Digital Technology's Impact on Society

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Technophilia is a term used to describe the enthusiasm generated by the use of technology, particularly new technologies, such as smart phones, driverless cars, and artificial intelligence. The term highlights humans’ attraction to such technology and how use can evoke strong futuristic positive feelings. With the rate of change ever increasing and new innovations being adopted ever faster, it is important to acknowledge that the reverent attitude towards technology that determines technophilia can sometimes prevent a realistic assessment of the environmental and social impacts technology has on society (Osiceanua, 2015).

The following wiki discusses digital technology’s general impact of digital technology on society. This is a very broad discussion about the general technological trends that are underway in the economy, business, higher education, politics, and our personal lives, and the social and environmental implications of these new trends.

Technology's Impact on the North American Economy

Positive Impacts

Generally, technology has a positive impact on the economy as a whole. New technology opens new industries, cuts costs and increases productivity. Proven effective, more and more money are poured into development of technology and as a result, technology becomes even more advanced. This cycle is one of the reasons why technology is advancing at ever increasing rates. Quality of jobs are increasing and work that previously needed to be done manually can now be mostly automated [1].

Positive Impact on the General Economy

From the perspective of general economy, technology can greatly impact society by lifting the living standards and standard of products. Technological advancements create competitive advantages for firms. Competitive advantage helps the firm to beat out competitors by making their product more appealing to customers which is mostly done either by lowering costs or developing a better product with more features. These upgrades over time becomes the new industry norm as companies catch up to compete. This ever-progressing competition between firms encourages changes which can lead to outstanding benefits to society as side effects. Not only that, these technological advancements force companies to become ever more efficient in their operations to stay competitive which means for the most part the economy is also improving and becoming more efficient [2].

Automation's Positive Impact on the Economy

Examples of this are most prominent in the manufacturing industry. According to statistics, with just today’s technology, over half of the tasks workers perform can be automated. Worldwide, assembly lines and factories are being integrated with various kinds of technology to assist in the manufacturing process of various goods and products. As the dangerous and labor- intensive tasks get automated, workers can increase worker safety and enhance job satisfaction. This increase in work satisfaction means that employees tend to work harder, have lower turnover and have increased productivity which are all good things economically. Prime example of automation would be robotic welding. It allows engineers to pilot the robotic ‘arm’ to perform welding tasks remotely without being in the frontline [3]. Welding can be dangerous and tedious work. The most direct danger to welders would be electric shock. Most instances are fatal and are not uncommon in the work field. Secondary hazards such as fumes and gases are also serious issues that can be avoided with robotic welding [4]. Another prominent example of technological advancements improving job quality is in the medical field. In particular, surgeon’s usage of robotic surgery. Robotic surgery is conducted by having the surgeon remotely control robotic arms to precisely deliver incisions and operations. The robot can allow the surgeon to perform operations that otherwise would be too risky and precise to attempt [5].

Negative Impacts

Negative Impact on the General Economy

While technology has some great impacts on the economy, there are also many downsides associated with the movement. First and foremost, increase in technology means that wealth inequality becomes even more prevalent. Business owners can create immense competitive advantages for their own company with the utilization of technology and considering their price tags, it also means that certain industries have barriers to entry large enough to keep away all startups. For example, it is impossible to compete with companies like Google and Amazon. At best, even if you succeed and establish your brand, a large firm will just come and buy out your firm to bolster their own services.

Automation's Negative Impact on the Economy

Moreover, many of the lower to middle class jobs are beginning to be automated and replaced by robots and machines. An example of this is the trucking industry. Some analysts project that the first batch of self-driving trucks will be implemented in the US within the next 2 years. Previously forbidden by the government, Trump recently stated that new guidelines will be made to regulate these self-driving vehicles. This is a huge first step forward for the industry. Great news for self-driving trucks; horrible news for current truckers as potentially this could mean that some of these workers could be out of a job within the next few years. It is not all doom and gloom for these truckers however as this technology is far from perfected and fully driverless streets might not be reached until the mid-2030 to 2040s [6].

While for the most part currently these advancements are mostly being implemented to support the working class and can only automate certain aspects of their jobs, it is not hard to see the direction technology is moving towards. With advancements in AI and robotics, it truly is hard to say what kind of jobs and positions will still be available to people in 20-30 years. Previously, decision making, and management positions were considered safe from this movement, that all changed however with Elon Musk’s implementation of OpenAI. It was a powerful AI that was capable of learning to play the popular game Dota 2 and is now capable of playing on par with professional teams. It is not outrageous to suggest that there might be a day where e-sports are played by teams of all AI ‘players’ [7].

Rise of the Gig Economy

Lastly there are some grey areas when it comes to technology’s impact on the economy. Firstly, technological innovations created many fields of self-employed workers also called gig workers. With a large portion of these workers working specifically on digital platforms there are clear pros and cons to this. Firstly, we can argue that technology is benefiting these people by creating the jobs that they are working in the first place as without sites such as eBay, Etsy and Uber, it is hard to say whether if these people could find employment elsewhere. However, many of the people who pursue independent work out of necessity are unsatisfied with their income fluctuation and the lack of any benefits typically associated with traditional employment. Beyond that, workers pursuing independent work also aren’t typically provided with the best training and are rarely given any assistance in terms of career development options [8].

The Impact of IoT on Business

Businesses are affected by IoT in multiple ways. The rise of connective technology has given companies the tools to make distance between customers and themselves irrelevant [9]. Stemming from high-tech information technologies, companies can retain their centralized governance on a global scale through the accurate and fast transmissions of data both internal and external to the company [9]. This has caused IoT to be seen to have a resounding positive impact for all. Although this is generally true, a deeper look reveals several drawbacks and concerns for the future. After all, with any disruptive technology, where many profit, some are crushed, despite the net benefit to society. Although IoT has a massive impact on business, perhaps the most significant aspects of this business revolution are information technologies, e-Commerce and the new monetisation methods companies are now able to employ. This section will thus focus on these three aspects.

Information Technology Impact on Business

IT allows for the strategic, storing, retrieval and exchange of data for businesses [10]. The efficient handling of data has made global communication between parties within and outside the company simple enough that globalization is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace [9]. Specifically, IT contributes to this phenomenon by reducing the importance of physical location; digital communication is easier, faster and more accurate.

The benefits of superior communication and data access normally manifests itself as cost savings. For example, outsourcing is easier because “in-house” IT software can be produced by experts in nations where wages are inferior [9]. If IT systems are sophisticated enough, the quality of work produced will normally be satisfactory because these international IT teams can be properly informed and create a product or service to specifications. Global firms no longer require decentralization to allocate the same department types in multiple nations; rather, a single, centralized department type will be able to achieve their responsibilities in a nation they are not physically located in [9]. For example, marketers in Canada can successfully gather consumer information on several nations, pass the information on to the design team in Germany, who pass the plans on to an outsourced factory in Vietnam without the integrity of transferred information diminishing. The international capability provided by IT also provides firms with the capability to partake in regulatory arbitrage, allowing the company to select which national tax system they wish to be a part of [9]. In summary, IT allows for cost savings by limiting the number of employees needed and allowing firms to choose where they place their resources around the globe.

One of the more interesting capabilities that extensive IT can allow for is the ability for firms to work on long-term projects without pause by having each project team hand off the work they done to another team during periods in which they are unable to operate (their shift ends, for example). IT allows for these teams to successfully communicate information about the project during hand-off so that the new team can proceed efficiently [11]. In 2002, CareGroup Inc., a health care delivery organization, benefited greatly from this; during a network-wide shutdown involving multiple hospitals. When they determined that their IT team was not capable of determining the issue, let alone determine solving it, they contracted CISCO to perform emergency diagnostics and repair. By taking advantage of their global reach and talent pool, CISCO had been able to work on the project without pause, using IT for a team to successfully hand off the project to another team without fault. CareGroup’s CIO stated that through this method, CISCO did in days what CareGroup did in a month [11]).

Negative Impacts of IT

Although IT provides several benefits to the business, it does have a negative impact on the lives of many individuals. IT has, and will continue to heavily cut jobs while also raising the bar in terms of skills needed by employees [9]. Although the skill level for jobs is predicted to see an increase, demand is expected to stagnate as information technology makes it easier for individuals to oversee and manage a department through software, even on a global scale [9].

However, the most affected jobs will be those that can be replaced by “automators”. Similar to that robotic manufacturing covered previously, these “automators” are designed to replace intermediary jobs [12]. Intermediary jobs are those that fill the role of “professional go-betweens”; customer facing jobs that help provide consumers with a product or service. These can include anyone from a cashier, bank teller, or even travel agent. IT is facilitating the downfall of these occupations by making it increasingly viable to replace these individuals with automators, a combination of software and hardware that can do the same job at a cheaper price. Automators can simply be websites that allow customers to book travel plans, to the more sophisticated self-serve cashiers. It is predicted that by 2030, intermediary jobs will effectively be non-existent in 2030 [12].

IT will affect more than just intermediary jobs, however. Although skill level for future jobs is predicted to see an increase (which benefit University students), overall demand for these high-skilled jobs is expected to stagnate [9]. As information technology and automation become more effective, fewer individuals will be required to oversee and manage a department through software, even on a global scale [9].

e-Commerce's Impact on Business

eCommerce and doing business through the use of IoT is on the rise [13]. We have entered an age where people can conveniently shop online for the products they want and have to be delivered to their door that same day. There are multiple benefits to consumer and retailer alike; retailers can leverage their IoT capabilities to reduce inventory and employee costs. As well, they can reduce their capital expenditure using IoT to operate out of fewer locations while reaching a wider range of customers [13].

As more consumers shop online, unoptimized traditional retailers begin to suffer as their cost structure is ineffective to preserve themselves. Known as the retailer apocalypse, the following stores are experiencing large-scale store closures across North America.

1) Sears and Kmart both filed for bankruptcy and closed 142 more stores in 2018[14]
2) Toys R Us closed over 700 stores in America[14]
With e-Commerce taking away their customers, Toys R Us was uanble to pay off their debt
3) Abercrombie and fitch are trimming 60 stores due to customers looking online to buy clothes[14]
4) Foot locker closes 110 stores for the same reason as Abercrombie and Fitch[14]
5) JC Penney with 170 stores in 2017 alone[14]
6) Gap and Banana Republic with 200 stores [14]
And many more [14]

It is not just the US that’s suffering; 2017 was a horrible year of Canadian retailers. This was largely attributed to the retailer apocalypse [15]. The Canada chair of Consumer and Retail at consultancy KPMG cited that “Many Canadian retailers are not keeping pace with the fact that consumers and their shopping habits are undergoing fundamental change,” [15]. There are many reasons for this. From a consumer’s perspective, e-Commerce tends to be cheaper, prices can be compared easier and delivery time becomes progressively shorter, as e Commerce retailers such as Amazon race to erect fulfillment centers [15]. In addition, millennials are now teaching the older generation how to shop online, expanding the market size for digital businesses [15].

Entrance into e-Commerce

Amazon’s logo is universally recognizable
Despite the positives, e-Commerce only makes up only 11.9% of retailer revenue, meaning that traditional retail remains the dominant player [16]. However, the brick and mortar stores’ supremacy are fleeting, with e-Commerce revenues expected to double between 2016 and 2020 [16]. The fast growth of e-Commerce coupled with its small market share means that there is ample opportunity for entrepreneurs and established retailers alike to start realizing profits through e-Commerce [16]. In fact, many popular traditional retailers have joined e-Commerce to take advantage of this global opportunity. Some of the more popular retailers that do so include:
1) Apple[17]
2) Walmart[17]
3) Costco [17]
and many more

However, with several established retailers now taking part in e-Commerece, e-Commerce is becoming increasingly competitive despite it's infancy and force new entrants to offer niche products and services [13]. A further issue is that the best niches are even more competitive so you need to choose to satisfy a market and hope that that market notices you. In this aspect, traditional retail can be superior to eCommerce; a physical store can be placed in a location where a particular niche isn’t satisfied, a common strategy employed by brick and mortar stores in the wake of e-Commerce [15]. All e-Commerce sites instead occupy a single space that is the internet. As well, capital expenditures on e-Commerce site can be low, with Shopify offering yearly virtual rent for $3192 which includes a stable platform and support[13]. As are result, differentiation is complicated and getting a consumer to notice your store in a sea of other e-Commerce stores is difficult.

e-Commerce Scams

From a customer’s perspective, eCommerce is not overtly positive. Although there are many benefits to shopping online, you expose yourself to many risks. These risks normally involve scams of some sort; the purchaser is tricked into buying lower quality products, or never receiving the product they paid for. An example of this is Amazon’s Counterfeit problem. For context, traditionally, one could go to a brick and mortar store and assumptions can be made on the quality of products; one could reasonably expect Walmart to not sell counterfeits, whereas one could expect counterfeits to be sold in a night market. The result of e-Commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay, any malicious seller can go on these sites and sell their fakes [18].

It is more common than many people realize; a report by the Government Accountability Organization bought several “counterfeit risk” products such as Nike shoes, Yeti mugs, UL-certified chargers and makeup from several retailer sites [19]. Not only did they find that nearly half the products bought were counterfeit, but also discovered that many of these counterfeits were dangerous, such as chargers posing an electrocution risk and some makeup containing cyanide [19]. Apple performed a similar study in 2016 by purchasing 100 of their own products and determined that 90% of them were counterfeits, which subsequently led to a lawsuit[20].

Amazon in particular has been accused for purposefully allowing these scams to flourish on their site. Despite several lawsuits against them and official statements condoning the practice of counterfeit sales, Amazon continues to be a hub where counterfeit products are sold[21]. Many believe they allow these counterfeits because they can be sold at a lower price and generate additional profits. Such practises harm the American economy and violates intellectual rites[22]. However, this has not been confirmed as of late 2018, and is speculation.

Non-counterfeit scams are also becoming increasingly popular, with a 58% increase between 2017 and 2018 alone[23]. Many of these scams are purchase based: a customer will “purchase” an item or service and never received the product. Other scams are more dangerous, with criminals able to access the bank accounts of their victims. Luckily, these types of scams seem to be contained to only a single website; 80% of reported non-counterfeit internet scams happened on Carousell, an e-Commerce platform similar to Shopify [24].

Many are dissatisfied with Carousell’s ability to mitigate scams

Impact on Revenue Models

IoT also made services available for free through advertising. Google and YouTube are perhaps the best examples of this, where a significant wealth of information is available free of charge. The advertising model was popularized because it is attractive to consumers and can target markets of all income levels[25]. However, we see as time goes on that the advertising model is not as praised anymore. This is because advertising relies on third parties to implement them who have significant bargaining power and the option to depart from their organizations during economic downturns [26]. The YouTube ad-pocalypse illustrates this; brands pulled their advertising from YouTube due to concerns over what videos they were being showed on[27]. Not only did YouTube lose significant ad revenue, but also has caused several content creators to lose theirs’s as well, sparking a mini protest that put the site in a weak position to negotiate with brands.

Freemium Model

Now many organizations are moving towards the freemium model. The freemium model where a product or service is offered for free, but a more premium version can be purchased[28]. This allows organizations to benefit off both the advertising revenue model and the subscription revenue model; the advertising model allows consumers to try the product liberally, and the subscription model allows the company to have a source of income other than brands. There are a few examples of this, such as YouTube Red and Amazon Prime.

Negative Impact on Gaming

The gaming industry adopts this in a unique way. Freemium in the gaming industry involves releasing a game at no cost while allowing for additional in-game content can be purchased later[29]. Ideally, this is beneficial to both consumers and companies because it allows game developers to profit off consumers of several income levels and allows players to pay what the they feel the game is worth. Such implementation is highly profitable, with entire game development companies centered around this model. However, freemium implementation in the gaming industry has been criticized because games will utilize psychological tricks, such as gambling, to incentivise consumers to spend more than they want[30].. As well, some game developers are accused of specifically targeting children with these methods to encourage them to frivolously spend their parents’ money on trivial in-game cosmetics[31].. In fact, there has been several cases of children spending thousands of dollars on freemium games through credit card theft[32]. As a result, a typical freemium game will generate approximately 90% of their revenue on only 10% of their player base[33]. This mirrors addiction-based industries such as alcohol; like freemium games, alcohol generates a significant portion of revenue off of few users[34].

Higher Education

Technology has always influenced higher education throughout history. The invention of wheels and paved roads allowed ideas, culture, and people to travel across land. Similarly, the invention of boats and navigation tools reduced travelling costs, accelerated trade among civilizations, and propelled ideas to distant lands. Furthermore, parchments and inking tools allowed ideas to be recorded in books while woodblock printing, like Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, expedited the production of books. Consequently, the Age of Enlightenment was born from the vast exchanges of ideas permitted by technology [35].

In the twentieth century, the invention of computers and the Internet yielded digital storage of ideas, virtual communication, and instantaneous calculating power. Today, many educational institutions are implementing technologies, such as wireless connectivity and online course platforms, to assist students’ learning and prepare them for the technology-driven world. Looking forward, emerging technologies are promising to improve productivity and convenience, transmit ideas in real-time, and elevate higher education to the next level.

Benefits and Drawbacks

There are significant benefits arising from today’s emerging technologies [36]. Students will be able to attend classes through virtual reality and the Internet of things while accessing vast learning resources from any location and at any time through big data and cloud storage technologies. The ease of accessibility will be ideal for students who are working part-time jobs. Furthermore, proofreading students’ papers and validating citations can be automated via artificial intelligence and big data technologies. Engineering and medical students can simulate real-life situations through virtual and augmented realities while learning kinesthetically through three-dimensional printing and display technologies [37]. Lastly, the Internet of things can also enhance the convenience of collaboration among students.

However, the emerging technologies have some notable drawbacks. First, they seem to encourage passive learning but not active learning. According to Oregon State University’s online education platform, Ecampus, passive learning is defined as transferred knowledge administered by the instructor while active learning is defined as acquired knowledge facilitated by the student [38]. In other words, students in passive learning classrooms are less engaged in course material than active learning classrooms. A 2015 research conducted on university students in Australia revealed that technology allows for convenient consumption of information and that students use technology to engage “immediate logistical realities of student life.” [39] These include lecture attendance, class scheduling, reserving library materials, and submitting assignments. Second, technology is too expensive and sophisticated to implement in large classrooms, especially for first year undergraduate courses and/or smaller post-secondary institutions. Also, social interaction and relationship building factors are hindered by online collaborations. A study conducted at the University of Toronto Mississauga revealed collaboration among large class sizes using online discussions was ineffective because of delayed postings and lack of interpersonal relationships [40]. Lastly, technology in many forms can distract students. During lectures, students can access social media platforms and watch non-course related videos on laptops and smartphones. This further reduces information obtained in classes.

In the Future

Dr. James Pickering, an associate professor at Leeds School of Medicine, emphasizes that technology is a tool and not a learning style [41]. He continues to argue that there are no scientific evidences that prove learning styles exist. Also, he mentions that there are no empirical evidence supporting digital natives, and Millennial students, who are exposed to all types of technology, are not digitally competent. He dispels the idea that technology must be used in education with an analogy that children in the past were sent up to clean chimneys regularly, but they were not educated using soot and bricks.

Dr. Diane Sieber, a professor in the Engineering College at the University of Colorado predicts that post-secondary institutions will begin to resemble its original roots and that blockchain technology will replace traditional certification of credentials [42]. Like the world’s first educational institution, University of Bologna, she argues that universities will become decentralized, provide Just-in-Time learning, offer flexible curricula, and measure performance using outcomes rather than credits. She points out that universities are incapable of guaranteeing a career alone and that more students are working jobs while attending school than before. Furthermore, smaller educational firms are catering toward these students with affordable tuition costs, flexible scheduling, and personalized learning. To accommodate the growing number of students who are working and studying simultaneously, she insists that blockchain technology can be used. It will enable the storing of credentials from different educational sources on the go and employers will be able to cost-effectively discover potential employees even before they graduate from a university. She maintains that the blockchain technology is a viable solution because of its secure, transparent, and decentralized trust protocol. Lastly, she concludes that universities must prepare to adapt to the changes in technology.

Political Changes due to technology

In recent years, the political landscape has changed drastically both nationally and internationally, and this section will cover the changes that are the most notable and in some cases very alarming.

Digital Identity

In this day and age Politicians need to keep up with the time and create an online presence that the citizens can identify with. The perfect example being Donald Trump, as his utilization of social media (twitter in this case) gave him a massive presence online to reach the public, defend himself, attack opponents, and basically do anything political that requires the support of the people [43]. Naturally, creating messages that are suitable for the correct social media medium becomes important as well.


As companies like kickstarter and gofundme gained massive popularity in recent years, crowdfunding became ever more appealing. An example being the success of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In 2008, Obama’s campaign used Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to spearhead his election, which political experts credited much of Obama’s winning to. In 2012, Obama decided against chasing big donations, but instead focused on encouraging small donations and that generated more than 1 billion in donations[44].

Availability of information

Information has become more available than ever, but it in some sense outgrew the supply of attention. With so much content to scroll through and so little time, politicians need to keep their messages short, concise, and to the point. They also need to put ads where they count. Another influence of the availability of information is that the information never goes away. It is always in the web somewhere. That means being a successful politician now needs more than just public speaking skills and an intelligent mind, but they also need a clean history. An example of this would be the outrage caused by the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as Justice of the Supreme court.[45].

Additionally with the massive growth of popularity in Podcasts and online personas, anyone can become a political pundit without having the credentials or knowledge. As long as they have popularity, they can influence the minds of their viewers and listeners, thus influencing electoral outcomes. Alex Jones would be an example of this type of online persona [46].

Digital security issues

Russia’s meddling of the US election serves as a stark example of this issue. As many individuals go to social media for their news, Attack ads and smear campaigns have become more effective than ever. Although the claims can be debunked if there are no supporting evidence, the vast majority of voters will not bother checking the validity of every fact seen on social media, but merely be influenced by it. Even if they do not believe everything they read, the influence these ads have on a person’s subconscious is undeniable.Another issue with technological advancements is that it enables terrorism on an unimaginable scale, which can cause political instability globally. We hear about hackings of Facebook, Yahoo, various types of personal data leaks happening almost on a weekly basis. Not to mention the use of ransomware such as the Wannycry virus, the question is no longer whether cyber terrorists will target governments, but when will they do it and what type of damage can they cause [47].

Job loss and Automation

As automation picks up speed, more and more jobs will be replaced by robots and this will affect politics dramatically. The article cited a study done by Oxford which states that 50% of jobs in America might be replaced by machines in the future. It is not difficult to imagine how chaotic the future political environment will be, where half of the population is jobless while the other half is enabled by technology and is doing phenomenally well. Many believe this is similar to the industrial revolution as there exists rapid technological advancement, large numbers of displaced of workers, and huge political uncertainty in both now and then [48].

Digital Technology and the Environment

We see that technology is developing at a rapid speed and consumers are following the trend by adopting new devices on a regular basis. Not only that, but technology is being praised for the benefits it is bringing to our world, and many are hopeful about the future of our world led by innovations of new digital technology. However, it is uncommon to see the negative implications of the advancement of technology and how it is impacting our environment.  
First, the production of technology and the innovation process will be discussed, and how those company practices can impact the environment. Then, the maintenance and usage process of technology, the resources needed in order to even run our daily use of technological devices. Finally, I will visualize the implications of economic waste, the aftermath of the products once consumers are done using their devices and are ready to consume an upgraded version.

Production of Digital Technology

First off, the production of technology. In order for us to even have our devices such as smart phones, laptops, and tablets in our hands, they need to run through a production process. First, we must understand what production is and what comprises the process of it.   Production: “the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials, or the process of being so manufactured” [49].  
A production process is composed of “mechanical steps used to create an object, usually repeated to create multiple units of the same item. Generally, involves the use of raw materials, machinery and manpower to create a product” [50].  
Just by looking at this definition, we can see the amount of input of resources and the output of wastes that are required for the production of one single innovation of technology. There is a great deal of Input from raw materials that would also have to come from other production processes. Such as Plastic. Where does plastic come from?  
Plastic is made from natural materials like cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil through a polycondensation process [51]. In other words, once it is processed it takes hundreds of years to decompose and stays as plastic for the duration of the time.  
Machinery is also needed in the mass production of technological devices such as Apple iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones. Meaning that a lot of electricity is required for the production of these globally demanded items. Moreover, the process of producing one device is comprised of several prototypes, which means that companies are continuously producing, producing, producing and putting those mistakes in to the world as waste.

Maintenance and Usage of Digital Technology

Once digital technology is in the hands of consumers, what happens after the technological devices are built and what is required to maintain it? How does the maintenance and usage of our devices impact the environment?

We see a growth and transition in society that moves towards more demand for energy these days.

- A transition from oil driven cars to electric vehicles
- From brick and mortar stores to e-commerce
- More and more smart devices such as smart lights, smart thermometers, smart speakers that are constantly plugged in so that they are readily available for use

Yes, this may be “sustainable” in the sense of limiting the use of other natural resources but is it ultimately saving the planet?  
All digital technologies are run by electricity. “Electricity is a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles either statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current” [52].  
An article by Power Engineering states that “While the amount of final energy – total energy consumption by end users – is expected to decline more than 20 percent through 2050, electricity consumption is projected to rise between 32 percent and 46 percent during the same period” [53].

As of now, the number one ranked country for electricity consumption per year is China almost double of the second ranked country, the United States being 3trillion911billion kilowatt hours. Canada is in seventh with around one-tenth of the consumption rate of the US. But, as of now, much of this global electricity consumption are from developed countries, or huge manufacturing countries [54].  
Just imagine in our daily lives, how many devices are plugged into our walls at home. Smartphones, Ipads, laptops, smart devices such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Google dots, smart lights and security cameras. Many of these devices are simply draining electricity by being plugged into hear orders such as “Hey Alexa, how’s the weather?” Is this really necessary?  
Maybe as of now, we are not seeing the bigger implications and consequences of these practices, but imagine these habits become norms amongst the people of developing countries with greater population such as India or Indonesia. How much more electricity will be needed to continuously use these new devices, and will we be able to supply such a large amount in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way?   Where is it coming from? Especially to those who are joining a company of their own, whether they are start-ups or already existing, it is important to understand the good and bad types of energy that will be contributing towards the use of those companies’ products.  
Since electricity is a secondary energy source, it is generated from the conversion of primary sources of energy [55].  
We have 3 main types of Energy Sources, and generation methods. These types include:

1) Fossil Fuels
2) Nuclear Power
3) Renewable Sources.

Generally, fossil fuels are what causes the “problem” with energy consumption. As of now, most of our energy sources are coming from this form of energy generation because these resources such as coal, natural gas, and oil are the most widely available, affordable, and easiest to access. However, at the same time, they are the most harmful to our environment and can contribute to global warming due to the massive carbon emissions. Furthermore, although they are currently accessible in various places, there is a finite supply and by constantly relying on these energy sources, our world will not sustain [56].  
Nuclear power on the other hand is a powerful alternative that is not as widely used as fossil fuels because they are expensive to initiate, with the building of nuclear plants, and have risk factors associated with it. The risk is due to radiation and potential accidents, and a good example of this is in the case of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident in Japan in 2011 when a tsunami caused a nuclear accident and a huge risk for the environment and the people. Additionally, with the high costs of development, it is not an easy option for developing countries with low budgets to implement in numerous locations. However, disregarding the risk, this form of energy production produces the lowest level of greenhouse gas emissions and can generate an immense amount of power with a single reactor. Relative to fossil fuels, this form of energy production is more sustainable in the long run as it does not continuously rely on unpredictable resources such as oil and gas [57].  
Finally, the safest, most sustainable and desirable types of energy generation is renewable energy. This may include options such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. This is by far the best alternative to any type of energy production. Reason being is that it is stable in terms of access to these sources in comparison to the finite accessibility to alternative options. Furthermore, renewable energy - likewise to nuclear power - leaves minimal carbon footprint meaning that there is little to no damage being done to the environment. By using this source of energy, we are not depleting the supply of natural resources but rather taking advantage of their benefits while they are conserved, building on to the sustainable aspect. Finally, renewable sources are beneficial as they can operate at a low cost and can be done in micro-stations, in comparison to large nuclear power plants. Therefore, even developing nations with low budgets can practice this form of generation without the burden of high costs [58]. By balancing these advantages and disadvantages of the three types of energy, all nations should be considering the use of renewable sources. However, statistics show that only around 11% of the US’ energy consumption and 17% of generation is through renewable sources [59]. In China, the top energy consuming country, 73% of their energy production still remains to be produced by coal [60]. The percentage of renewable energy generation should be going up by a lot more for our world to remain sustainable while continuing to use our daily electricity consumption rate.  
With the constant development of new technological devices, consumers are in endless need of electricity. Yes, automobile companies are doing a great job responding to the negative effects of using oil driven cars, but that does not mean we are completely free from harming the environment. We must take these other factors into consideration as our world advances with new forms of digital technology. As more developing nations with higher population continue to join in on the trends of using digital technology, there must be safer, more affordable, and sustainable options of consuming energy for the maintenance and usage of the devices.

The Aftermath of Digital Technology

Finally, what is the aftermath of our digital devices? Where does technology go when we are done with it?  
How frequently do we throw out our electronics? According to research, “the average person replaces their phone every 18 months, and in the U.S. alone, more than 130 million mobile phones are discarded each year” [61].  
Why? How come we throw out our technology so fast? One primary reason is due to planned obsolescence – “a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time” [62].   Why do companies do it? Because consumers will buy consistently, and the revenue will offset the additional costs of R&D. A clear example of this tactic being used is Apple with their iPhones. Recent news stated that Apple admitted to having purposely slowed down older iPhones so that their new products will be more attractive to users [63]. Whenever new iPhones are released, Apple releases new software that must be updated on new devices.  
This brings us to a new concern. Where do used devices go? They are piling up in developing countries in the form of e-waste. Electronic waste (e-waste): “all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use” [64]. If technology is just thrown out like regular trash, they are usually ending up in landfills with non-biodegradeable materials and heavy metals and toxic materials like cadmium, lead and mercury. Which leaks into the ground overtime contaminating water, plants, animals, and the environment we live in [64].  
Here is a quick video that explains further about what e-waste is and how it affects our environment -  
These days there are many companies and consumers talking about recycling electronics and separating the devices by material for reuse, but unfortunately there is a lot more talk than what is actually being done. This next video presents a research that shows how little companies actually care about where these electronics go -

In these videos, we can see not only an environmental concern, but one that leads to ethical issues. Are developed countries with power like the US being ignorant about the consequences of e-waste by simply dumping them in less powerful developing nations such as Hong Kong or countries in Africa? This is not only risking the lives of the people there, but with no change in any of these practices, our world will no longer be sustained.  


How is all of this related to consumers and businesses?   Aspiring to join the industry of technology and lead the next generation of consumers, we will soon be entering the core causes of these environmental issues. Therefore, I believe it is important for us to:

1. Be aware of these issues. Start by searching and being interested in what is actually being affected by innovation of new technology and constant replacements made by consumers.
2. Be outspoken. Often times these issues continue to arise and only grow worse because no one is willing to speak out about these causes. With a proactive attitude within or outside of your company, others will also grow aware of the issue and work to implement a solution.
3. Research about recycling programs. Finally, there are existing recycling programs that are simply under-supported by companies or consumers. We can further research about these little changes that we as consumers and company representatives can make towards creating a more sustainable and healthier environment while continuing to advance in technology.

Technology's Impact on Personal Lives

This section of the wiki discusses digital technology’s general impact on North Americans’ personal lives, with a focus on: community, communication, and consumption of information and entertainment. The aim of this wiki is not to provide a complete overview of this impact, as review of this literature would be hardly possible. Instead, its purpose is to highlight the social implications of adopting and using such digital technologies. Please click How Social Media and Social Networking Sites Have Impacted People to access the full section.


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