At present, over 60% of people have access to the internet, 6.5 billion people own a smartphone and more than 2.14 billion made at least one online purchase in 2021. These are just three examples that show how far the development of modern technology has come, and how our way of life has changed.
But, does it empower us as a society, or on the contrary, does it make us more vulnerable? In this article, we investigate the pros and cons of technology.
Technological innovation has boosted human well-being. Indeed, in the last 70 years, technological advantages have given humans the ability to live relatively comfortably within society. Here are some of the most notable advantages.
Democratising access to information is undoubtedly one of the greatest advantages of technology. Today, some 6.3 million searches are conducted per minute on Google, a staggering fact that demonstrates the great thirst for knowledge out there, and which can be satisfied using smartphones that are able to access the internet from anywhere.
Some 49% of students worldwide stated that they had taken an online course in the last 12 months. The ease of access to online learning lets anyone train in anything they like without leaving their home.
Moreover, according to a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 90% of leaders in the education sector say that students are more imaginative and creative thanks to technology, as well as 80% more productive.
That technology has revolutionised the way we communicate is undeniable. A case in point is that, during the Covid-19 lockdowns, in Spain alone, 8 out of every 10 citizens between 18 and 65 years old (79.53%) relied on video calls as a way to stay in touch with friends and family. A clear example of how technology has broken down distance barriers.
Technology turns tedious or complex tasks into interesting and simple ones. What's more, in recent years, automation and artificial intelligence have simplified tasks even further, making our day-to-day life easier. One simple example are robot vacuum cleaners, which are able to independently get on with cleaning our homes.
Another advantage offered by technology is the ease with which we can access all manner of multimedia content designed for entertainment. Today, video and audio streaming makes up 70% of internet traffic, a figure that proves that the internet is one of the main sources of entertainment in the 21st century.
Modern technology boosts productivity as well as the efficiency of human activities, as it allows us to perform tasks in less time. Meanwhile, thanks to the huge amount of information available, better decisions can be made, and human error reduced.
Technology applied to medicine and healthcare has increased our life expectancy. According to data from the United Nations (UN), life expectancy in the 60s was 52.5 years while today, the average is 72. The Covid-19 vaccine is undoubtedly a good example of an advantage of technology, given that, for example, in the United States it prevented 140,000 deaths and 3 million infections, a true milestone for science.
Despite what many people think, technology actually creates more jobs than it destroys. In the so-called fourth industrial revolution and by 2025, technology will have created over 97 million jobs around the world. Additionally, these new jobs will be more fulfilling for humans, as automation takes over the most boring or repetitive work, freeing humans to be more creative and innovative.
There's no doubt that technology offers many advantages. However, its improper use or collateral damage from its production means that there are also some drawbacks to technology.
In recent years, many people have developed problems with technology addiction. The Spanish NGO Protect Them has revealed that 1.5% of citizens are already addicted to new technologies, while 21% of young people are at risk of 'getting hooked' on their mobiles. That's why it's vital to use technology properly, in order to fully enjoy all of its advantages.
The future of humanity seems to be heading towards what many movies have foretold: a society where artificial intelligence (AI) and robots play a major role. Just how far will these new technologies go? Will they be able to think or have feelings? Will they replace human beings? These are some of the ethical dilemmas that we will face in coming decades.
Another disadvantage of technology is that its improper use can lead to dehumanisation and foster social isolation. A joint study by the Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Oviedo confirms that excessive use of mobile phones increases social isolation and psychological maladaptation, and creates social conflict.
Technological development involves collateral damage that directly impacts the environment. Industrialisation has accelerated climate change, deforestation and the excessive consumption of raw materials, among other things. However, the very development of technology can solve this problem by creating solutions that are more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Did you know that, according to a study by IDC research, every day there are some 350,000 malware attacks worldwide? The lack of online security and exposure of sensitive data is another drawback when it comes to technology. Both companies and individuals are exposed to the dangers lurking on the Internet, because even when defensive measures are taken, they can fall victim to theft or data hijacking, causing major economic loss.
As you can see, the pros and cons of technology are very varied, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, given that the development of science and technology has allowed us to evolve as a civilisation.
In a world where technology is evermore present in our daily lives, having technological skills and abilities is vital, as this will allow you to develop a critical and realistic attitude towards the new technologies. As such, lifelong learning is the only way to empower yourself, making proper use and taking advantage of technological advances.
That's why, as part of this aim to boost employability and likewise help people to progress, overcome the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, and grow in an inclusive and sustainable way, Banco Santander is committed to three key concepts: lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling. To support this commitment, it has created the Santander Open Academy website, a unique and pioneering global programme.
Do you want to develop professional skills that will help you access better job opportunities? Discover Santander Open Academy, the training space you need to keep growing.
Join our global platform for learning and professional development and access courses at zero cost, training content in a wide range of formats and scholarships from leading universities and institutions.
If, like us, you believe that we should never stop learning, sign up here and find out what we have for you!