crucial for sustaining our democracy today.

And, like everyone, I’ve witnessed digital technologies make schooling safer in the midst of a global pandemic. Zoom and Google Classroom, for instance, allowed many students to attend classrooms virtually during a period when it was not feasible to meet in person.

So I want to tell you that I think technologies are changing education for the better and that we need to invest more in them – but I just can’t.

Given the substantial amount of scholarly time I’ve invested in documenting the life-changing possibilities of digital technologies, it gives me no pleasure to suggest that these tools might be slowly poisoning us. Despite their purported and transformational value, I’ve been wondering if our investment in educational technology might in fact be making our schools worse.

Let me explain.

When I was a classroom teacher, I loved relying on the latest tools to create impressive and immersive experiences for my students. We would utilize technology to create class films, produce social media profiles for the Janie Crawfords, the Holden Caulfields, and other literary characters we studied, and find playful ways to digitally share our understanding of the ideas we studied in our classrooms.

As a teacher, technology was a way to build on students’ interests in pop culture and the world around them. This was exciting to me.

But I’ve continued to understand that the aspects of technology I loved weren’t actually about technology at all – they were about creating authentic learning experiences with young people. At the heart of these digital explorations were my relationships with students and the trust we built together.

“Part of why I’ve grown so skeptical about this current digital revolution is because of how these tools reshape students’ bodies and their relation to the world around them.”

I do see promise in the suite of digital tools that are available in classrooms today. But my research focus on platforms – digital spaces like Amazon, Netflix, and Google that reshape how users interact in online environments – suggests that when we focus on the trees of individual tools, we ignore the larger forest of social and cognitive challenges.

Most people encounter platforms every day in their online social lives. From the few online retail stores where we buy groceries to the small handful of sites that stream our favorite shows and media content, platforms have narrowed how we use the internet today to a small collection of Silicon Valley behemoths. Our social media activities, too, are limited to one or two sites where we check on the updates, photos, and looped videos of friends and loved ones.

These platforms restrict our online and offline lives to a relatively small number of companies and spaces – we communicate with a finite set of tools and consume a set of media that is often algorithmically suggested. This centralization of internet – a trend decades in the making – makes me very uneasy.

From willfully hiding the negative effects of social media use for vulnerable populations to creating tools that reinforce racial bias, today’s platforms are causing harm and sowing disinformation for young people and adults alike. The deluge of difficult ethical and pedagogical questions around these tools are not being broached in any meaningful way in schools – even adults aren’t sure how to manage their online lives.

You might ask, “What does this have to do with education?” Platforms are also a large part of how modern schools operate. From classroom management software to attendance tracking to the online tools that allowed students to meet safely during the pandemic, platforms guide nearly every student interaction in schools today. But districts are utilizing these tools without considering the wider spectrum of changes that they have incurred alongside them.

photo of Antero Godina Garcia

Antero Garcia, associate professor of education (Image credit: Courtesy Antero Garcia)

For example, it might seem helpful for a school to use a management tool like Classroom Dojo (a digital platform that can offer parents ways to interact with and receive updates from their family’s teacher) or software that tracks student reading and development like Accelerated Reader for day-to-day needs. However, these tools limit what assessment looks like and penalize students based on flawed interpretations of learning.

Another problem with platforms is that they, by necessity, amass large swaths of data. Myriad forms of educational technology exist – from virtual reality headsets to e-readers to the small sensors on student ID cards that can track when students enter schools. And all of this student data is being funneled out of schools and into the virtual black boxes of company databases.

Part of why I’ve grown so skeptical about this current digital revolution is because of how these tools reshape students’ bodies and their relation to the world around them. Young people are not viewed as complete human beings but as boxes checked for attendance, for meeting academic progress metrics, or for confirming their location within a school building. Nearly every action that students perform in schools – whether it’s logging onto devices, accessing buildings, or sharing content through their private online lives – is noticed and recorded. Children in schools have become disembodied from their minds and their hearts. Thus, one of the greatest and implicit lessons that kids learn in schools today is that they must sacrifice their privacy in order to participate in conventional, civic society.

The pandemic has only made the situation worse. At its beginnings, some schools relied on software to track students’ eye movements, ostensibly ensuring that kids were paying attention to the tasks at hand. Similarly, many schools required students to keep their cameras on during class time for similar purposes. These might be seen as in the best interests of students and their academic growth, but such practices are part of a larger (and usually more invisible) process of normalizing surveillance in the lives of youth today.

I am not suggesting that we completely reject all of the tools at our disposal – but I am urging for more caution. Even the seemingly benign resources we might use in our classrooms today come with tradeoffs. Every Wi-Fi-connected, “smart” device utilized in schools is an investment in time, money, and expertise in technology over teachers and the teaching profession.

Our focus on fixing or saving schools via digital tools assumes that the benefits and convenience that these invisible platforms offer are worth it.

But my ongoing exploration of how platforms reduce students to quantifiable data suggests that we are removing the innovation and imagination of students and teachers in the process.

Antero Garcia is associate professor of education in the Graduate School of Education .

In Their Own Words is a collaboration between the Stanford Public Humanities Initiative  and Stanford University Communications.

If you’re a Stanford faculty member (in any discipline or school) who is interested in writing an essay for this series, please reach out to Natalie Jabbar at [email protected] .

9 subtle ways technology is making humanity worse

  • For many of us fully immersed in the digital age , it's hard to imagine a world before the advent of the internet, cloud storage, and smartphones.  
  • Experts have found that in addition to making our lives more convenient, but there's a negative side to technology — it can be addicting and it can hurt our communication skills.
  • Extended screen time can result in health ramifications like insomnia, eyestrain, and increased anxiety and depression. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Insider Today

Technology has become so ingrained in society — and our daily lives — that it's hard to remember what the world was like before it.  

Can you imagine doing your job without the help of technology of any kind? What about communicating? Or traveling? Or entertaining yourself?

Read more: 5 major differences between the lives of millennials and baby boomers

While we owe a debt of gratitude to the brilliant minds who have gifted us such innovations, it would be shortsighted to consider technology as solely a boon to humanity. Often, it can be a bane, having both seen and unseen effects of innumerable kinds on individuals, groups, and mankind as a whole.

Here are nine ways technology has made humanity worse.

Using mobile devices and computers is bad for our posture

essay about how technology is bad

Smartphone slouch. Desk slump. Text neck. Whatever you call it, the way we hold ourselves when we use devices like phones, computers, and tablets isn't healthy.

This poor posture can lead not only to back and neck issues but psychological ones as well, including lower self-esteem and mood, decreased assertiveness and productivity, and an increased tendency to recall negative things, according to a column in The New York Times .

"Your physical posture sculpts your psychological posture, and could be the key to a happier mood and greater self-confidence," Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy wrote in the column.

Your eyesight can also suffer from too much device usage

essay about how technology is bad

Overusing digital devices can lead to issues with eyesight.

Intense device usage can exhaust your eyes and cause eye strain, according to the Mayo Clinic , and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, and watery, dry, itchy, burning, sore, or tired eyes. Overuse can also cause blurred or double vision and increased sensitivity to light.

"The American Optometric Association calls this computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain," according to the Mayo Clinic . "People who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day have the greatest risk of this condition."

Insomnia can be another side effect of digital devices

essay about how technology is bad

Using your devices too much before bedtime can lead to insomnia.

That's because of the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that digital devices emit, which delays your body's internal clock and circadian rhythm, and suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, according to the National Sleep Foundation .

"The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep," according to the foundation. "Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before turning in delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep."

Technology is addictive

essay about how technology is bad

Using tech devices is addictive, and it's becoming more and more difficult to disengage with their technology.

In fact, the average US adult spends more than 11 hours daily in the digital world, psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee wrote in a column for The Washington Post . She argued that tech addiction should be classified as a diagnosable addiction.

"If Americans were interacting with anything else for 11-plus hours a day, I feel confident we'd be talking more about how that interaction shapes us," she wrote.

And technology is leading us to sedentary lifestyles

essay about how technology is bad

When we use devices for hours on end, it's often paired with extended periods of sitting, whether at desks, on couches, or in bed.

A sedentary lifestyle leads to an increased risk of many conditions and diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and obesity, according to the World Health Organization .

"According to WHO, 60% to 85% of people in the world — from both developed and developing countries — lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of our time," the organization noted.

Social media and screen time can be bad for mental health

essay about how technology is bad

It's not only physical health that suffers from the effects of technology — our mental health does, too.

According to a national survey by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health , young adults who use seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than those who use two or fewer platforms.

"This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms," said Brian A. Primack, director of the research center.

Relationships can be harmed by too much tech use

essay about how technology is bad

Technology can have a negative impact on relationships, particularly when it affects how we communicate.

One of the primary issues is that misunderstandings are much more likely to occur when communicating via text or email, physician Alex Lickerman wrote in an article for Psychology Today .

"Non-verbal communication, after all, (argued by some to represent up to 40% of our in-person communication) is completely absent. Be careful how you word every electronic message you send, in whatever context," he said.

Young people are losing the ability to interact face-to-face

essay about how technology is bad

Another social skill that technology is helping to erode is young people's ability to read body language and nuance in face-to-face encounters.

This is due to the fact that so much of their communication is done not in-person but online, wrote Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University and author of "The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future," in an article for The Wall Street Journal .

"We live in a culture where young people — outfitted with iPhone and laptop and devoting hours every evening from age 10 onward to messaging of one kind and another — are ever less likely to develop the 'silent fluency' that comes from face-to-face interaction," he wrote.

Instant access to information makes us less self-sufficient

essay about how technology is bad

These days, we have a world of information at our fingertips via the internet. 

While this is useful, it does have some drawbacks. Entrepreneur Beth Haggerty said she finds that it "limits pure creative thought, at times, because we are developing habits to Google everything to quickly find an answer."

The long-term ramifications of humanity becoming wholly dependent on search bars and web browsers for information remain to be seen, but Matt Wallaert , a former behavioral scientist at Bing, told TechRadar he has reservations about the prospect.

"When you search for 'when was George Harrison born,' does that prevent us from looking into our brain and realizing the answer?" Wallaert said. "When we scratch out that act, does it deprive us of that small burst of pleasure?"

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essay about how technology is bad

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Relationships Articles & More

What makes technology good or bad for us, how technology affects our well-being partly depends on whether it strengthens our relationships..

Everyone’s worried about smartphones. Headlines like “ Have smartphones destroyed a generation? ” and “ Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain ” paint a bleak picture of our smartphone addiction and its long-term consequences. This isn’t a new lament—public opinion at the advent of the newspaper worried that people would forego the stimulating pleasures of early-morning conversation in favor of reading the daily .

Is the story of technology really that bad? Certainly there’s some reason to worry. Smartphone use has been linked to serious issues, such as dwindling attention spans , crippling depression , and even increased incidence of brain cancer . Ultimately, though, the same concern comes up again and again: Smartphones can’t be good for us, because they’re replacing the real human connection of the good old days.

Everyone’s heard how today’s teens just sit together in a room, texting, instead of actually talking to each other. But could those teenagers actually be getting something meaningful and real out of all that texting?

The science of connection

essay about how technology is bad

A quick glance at the research on technology-mediated interaction reveals an ambivalent literature. Some studies show that time spent socializing online can decrease loneliness , increase well-being , and help the socially anxious learn how to connect to others. Other studies suggest that time spent socializing online can cause loneliness , decrease well-being , and foster a crippling dependence on technology-mediated interaction to the point that users prefer it to face-to-face conversation.

It’s tempting to say that some of these studies must be right and others wrong, but the body of evidence on both sides is a little too robust to be swept under the rug. Instead, the impact of social technology is more complicated. Sometimes, superficially similar behaviors have fundamentally different consequences. Sometimes online socialization is good for you, sometimes it’s bad, and the devil is entirely in the details.

This isn’t a novel proposition; after all, conflicting results started appearing within the first few studies into the internet’s social implications, back in the 1990s. Many people have suggested that to understand the consequences of online socialization, we need to dig deeper into situational factors and circumstances. But what we still have to do is move beyond recognition of the problem to provide an answer: When, how, and why are some online interactions great, while others are dangerous?

The interpersonal connection behaviors framework

As a scientist of close relationships, I can’t help but see online interactions differently from thinkers in other fields. People build relationships by demonstrating their understanding of each other’s needs and perspectives, a cyclical process that brings them closer together. If I tell you my secrets, and you respond supportively, I’m much more likely to confide in you again—and you, in turn, are much more likely to confide in me.

This means that every time two people talk to each other, an opportunity for relationship growth is unfolding. Many times, that opportunity isn’t taken; we aren’t about to have an in-depth conversation with the barista who asks for our order. But connection is always theoretically possible, and that’s true whether we’re interacting online or face-to-face.

Close relationships are the bread and butter of happiness—and even health. Being socially isolated is a stronger predictor of mortality than is smoking multiple cigarettes a day . If we want to understand the role technology plays in our well-being, we need to start with the role it plays in our relationships.

And it turns out that the kind of technology-mediated interactions that lead to positive outcomes are exactly those that are likely to build stronger relationships. Spending your time online by scheduling interactions with people you see day in and day out seems to pay dividends in increased social integration . Using the internet to compensate for being lonely just makes you lonelier; using the internet to actively seek out connection has the opposite effect .

“The kind of technology-mediated interactions that lead to positive outcomes are exactly those that are likely to build stronger relationships”

On the other hand, technology-mediated interactions that don’t really address our close relationships don’t seem to do us any good—and might, in fact, do us harm. Passively scrolling through your Facebook feed without interacting with people has been linked to decreased well-being and increased depression post-Facebook use.

That kind of passive usage is a good example of “ social snacking .” Like eating junk food, social snacking can temporarily satisfy you, but it’s lacking in nutritional content. Looking at your friends’ posts without ever responding might make you feel more connected to them, but it doesn’t build intimacy.

Passive engagement has a second downside, as well: social comparison . When we compare our messy lived experiences to others’ curated self-presentations, we are likely to suffer from lowered self-esteem , happiness, and well-being. This effect is only exacerbated when we consume people’s digital lives without interacting with them, making it all too easy to miss the less photogenic moments of their lives.

Moving forward

The interpersonal connection behaviors framework doesn’t explain everything that might influence our well-being after spending time on social media. The internet poses plenty of other dangers—for two examples, the sense of wasting time or emotional contagion from negative news. However, a focus on meaningful social interaction can help explain decades of contradictory findings. And even if the framework itself is challenged by future work, its central concept is bound to be upheld: We have to study the details of how people are spending their time online if we want to understand its likely effects.

In the meantime, this framework has some practical implications for those worried about their own online time. If you make sure you’re using social media for genuinely social purposes, with conscious thought about how it can improve your life and your relationships, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy your digital existence.

This article was originally published on the Behavioral Scientist . Read the original article .

About the Author


Jenna Clark

Jenna Clark, Ph.D. , is a senior behavioral researcher at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, where she works to help people make healthy decisions in spite of themselves. She’s also interested in how technology contributes to our well-being through its effect on our close personal relationships.

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Is technology good or bad for learning?

Subscribe to the brown center on education policy newsletter, saro mohammed, ph.d. smp saro mohammed, ph.d. partner - the learning accelerator @edresearchworks.

May 8, 2019

I’ll bet you’ve read something about technology and learning recently. You may have read that device use enhances learning outcomes . Or perhaps you’ve read that screen time is not good for kids . Maybe you’ve read that there’s no link between adolescents’ screen time and their well-being . Or that college students’ learning declines the more devices are present in their classrooms .

If ever there were a case to be made that more research can cloud rather than clarify an issue, technology use and learning seems to fit the bill. This piece covers what the research actually says, some outstanding questions, and how to approach the use of technology in learning environments to maximize opportunities for learning and minimize the risk of doing harm to students.

In my recent posts , I have frequently cited the mixed evidence about blended learning, which strategically integrates in-person learning with technology to enable real-time data use, personalized instruction, and mastery-based progression. One thing that this nascent evidence base does show is that technology can be linked to improved learning . When technology is integrated into lessons in ways that are aligned with good in-person teaching pedagogy, learning can be better than without technology.

A 2018 meta-analysis of dozens of rigorous studies of ed tech , along with the executive summary of a forthcoming update (126 rigorous experiments), indicated that when education technology is used to individualize students’ pace of learning, the results overall show “ enormous promise .” In other words, ed tech can improve learning when used to personalize instruction to each student’s pace.

Further, this same meta-analysis, along with other large but correlational studies (e.g., OECD 2015 ), also found that increased access to technology in school was associated with improved proficiency with, and increased use of, technology overall. This is important in light of the fact that access to technology outside of learning environments is still very unevenly distributed across ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic lines. Technology for learning, when deployed to all students, ensures that no student experiences a “21st-century skills and opportunity” gap.

More practically, technology has been shown to scale and sustain instructional practices that would be too resource-intensive to work in exclusively in-person learning environments, especially those with the highest needs. In multiple , large-scale studies where technology has been incorporated into the learning experiences of hundreds of students across multiple schools and school systems, they have been associated with better academic outcomes than comparable classrooms that did not include technology. Added to these larger bodies of research are dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller , more localized examples of technology being used successfully to improve students’ learning experiences. Further, meta-analyses and syntheses of the research show that blended learning can produce greater learning than exclusively in-person learning.

All of the above suggest that technology, used well, can drive equity in learning opportunities. We are seeing that students and families from privileged backgrounds are able to make choices about technology use that maximize its benefits and minimize its risks , while students and families from marginalized backgrounds do not have opportunities to make the same informed choices. Intentional, thoughtful inclusion of technology in public learning environments can ensure that all students, regardless of their ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language status, special education status, or other characteristics, have the opportunity to experience learning and develop skills that allow them to fully realize their potential.

On the other hand, the evidence is decidedly mixed on the neurological impact of technology use. In November 2016, the American Association of Pediatrics updated their screen time guidelines for parents, generally relaxing restrictions and increasing the recommended maximum amount of time that children in different age groups spend interacting with screens. These guidelines were revised not because of any new research, but for two far more practical reasons. First, the nuance of the existing evidence–especially the ways in which recommendations change as children get older–was not adequately captured in the previous guidelines. Second, the proliferation of technology in our lives had made the previous guidelines almost impossible to follow.

The truth is that infants, in particular, learn by interacting with our physical world and with other humans, and it is likely that very early (passive) interactions with devices–rather than humans–can disrupt or misinform neural development . As we grow older, time spent on devices often replaces time spent engaging in physical activity or socially with other people, and it can even become a substitute for emotional regulation, which is detrimental to physical, social, and emotional development.

In adolescence and young adulthood, the presence of technology in learning environments has also been associated with (but has not been shown to be the cause of) negative variables such as attention deficits or hyperactivity , feeling lonely , and lower grades . Multitasking is not something our brains can do while learning , and technology often represents not just one more “task” to have to attend to in a learning environment, but multiple additional tasks due to the variety of apps and programs installed on and producing notifications through a single device.

The pragmatic

The current takeaway from the research is that there are potential benefits and risks to deploying technology in learning environments. While we can’t wrap this topic up with a bow just yet–there are still more questions than answers–there is evidence that technology can amplify effective teaching and learning when in the hands of good teachers. The best we can do today is understand how technology can be a valuable tool for educators to do the complex, human work that is teaching by capitalizing on the benefits while remaining fully mindful of the risks as we currently understand them.

We must continue to build our understanding of both the risks and benefits as we proceed. With that in mind, here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” for using technology in learning environments:

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4 Arguments Against Technology

  • Kevin Kelly

I believe we have a moral obligation to increase the power and presence of technology in the world, but not everyone believes that — to put it mildly. Many believe the opposite: that we have a moral obligation to reduce the power and presence of technology. I want to fully understand those arguments so I […]


I believe we have a moral obligation to increase the power and presence of technology in the world, but not everyone believes that — to put it mildly. Many believe the opposite: that we have a moral obligation to reduce the power and presence of technology. I want to fully understand those arguments so I am collecting them in order to confront them as well as I can. I am interested in valid reasons to diminish technology, but also in mythical reasons as well. Things people believe about the technium which may not be true, but motivate them. Here is my first cut. Please comment on alternative reasons I missed.

essay about how technology is bad

  • KK Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He authored the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy and the classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control .

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Technology and Negative Effects Essay

The development of technology has drastically changed the world. As people are unable to calculate the rates of progress, it is impossible to determine what changes will be brought about with an even greater increase in technological advancements. Modern technology would seem futuristic to someone thirty or even twenty years ago. Primarily, the whole question of the change in technology is very questionable.

Previously, humans were not able to achieve this sort of breakthrough and then, within a very short amount of time, technology came to be. Many people question whether it was a natural evolution or humanity had some help from some other form of alien life. But no matter how it came to be, technology is presently taking over the lives of people and natural existence. There is no way to get rid of evolution and so, people must learn how to control it and predict what will come next.

The biggest question is that sometimes the problems overtake the benefits of technology. This closely relates to the social media and all the out coming issues. Primarily, there is the safety concern, as the information used in the social networks can be used by the advertisement websites. Even though there are safeguards that try to prevent personal information from being shared with other institutions and sites, there are still some was that information gets out.

“Facebook” has been one of the sited networks that is widely used by people, but has compromised some private information. Even though the damage has been done, the site has adjusted its policies to better suite users ( Network Security 2010). Another issue is that people who share information online cannot really control who can access their web page and browse their personal information.

Anyone can leave a comment and become involved in a group of friends. This leads to many concerns, but people are still not aware of the security issues. The unfortunate part is that people do not pay attention to the growing concern and continue using the social networks. It has become so popular that individuals feel to be required to upgrade their social status and produce information that can be acknowledged by others.

Another disadvantage is faced by educational institutions in the possibility of students using the online society without any control. The unauthorized use of online resources, plagiarism and communication with others will greatly increase the student’s chances to use it to their advantage, without relying on their own intelligence. Also a student may discuss the topics given with other students, as well as other people.

This would make the work less individual and the views expressed and information used will be representative of a collective of people instead of that particular student. As the opinion of the individual is the required aspect of work, social networks influence people in an undesired way.

Very often, people will succumb to the pressure and join the majority, as no one wants to be outside the circle and be seen as an outsider. Peer pressure is a very strong force, and it can be seen as the predominant power in the social media and internet networks.

In the twenty-first century, the use of technology has become an everyday occurrence. People are dependent on it in almost all aspects of life. In many instances it has put a major dent in the relationships between people and societies. Technology has distanced people from one another. The communication over large distances makes people closer and unites relatives who could not talk previously. The cheaper phone rates and use of video calling has made communication much more accessible (Green, 2002).

Another problem is the development of virtual reality technology which has reached heights that were not even imagined 20 years ago. There are ways to experience physical sensations, smells and other “real world” stimuli through the gaming experiences. The expressions of different forms of stimuli make cyber world more realistic than ever. This engulfs the person in a fake existence, making the real world unneeded and unwanted by the person.

The conscious mind forgets that a person is in the computer world. The simulation of feelings and thoughts becomes so real that a person believes into the reality of the computer program and spends numerous hours in the cyber world. There is a lot of evidence in the present times that supports this. The games and computer programs are so interactive and realistic that a person can spend a lot of time immersed into the game. There are numerous stories about people who live in a world of computers and virtual spaces.

An article titled “The Right to Privacy is Not a Right to Facebook”, talks about weather the information used on the network should be available to others. Even though there are several layers of security and people are warned about the harms of personal information leaking, organizations are the ones that are using the private information to own advantage. Another problem is that people get so focused on the distant communication through phones and computers that the need for face-to-face communication has become useless.

The development of social networks and the use of internet have made communication between people a form of social status. People focus on the way their facebook page looks, they pay great attention to the amount of pictures they post, number of responses that they receive to certain posts and comments about their status.

The need to go out and do things became not needed. The interaction between people has come down to words on web pages and comments in relation to behavior of others. It is also cheaper and more practical to live in the word of computers, where there is no need to go out, spend money in bars, different attractions and games that involve physical participation of the person and others.

Also, it is very time consuming, so people simply have no time to go out and enjoy nature and the company of others. The constant checking for the replies and posts of others, especially if there is an extreme amount of friends, takes up a lot of time (Restivo, 2005). Very often people add individuals to the category of “friends” through other people. They do not really know the person or are familiar with their individual personality. The only way they “know” them, is by pictures on their page and comments on their “wall”.

The third article talks about the control that is exhibited by the user. The social networks have put a major dent into the society. Self-efficacy and cognitive theory are made use of by understanding the concept of on-line security.

The private information and the communication itself has become a public occurrence where people put their lives out on the public viewing without any concern for security or privacy. Another major issue with technology—texting and emails in particular, is the lack of emotion in the communication. The only way to express emotion is to put pre-set “smiles” beside words or phrases or to use the capital letters or exclamation marks.

When people interact face-to-face, they see each other’s facial expressions, the look in the eyes and see their expression. They can hear the tone of voice and maybe hidden emotions that a person does not want the other to know but nonetheless has them. All of this is impossible to see and feel over the internet or texting. This makes people similar to robots, where the real emotions are not important anymore.

Even if a person is sad, they will put a “smile” beside the word and the other person will not even realize that maybe they must offer a helping hand or console their friend. People become emotionally isolated and strangers (Shilling, 2004). Social media in general, teaches individuals to behave a certain way and to follow the majority. People feel the need to become something they would not think of without the examples given through internet or other mediums.

Even though technology has helped people in a lot of ways, a person must realize its drawbacks and balance the use of technology with the physical interaction with others. The balance must be kept for technology to be helpful instead of detrimental. It is important to keep in mind that technology is not always error proof, thus reliability is a relative concept.

There are many examples that show how technology has proven to be a negative influence on society, but people still continue its use. Security of the personal information is one of the most important things that a person has, and identity theft or abuse of private information has become widespread. People must become aware of the growing problem and use as much care as possible to protect their well being and individuality.

Green, L. 2002. Communication, Technology and Society , SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Network Security . 2010. Web.

Restivo, S. 2005. Science, Technology, and Society: An Encyclopedia , Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Shilling, C. 2004. The Body in Culture, Technology and Society , SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 12). Technology and Negative Effects.

"Technology and Negative Effects." IvyPanda , 12 May 2020,

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Technology and Negative Effects'. 12 May.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Technology and Negative Effects." May 12, 2020.

1. IvyPanda . "Technology and Negative Effects." May 12, 2020.


IvyPanda . "Technology and Negative Effects." May 12, 2020.

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essay about how technology is bad

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative Essay About Technology

Last updated on: Jun 19, 2023

Make Your Argumentative Essay About Technology Unbeatable: Examples and Tips

By: Barbara P.

15 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Mar 9, 2023

argumentative essay about technology

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the task of writing an argumentative essay about technology? Don't worry – you're not alone. 

Technology is a vast and rapidly evolving field, making it a challenging topic to tackle. But fear not!  With the right structure, examples, and tips, you'll be equipped to create a persuasive and captivating essay that will impress your readers.

In this blog, we're here to guide you through the process, providing you with engaging examples and essential guidelines. With our help, you'll be able to create an argument that is both persuasive and well-supported by evidence.

So read on and make sure your argumentative essay about technology is unbeatable! 

argumentative essay about technology

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How to Write an Argumentative Essay About Technology?

Now you know what argumentative essays about technology are and why they're important? 

Let's look at how to write a compelling argument. 

Pick a Title

The title of your essay should capture the attention of your reader and summarize the main points of your argument. 

Think carefully about how you want to frame your argument in order to create an effective title. It should be short and catchy, but also accurately reflect the main arguments or ideas in your essay. 

Form an Outline 

After deciding on a title for your essay, it’s important to form an outline of the key points and arguments you will make in each paragraph. This will help keep you organized during the writing process and ensure that all of your ideas are connected. 

Make sure there is good flow between each section so that readers can follow along easily. 

Here is an outline template for argumentative essay about technology:

Write an Introduction 

Your introduction is where you set up the context for your essay and explain what it is that you will be arguing throughout the rest of the text. 

Include relevant background information, as well as any interesting facts or anecdotes that could help engage readers from the beginning. 

Be sure to end with a thesis statement that clearly lays out which side you are taking in this debate and what evidence will be used to support it.

Write Body Paragraphs 

Your body paragraphs are where most of your research comes into play! 

Ensure these paragraphs contain detailed evidence from reliable sources that supports each point being made in each paragraph. 

Additionally, be sure to use transition words throughout these sections so that readers can follow along easily from one point to another.  

Write a Conclusion

Your conclusion should briefly outline the key points and evidence used throughout your paper. While reiterating why this particular topic is so important and relevant today. 

Your conclusion should leave readers with something thought-provoking! 

Perhaps something they hadn’t considered before rather than just summarizing everything they have already read in previous paragraphs.

Looking for guidance on crafting powerful arguments? Look no further than our argumentative essay guide! 

Check out this informative video to learn how to construct a persuasive argumentative essay!

Examples of Argumentative Essay About Technology

Now that you know how to write an argumentative essay about technology, let's look at some examples.

These examples will help you get a better understanding of the argumentative essay structure and what types of arguments you can make. 

Argumentative Essay About Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology

Let’s take a look:

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Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

Argumentative Essay On Technology And Society

Here is a short argumentative essay on technology and society: 

Example of a Research-Based Argumentative Essay About Technology

Argumentative essay examples are a great way to gain a better understanding of how technology is affecting our lives - both positively and negatively. 

To help illustrate this argument, this essay will look at the evidence for an argumentative essay about technology.

Here are some additional examples for you to get inspired!

Argumentative Essay About Technology And Social Media

Argumentative Essay About Technology In Education

Argumentative Essay About Technology A Friend Or A Foe

Argumentative Essay About Technology Make Us Alone

Is Technology Good Or Bad Argumentative Essay

5 Paragraph Argumentative Essay About Technology

If you're searching for the determination to create a persuasive essay, our blog of argumentative essay examples is just what you need!

Good Argumentative Essay About Technology Topics

When writing argumentative essays about technology, it's important to identify a topic that is relevant and argumentative.

Argumentative Essay About Technology Topics -

The following are some good argumentative essay topics related to technology: 

  • Will AI bring more benefits or risks to society?
  • Is social media a positive or negative influence on society?
  • How can individuals and organizations better protect themselves from cyber threats?
  • Should individuals have more control over their personal data online?
  • Will automation lead to mass unemployment or create new job opportunities?
  • Is VR technology more beneficial for entertainment or educational purposes?
  • Should governments have the authority to regulate and censor online content?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of widespread 5G implementation?
  • Is the use of biometric data for identification and security purposes ethical?
  • How can technology be effectively integrated into classrooms to enhance learning outcomes?

Want to write an essay that will grab your readers' attention? Explore our blog for more thrilling argumentative essay topics !

Summarizing it all,  argumentative essay examples about technology can help to illustrate the argument for or against its use in our lives. By exploring various argumentative essay topics related to technology, you can gain a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of its use. 

So, take a look at the argumentative essay topics provided above and create your argumentative essay today! 

And if you are still seeking help with your argumentative essay, contact our essay writer today!

Our argumentative essay writer has the knowledge and experience to write the best argumentative essay for you. 

So request “ write my paper ” today and we guarantee that your essay will be well-structured, argumentative, and insightful. 

So don't hesitate - to contact our argumentative essay writing service today! 

Barbara P.

Literature, Marketing

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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A for and against essay about the internet.

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Essay on Technology – A Boon or Bane for Students

500+ words essay on technology for students.

In this essay on technology, we are going to discuss what technology is, what are its uses, and also what technology can do? First of all, technology refers to the use of technical and scientific knowledge to create, monitor, and design machinery. Also, technology helps in making other goods that aid mankind.

Essay on Technology – A Boon or Bane?

Experts are debating on this topic for years. Also, the technology covered a long way to make human life easier but the negative aspect of it can’t be ignored. Over the years technological advancement has caused a severe rise in pollution . Also, pollution has become a major cause of many health issues. Besides, it has cut off people from society rather than connecting them. Above all, it has taken away many jobs from the workers class.

Essay on technology

Familiarity between Technology and Science

As they are completely different fields but they are interdependent on each other. Also, it is due to science contribution we can create new innovation and build new technological tools. Apart from that, the research conducted in laboratories contributes a lot to the development of technologies. On the other hand, technology extends the agenda of science.

Vital Part of our Life

Regularly evolving technology has become an important part of our lives. Also, newer technologies are taking the market by storm and the people are getting used to them in no time. Above all, technological advancement has led to the growth and development of nations.

Negative Aspect of Technology

Although technology is a good thing, everything has two sides. Technology also has two sides one is good and the other is bad. Here are some negative aspects of technology that we are going to discuss.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

With new technology the industrialization increases which give birth to many pollutions like air, water, soil, and noise. Also, they cause many health-related issues in animals, birds, and human beings.

Exhaustion of Natural Resources

New technology requires new resources for which the balance is disturbed. Eventually, this will lead to over-exploitation of natural resources which ultimately disturbs the balance of nature.


A single machine can replace many workers. Also, machines can do work at a constant pace for several hours or days without stopping. Due to this, many workers lost their job which ultimately increases unemployment .

Types of Technology

Generally, we judge technology on the same scale but in reality, technology is divided into various types. This includes information technology, industrial technology , architectural technology, creative technology and many more. Let’s discuss these technologies in brief.

Industrial Technology

This technology organizes engineering and manufacturing technology for the manufacturing of machines. Also, this makes the production process easier and convenient.

Creative Technology

This process includes art, advertising, and product design which are made with the help of software. Also, it comprises of 3D printers , virtual reality, computer graphics, and other wearable technologies.

Information Technology

This technology involves the use of telecommunication and computer to send, receive and store information. Internet is the best example of Information technology.

essay about how technology is bad

FAQs on Essay on Technology

Q.1 What is Information technology?

A –  It is a form of technology that uses telecommunication and computer systems for study. Also, they send, retrieve, and store data.

Q.2 Is technology harmful to humans?

 A – No, technology is not harmful to human beings until it is used properly. But, misuses of technology can be harmful and deadly.

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No focus, no fights, and a bad back – 16 ways technology has ruined my life

While some technological advances are nothing short of miraculous, there are plenty of downsides, too …

L et’s be fair: technology has improved my life in ways that still surprise and delight me on a daily basis. My phone is also a torch! My TV remembers how far I got in last night’s episode, even if I don’t! The bus stop knows when the bus is ­coming, and I can watch my ­pizza’s entire journey from the restaurant to my house! These are, frankly, miracles.

But there have been corresponding sacrifices. Over 20 years, I have turned over whole areas of competence, memory, authority and independence to the machines in my life. Along the way, I have become anxious about problems that didn’t used to exist, indecisive over choices I never used to have to make, and angry about things I would once have been wholly unaware of.

There are probably hundreds of ways in which ­technology has ruined my life. But let’s start with 16 of them.

1. It’s destroying my concentration It’s not just me: a 2022 survey conducted by the Centre for Attention Studies found that 49% of adults believe their attention span has shrunk, a consequence of all the competing distractions available on our phones and computers. My every idle thought now occasions 20 minutes of half-assed research, dragging me down online rabbit holes, even while I’m besieged by pinging notifications heralding the arrival of an email, or announcing the death of some elderly actor, as if I were the next of kin or something. Duolingo in particular pursues me with the persistence of bailiffs – sometimes it interrupts my Italian lessons to remind me to take an Italian lesson, which is why I still can’t order a coffee in Rome after five years.

2. It’s destroying my posture I could feel the harm sitting in front of a screen all day was doing, so I bought a stand to raise my computer, hoping it would make me sit up straighter. Then I got varifocals, which meant I had to crane my neck and stick out my chin to read the screen through the bottom half of my glasses. Eventually, I switched to a laptop. Then I had to put that on a stand. Even after all that, I still have the posture of a question mark. I tried setting an alarm to remind me to leave my computer at intervals, but it kept waking me up.

3. Life sometimes feels like an unending struggle to prove I’m not a robot Obviously, this includes every failed attempt to click on all the pictures with traffic lights in them in order to qualify as a legitimate human inquirer in search of spare dishwasher wheels. But it also means resisting the temptation to click on one of those automated reply buttons in my email that says something like, “OK, thanks!” and compose my own response. Every day is a Turing test, and I don’t always pass.

4. It has rendered meetings inescapable You used to be able to say: “Friday? Sorry, I’ll be in Antarctica on Friday.” But thanks to Zoom, Google and FaceTime, there is simply no reasonable excuse for not making an appearance at a meeting. You also get to look at the picture of your face the whole time, so you can see exactly how bored you are.

5. I’m no longer able to have arguments in pubs I can remember a time when it was considered ungentlemanly to check the factual accuracy of a statement made by a drinking companion. You were just meant to counter their argument by presenting specious facts of your own. But when everyone has the GDP of every Brics country at their fingertips, there doesn’t seem to be much point in spirited debate. You end up spending the whole evening looking things up and saying, “Huh.” These days, if you want to get into a petty squabble over obscure facts in an environment where phone use is banned, you have to go to prison. Or do the pub quiz. Either way, it’s no life.

6. I find it increasingly hard to turn things on You may have experienced the feeling of getting behind the wheel of a hire car in a foreign airport, staring at the dashboard and thinking: how do I make it go? Or you may have faced a similar reckoning in an unfamiliar shower, or standing before a seemingly ordinary hob. The relentless development of new ways to turn things on has led us steadily away from the intuitive and toward the wilfully enigmatic. The other week, I found myself alone in a freezing bedroom with an electric radiator I couldn’t work. In the end, I had to turn it upside down to find the model number so I could locate a pdf of the manual online. I just wanted it to get hot.

Weirdly, the virtual world is full of old-fashioned mechanical emulators – animated buttons that make a clicking sound; knobs and sliders you can manipulate with your cursor – while in the realm of actual stuff the controls have been reduced to flat black panels covered with inscrutable symbols: a crescent moon; a lightning bolt; a circle with an M inside, where M stands for Mode.

I know how old this makes me sound, but I can’t believe the young people of today are clamouring for wifi-enabled kettles.

7. It’s given me unfiltered access to the opinions of stupid people Technology doesn’t just make it possible for me to find out what stupid people are thinking; it now curates their thoughts and serves them up to me daily, as if I were some kind of connoisseur of idiocy. I honestly do not remember asking for this.

8. It’s given stupid people unfiltered access to each other’s opinions Once upon a time, the so-called gatekeepers of traditional media restricted the flow of information through narrow, one-way channels. Now stupid people have their own media, where they are free to discuss and mutually reaffirm their dumb ideas. Sadly, this has not been the unmitigated force for good we hoped it would be.

9. I am demonstrably worse at typing than I was 10 years ago I was never a good typist, but ever since word processing programs started correcting my mistakes as I went, I have developed a misplaced confidence in my abilities. On occasions when this facility is for some reason unavailable, I type like someone who’s having a stroke.

10. I feel a strange obligation to monitor bad news in real time Doomscrolling, they call it. Everyone does it to some extent – bad news is just more compelling than good news – but for me it’s gone from mild compulsion to full-time job.

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11. I live in fear of being scammed When it comes to delivery notifications for things I can’t remember ordering, communications from my mobile service provider, QR codes, and anything that asks me to click on a link, I err on the side of profound suspicion. I assume that texts from my bank about fraudulent activity are themselves fraudulent. I once ignored a genuine email from my son saying he’d lost his phone, and requesting I text a foreign number. He was alone in Vietnam at the time and I thought: “Nice try, scumbag.”

12. I’m forced to live in silent, shameful defiance of all the accepted wisdom regarding passwords I don’t know about you, but when I’m given advice about not writing passwords down, not using the same password over and over, and changing passwords regularly, I nod and say, “Of course”, but I think: “What, are you kidding?” I write all my passwords down, use as few as I can get away with and change them only when I’m forced to. To me, all the accepted wisdom about passwords ignores one major point: a password is of no use to me if I don’t know it. I may as well click on “Forgot your password?” every time, set a new one, then forget it again instantly. I also do this, by the way.

13. It’s created a requirement to go everywhere forewarned and forearmed It used to be considered creepy to Google someone just before you met. Now it seems rude to show up not knowing anything about them. You’re also meant to be informed about things you’re going to see and do, the places you might eat, and the likely transport routes. Don’t get me wrong: I like being prepared; I just don’t want to read the restaurant menu before I leave home.

14. I have consistently risen to the level of disorganisation that any new technology allows At the time of writing, I have 77 tabs open on my browser. Somewhere behind it there is a whole other browser. Every morning, I sift through sedimentary layers of open documents to find the one I want. You might think all this virtual disorganisation – neatly confined to a slim laptop – is still preferable to a messy desk, but my desk is also messy, and the walls surrounding it are covered in Post-it notes.

15. As much as I resent technology, I am helpless without it One sometimes hears of inventions that seem designed to foster slavish dependency – self-tuning guitars, programmable cocktail-making machines – but we’re only really reminded of how much territory we’ve ceded to technology when it breaks down. It’s not just that I’ve lost the skills required; it’s that I can’t even recall the process. How did I used to find my way around, or figure out what to watch on TV, or pay for a takeaway? There must have been systems in place.

16. The rest of the world is also helpless without it

In the service of journalism, I have occasionally ­subjected myself to specific technological deprivations: a week without a smartphone; a month without Google , that sort of thing. And I’m here to tell you that when you ­forsake modern technology the world ­generally refuses to take part in the experiment. You find this out the first time someone behind a ticket ­window looks you in the eye and tells you to just ­download the app.

You can’t win, and you can’t quit.

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Negative Effects Of Technology (Essay/Paper Sample)

Table of Contents

Negative effects of technology

Technology utilization in the world is becoming very high with its rapid evolvement resulting in its use in every part of life making it incredible. It has seen numerous systems and appliances relying on them, among them, cell phones use and the internet. However, with its different forms of use and numerous benefits, it continually results in negative impacts in our mental, environmental and physical health.

Use of technology affects health. It does so by first affecting the way of thinking. The increased use of technology such as mobile phones or video games by children and teenagers affects how their brains work. It reduces their attention span on one thing due to continued working with multiple perspectives thus, decreasing their memory abilities. Additionally, the reliance on search engines to find information and constant data flow in 140 characters or less makes them prone to forgetfulness and reducing their attention span.

Secondly, technology affects health through causing obesity. The increased time spend on mobile phones, watching television, using the internet or playing video games results in a lack of physical activities and exercise. Moreover, spending more time watching television also results in increased snacking on unhealthy foods. These aspects lead to obesity. Thirdly, it affects health by emitting chemicals and waves that make one vulnerable to cancer, over extended use of the technology disturbs the sleeping schedule causing poor sleeping habits and causes neck, eyes, and headaches due to increased curving of the body and staring at the gadgets.

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Technology destroys the environment. The industries that manufacture technological products increases emission of numerous waste products to the air, earth, and water. When it is disposed of as runoffs, it contaminates water bodies such as lakes and rivers, while their manufacture emits carbon dioxide emissions and other harmful chemicals to the air that boost climate change. Disposing of their waste in landfills results in soil contamination and killing of vegetation around these environments as well.

Additionally, use of technology destroys the environment by causing the extinction of species. The high consumption of energy attributed to technology results in the disruption of the atmosphere through climate change. Thus, the increased emission of toxic substances to the environment produces harmful chemicals that kill various animals such as the peregrine and the bald eagle. Technology also affects the environment through excess power consumption. The high use of technology at work, home and schools result in increased need for energy to ensure the technologies work non-stop. Thus, it enhances the reliance on its generation that relies on nuclear and fossil fuels that further strains the environment.

The reliance on technology results in isolation. Physical interaction is crucial to human health as it facilitates bonding and creation of relationships. However, with technology use, it creates online social networks that result in constant and quick communications. However, it reduces face-to-face communication, personal contact with others and engagement in social activities with families and friends, leaving one in their world.  Isolation causes strained relationships, loneliness, depression and lack of support systems to enable one efficiently overcome various issues.

Technology use also breeds privacy and security concerns. Continuous use of technology and posting of personal information online makes it possible for everyone to know about one’s life. Criminals can access this information through phishing, virus attacks, and hacking and use it to conduct criminal activities stripping people of security. Moreover, technology makes children prone to sex crimes by sexual predators and bullying through avenues such as texts, emails or hurtful videos as perpetrators can hide behind fake identities.

In conclusion, use of technologies is an essential phenomenon in the world as it provides connectivity, and creates numerous positives that make a better world. However, its use presents severe adverse impacts that threaten the future. Therefore, one has to choose to use it effectively to reap the benefits while avoiding these consequences as well.

essay about how technology is bad

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A photo-illustration of outstretched hands with blobby, running, oodles of green software code

This post is dedicated to the memory of Niklaus Wirth , a computing pioneer who passed away 1 January 2024. In 1995 he wrote an influential article called “ A Plea for Lean Software ,” published in Computer , the magazine for members of the IEEE Computer Society, which I read early in my career as an entrepreneur and software developer. In what follows, I try to make the same case nearly 30 years later, updated for today’s computing horrors. A version of this post was originally published on my personal blog, .

Some years ago I did a talk at a local university on cybersecurity, titled “ Cyber and Information Security: Have We All Gone Mad? ” It is still worth reading today since we have gone quite mad collectively.

The way we build and ship software these days is mostly ridiculous, leading to apps using millions of lines of code to open a garage door, and other simple programs importing 1,600 external code libraries —dependencies—of unknown provenance. Software security is dire, which is a function both of the quality of the code and the sheer amount of it. Many of us programmers know the current situation is untenable. Many programmers (and their management) sadly haven’t ever experienced anything else. And for the rest of us, we rarely get the time to do a better job.

It is not just you; we are not merely suffering from nostalgia: Software really is very weird today.

Let me briefly go over the terrible state of software security, and then spend some time on why it is so bad. I also mention some regulatory and legislative things going on that we might use to make software quality a priority again. Finally, I talk about an actual useful piece of software I wrote as a proof of concept that one can still make minimal and simple yet modern software .

I hope that this post provides some mental and moral support for suffering programmers and technologists who want to improve things. It is not just you; We are not merely suffering from nostalgia: Software really is very weird today.

The terrible state of software security

Without going all “Old man (48) yells at cloud ,” let me restate some obvious things. The state of software security is dire . If we only look at the past year, if you ran industry-standard software like Ivanti , MOVEit , Outlook , Confluence , Barracuda Email Security Gateway , Citrix NetScaler ADC, and NetScaler Gateway , chances are you got hacked. Even companies with near-infinite resources (like Apple and Google ) made trivial “worst practice” security mistakes that put their customers in danger . Yet we continue to rely on all these products.

Software is now (rightfully) considered so dangerous that we tell everyone not to run it themselves.

Software is now (rightfully) considered so dangerous that we tell everyone not to run it themselves. Instead, you are supposed to leave that to an “ X as a service” provider, or perhaps just to “the cloud.” Compare this to a hypothetical situation where cars are so likely to catch fire that the advice is not to drive a car yourself, but to leave that to professionals who are always accompanied by professional firefighters.

The assumption is then that the cloud is somehow able to make insecure software trustworthy. Yet in the past year, we’ve learned that Microsoft’s email platform was thoroughly hacked , including classified government email. ( Twice! ) There are also well-founded worries about the security of the Azure cloud . Meanwhile, industry darling Okta, which provides cloud-based software that enables user log-in to various applications, got comprehensively owned . This was their second breach within two years. Also, there was a suspicious spate of Okta users subsequently getting hacked.

Clearly, we need better software.

The European Union has launched three pieces of legislation to this effect: NIS2 for important services ; the Cyber Resilience Act for almost all commercial software and electronic devices; and a revamped Product Liability Directive that also extends to software. Legislation is always hard, and it remains to be seen if they got it right . But that software security is terrible enough these days to warrant legislation seems obvious.

Why software security is so bad

I want to touch on incentives. The situation today is clearly working well for commercial operators. Making more secure software takes time and is a lot of work, and the current security incidents don’t appear to be impacting the bottom line or stock prices. You can speed up time to market by cutting corners . So from an economic standpoint, what we see is entirely predictable. Legislation could be very important in changing this equation.

The security of software depends on two factors—the density of security issues in the source code and the sheer amount of code accessible by hackers. As the U.S. defense community loved to point out in the 1980s, quantity has a quality all of its own . The reverse applies to software—the more you have of it, the more risks you run.

As a case in point, Apple iPhone users got repeatedly hacked over many years because of the huge attack surface exposed by iMessage. It is possible to send an unsolicited iMessage to an Apple user. The phone will then immediately process that message so it can preview it. The problem is that Apple in its wisdom decided that such unsolicited messages needed to support a vast array of image formats, accidentally including PDFs with weird embedded compressed fonts using an ancient format that effectively included a programming language. So someone could send an unsolicited message to your iPhone that could probe for weaknesses in the rest of the phone.

In this way, attackers were able to benefit from security bugs in the phone’s millions of lines of code. You don’t need a high bug density to find an exploitable hole in millions of lines of code.

Wiping out all the bugs in your code won’t save you from the decision to implement a feature to automatically execute code embedded in documents.

Apple could have prevented this situation by restricting previews to a far smaller range of image formats, or even a single “known good” image format. Apple could have saved themselves an enormous amount of pain simply by exposing fewer lines of their code to attackers. Incidentally, the E.U.’s Cyber Resilience Act explicitly tells vendors to minimize the attack surface .

Apple is (by far) not the worst offender in this field. But it is a widely respected and well-resourced company that usually thinks through what they do. And even they got it wrong by needlessly shipping and exposing too much code.

Could we not write better code?

There are those who think the biggest problem is the quality of the code, expressed in terms of the density of bugs in it. There are many interesting things happening on this front, like the use of memory safe languages like Rust . Other languages are also upping their security game . Fuzzers —test tools that automatically modify inputs to computer programs to find weaknesses and bugs—are also getting ever more advanced.

But many security problems are in the logic underlying the code. For example, the Barracuda email exploit originated in a third-party library that would actually execute code in Excel spreadsheets when they were scanned for viruses. Wiping out all the bugs in your code won’t save you from the decision to implement a feature to automatically execute code embedded in documents.

The state of shipping software

Another problem is that we often don’t know what code we are actually shipping. Software has gotten huge . In 1995 Niklaus Wirth lamented that software had grown to megabytes in size. In his article “A Plea for Lean Software,” he went on to describe his Oberon operating system , which was only 200 kilobytes, including an editor and a compiler. There are now projects that have more than 200 KB for their configuration files alone.

A typical app today is built on Electron JS , a framework that incorporates both Chromium (“Chrome”) and Node.JS, which provides access to tens of thousands of software packages for JavaScript. I estimate just using Electron JS entails at least 50 million lines of code if you include dependencies. Perhaps more. The app meanwhile likely pulls in hundreds or thousands of helper packages. Many packages used will also, by default, snitch on your users to advertisers and other data brokers. Dependencies pull in further dependencies, and exactly what gets included in the build can change on a daily basis, and no one really knows.

If this app controls anything in your house, it will also connect to a software stack over at Amazon , probably also powered by Node.js, also pulling in many dependencies.

We are likely looking at over 50 million active lines of code to open a garage door….

But wait, there’s more. We used to ship software as the output of a compiler, or perhaps as a bunch of files to be interpreted. Such software then had to be installed and configured to work right. Getting your code packaged to ship like this is a lot of work. But it was good work since it forced people to think about what was in their “package.” This software package would then integrate with an operating system and with local services, based on the configuration.

Since the software ran on a different computer than the one it was developed on, people really had to know what they shipped and think it through. And sometimes it didn’t work, leading to the joke where a developer tells the operations people, “Well, it works on my system,” and the retort “Then back up your email, we’re taking your laptop into production!”

This used to be a joke, but these days we often ship software as containers, shipping not only the software itself but also including operating system files to make sure the software runs in a well-known environment. This frequently entails effectively shipping a complete computer disk image. This again vastly expands the amount of code being deployed. Note that you can do good things with containers like Docker (see below), but there are a lot of images over 350 MB on the Docker Hub .

Add it all up and we are likely looking at over 50 million active lines of code to open a garage door, running several operating-system images on multiple servers.

Now, even if all the included dependencies are golden, are we sure that their security updates are making it to your garage door opener app? I wonder how many Electron apps are still shipping with the image processing bug that had Google and Apple scramble to put out updates last year. We don’t even know.

But even worse, it is a known fact that all these dependencies are not golden. The Node.js ecosystem has a comical history of package repositories being taken over , hijacked, or resurrected under the same name by someone else, someone with nefarious plans for your security . PyPI (a Python counterpart of Node.js) has suffered from similar problems . Dependencies always need scrutiny, but no one can reasonably be expected to check thousands of them frequently . But we prefer not to think about this. (Note that you should also not overshoot and needlessly reimplement everything yourself to prevent dependencies. There are very good modules that likely are more secure than what you could type in on your own.)

The world is shipping far too much code where we don’t even know what we ship and we aren’t looking hard enough (or at all) at what we do know we ship.

You can write lean code today

Writing has been called the process by which you find out you don’t know what you are talking about . Actually doing stuff, meanwhile, is the process by which you find out you also did not know what you were writing about.

In a small reenactment of Wirth’s Oberon Project, I too wrote some code to prove a point, and to reassure myself I still know what I am talking and writing about. Can you still make useful and modern software the old way? I decided to try to create a minimalistic but full-featured image-sharing solution that I could trust.

Trifecta is the result. It is actual stand-alone software that lets you use a browser to drag and drop images for easy sharing. It has pained me for years that I had to use imgur for this purpose. Not only does imgur install lots of cookies and trackers in my browser, I also force these trackers onto the people who view the images that I share. If you want to self-host a Web service like this, you also don’t want to get hacked. Most image-sharing solutions I found that you could run yourself are based on huge frameworks that I don’t trust too much for the reasons outlined above.

So, also to make a point, I decided to create a minimalistic but also useful image-sharing solution that I could trust. And more important, that other people could trust as well, because you can check out all Trifecta’s code within a few hours. It consists of 1,600 lines of new source code , plus around five important dependencies.

You end up with a grand total of 3 megabytes of code.

To contrast, one other image-sharing solution ships as a 288-MB Docker image, although admittedly it looks better and has some more features. But not 285 MB worth of them. Another comparison is this Node-based picture-sharing solution , which clocks in at 1,600 dependencies, apparently totaling over 4 million lines of JavaScript.

The world ships too much code, most of it by third parties, sometimes unintended, most of it uninspected.

Note that Trifecta is not intended as a public site where random people can share images, as that does not tend to end well. It is however very suitable for company or personal use. You can read more about the project here , and there is also a page about the technology used to deliver such a tiny self-contained solution.

Response to Trifecta

This has been rather interesting. The most common response to Trifecta so far has been that I should use a whole bag of Amazon Web Services to deploy it. This is an exceedingly odd response to a project with the clearly stated goal of providing stand-alone software that does not rely on external services. I’m not sure what is going on here.

Another reaction has been that I treat Docker unfairly, and that you could definitely use containers for good. And I agree wholeheartedly. But I also look at what people are actually doing (also with other forms of containers or virtual machines), and it’s not so great.

I want to end this post with some observations from Niklaus Wirth’s 1995 paper :

“To some, complexity equals power. (…) Increasingly, people seem to misinterpret complexity as sophistication , which is baffling—the incomprehensible should cause suspicion rather than admiration.”

I’ve similarly observed that some people prefer complicated systems. As Tony Hoare noted long ago, “[T]here are two methods in software design. One is to make the program so simple, there are obviously no errors . The other is to make it so complicated, there are no obvious errors.” If you can’t do the first variant, the second way starts looking awfully attractive perhaps.

Back to Wirth:

“Time pressure is probably the foremost reason behind the emergence of bulky software. The time pressure that designers endure discourages careful planning. It also discourages improving acceptable solutions; instead, it encourages quickly conceived software additions and corrections. Time pressure gradually corrupts an engineer’s standard of quality and perfection. It has a detrimental effect on people as well as products.”

Why spend weeks paring down your software when you can also ship a whole pre-installed operating-system image that just works?

“The plague of software explosion is not a ‘law of nature.’ It is avoidable, and it is the software engineer’s task to curtail it.”

If this is indeed on the shoulders of software people, we should perhaps demand more time for it.

The world ships too much code, most of it by third parties, sometimes unintended, most of it uninspected. Because of this, there is a huge attack surface full of mediocre code. Efforts are ongoing to improve the quality of code itself, but many exploits are due to logic fails, and less progress has been made scanning for those. Meanwhile, great strides could be made by paring down just how much code we expose to the world. This will increase time to market for products, but legislation is around the corner that should force vendors to take security more seriously.

Trifecta is, like Wirth’s Oberon Project mentioned above, meant as a proof that you can deliver a lot of functionality even with a limited amount of code and dependencies. With effort and legislation, maybe the future could again bring sub-50-million-line garage-door openers. Let’s try to make it happen.

  • Bruce Schneier Wants You to Make Software Better ›
  • Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development ›
  • A 2024 Plea for Lean Software (with running code) - Bert Hubert's ... ›

Bert Hubert is the founder of PowerDNS, software that powers a significant fraction of the Internet. In addition, Bert co-founded a joint-venture with notable security company Fox-IT. In between he spent several years working for the Dutch government on cyber- and national security. After selling both companies, Bert spent 18 months doing DNA research at TU Delft, leading to two publications in major science journals. These days, he focuses on open standards, (EU) tech legislation, decentralized communications, internet measurements & research (mostly DNA and GNSS). In addition he until recently sat on a government board that regulates the Dutch Intelligence and Security agencies. Bert is now a part-time technical advisor at the Dutch Electoral Council ("FEC").

Paul Egan

I thought the reason for "bulky software" was a conspiracy by memory and storage manufacturers to force customers to buy more memory/storage. It won't be long before we need 10 TB of storage and 256 GB of memory on our mobile device to open our garage door.

John Navas

Well-intended, but falls prey to the issues it decries. Trifecta:

1. written in JavaScript and C++, security nightmares.

2. assumes cookies can be "locked."

3. hosted behind a "real" web server.

4. connects to multiple complex systems.

5. password authentication alone is inherently insecure.

The reality is that expectations for modern systems inevitably involve complexity. It's simply not practical to rewrite all necessary pieces in a minimalistic style, and the result would likely be worse in any event.

c. Efficient.

Pick 2. If good and efficient, it will not be cheap.


There is a truism in cyber security: "You can't secure what you don't know you have." This article points out the sheer impossibility of maintaining an accurate inventory on deployed code. The two mortal enemies of reliability are coupling and complexity, both of which are only increasing.

It also touches on a growing incestuous trend of software securing software. The recent compromise of Mandiant, a preeminent cyber security player, wasn't detected by sophisticated software. Instead, it was first detected by a human who noticed a discrepancy in an employee's VPN configuration.

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This ai can tell what you’re typing based on the sound, cybersecurity gaps could put astronauts at grave risk, the strange story of the teens behind the mirai botnet.

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The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

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OpenAI Unveils A.I. That Instantly Generates Eye-Popping Videos

The start-up is sharing the new technology, called Sora, with a small group of early testers as it tries to understand the potential dangers.

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essay about how technology is bad

By Cade Metz

Reporting from San Francisco

In April, a New York start-up called Runway AI unveiled technology that let people generate videos, like a cow at a birthday party or a dog chatting on a smartphone, simply by typing a sentence into a box on a computer screen.

The four-second videos were blurry, choppy, distorted and disturbing. But they were a clear sign that artificial intelligence technologies would generate increasingly convincing videos in the months and years to come.

Just 10 months later, the San Francisco start-up OpenAI has unveiled a similar system that creates videos that look as if they were lifted from a Hollywood movie. A demonstration included short videos — created in minutes — of woolly mammoths trotting through a snowy meadow, a monster gazing at a melting candle and a Tokyo street scene seemingly shot by a camera swooping across the city.

OpenAI, the company behind the ChatGPT chatbot and the still-image generator DALL-E , is among the many companies racing to improve this kind of instant video generator, including start-ups like Runway and tech giants like Google and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram. The technology could speed the work of seasoned moviemakers, while replacing less experienced digital artists entirely.

essay about how technology is bad

It could also become a quick and inexpensive way of creating online disinformation, making it even harder to tell what’s real on the internet.

“I am absolutely terrified that this kind of thing will sway a narrowly contested election,” said Oren Etzioni, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in artificial intelligence. He is also the founder of True Media, a nonprofit working to identify disinformation online in political campaigns.

OpenAI calls its new system Sora, after the Japanese word for sky. The team behind the technology, including the researchers Tim Brooks and Bill Peebles, chose the name because it “evokes the idea of limitless creative potential.”

In an interview, they also said the company was not yet releasing Sora to the public because it was still working to understand the system’s dangers. Instead, OpenAI is sharing the technology with a small group of academics and other outside researchers who will “red team” it, a term for looking for ways it can be misused.

essay about how technology is bad

“The intention here is to give a preview of what is on the horizon, so that people can see the capabilities of this technology — and we can get feedback,” Dr. Brooks said.

OpenAI is already tagging videos produced by the system with watermarks that identify them as being generated by A.I . But the company acknowledges that these can be removed. They can also be difficult to spot. (The New York Times added “Generated by A.I.” watermarks to the videos with this story.)

The system is an example of generative A.I., which can instantly create text, images and sounds. Like other generative A.I. technologies, OpenAI’s system learns by analyzing digital data — in this case, videos and captions describing what those videos contain.

OpenAI declined to say how many videos the system learned from or where they came from, except to say the training included both publicly available videos and videos that were licensed from copyright holders. The company says little about the data used to train its technologies, most likely because it wants to maintain an advantage over competitors — and has been sued multiple times for using copyrighted material.

(The New York Times sued OpenAI and its partner, Microsoft, in December, claiming copyright infringement of news content related to A.I. systems.)

essay about how technology is bad

Sora generates videos in response to short descriptions, like “a gorgeously rendered papercraft world of a coral reef, rife with colorful fish and sea creatures.” Though the videos can be impressive, they are not always perfect and may include strange and illogical images. The system, for example, recently generated a video of someone eating a cookie — but the cookie never got any smaller.

DALL-E, Midjourney and other still-image generators have improved so quickly over the past few years that they are now producing images nearly indistinguishable from photographs. This has made it harder to identify disinformation online, and many digital artists are complaining that it has made it harder for them to find work.

“We all laughed in 2022 when Midjourney first came out and said, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’” said Reid Southen, a movie concept artist in Michigan. “Now people are losing their jobs to Midjourney.”

Cade Metz writes about artificial intelligence, driverless cars, robotics, virtual reality and other emerging areas of technology. More about Cade Metz

Explore Our Coverage of Artificial Intelligence

News  and Analysis

OpenAI announced that it was releasing a new version of ChatGPT that would remember all prior conversations with users  so it could use that information in future chats. The start-up also unveiled technology that creates videos that look like they were lifted from a Hollywood movie .

The F.T.C. outlawed unwanted robocalls generated by A.I. , amid growing concerns over election disinformation and consumer fraud facilitated by the technology.

Google has released Gemini, a smartphone app that behaves like a talking digital assistant as well as a conversational chatbot .

The Age of A.I.

A year ago, a rogue A.I. tried to break up our columnist’s marriage. Did the backlash that ensued help make chatbots too boring? Here’s how we tame d the chatbots.

Amid an intractable real estate crisis, fake luxury houses offer a delusion of one’s own. Here’s how A.I. is remodeling the fantasy home .

New technology has made it easier to insert digital, realistic-looking versions of soda cans and shampoo on videos on social media. A growing group of creators and advertisers is jumping at the chance for an additional revenue stream .

A start-up called Perplexity shows what’s possible for a search engine built from scratch with A.I. Are the days of turning to Google for answers numbered ?

Chafing at their dependence on the chipmaker Nvidia, Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft are racing to build A.I. chips of their own .


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