Trajectories of Technology that Propel us Forward – Reimagining the Future Through Our Past

Generational advancement in technological tools has tremendous impact on society. The use

and consequent advancement of such tools provided us with more control over our environment.

Hence the trajectory of progress of such tools and subsequent inventions became the prime mover

for civilization, what we also call development. Civilization has always advanced with empathy by

investigating different design options for their tools and their socioethic implications that strive to

achieve optimal benefits to society. Technological progress has always brought in fear of new

information affecting society’s general decision making (augmented by the selective theory of

exposure) to adopt a technology especially in the post covid-19 scenario. For example, issues of

how digital technologies can be used to determine one’s mental health status requires frameworks

for integrating ethical analysis into engineering practice in the context of online digital mental

health therapy delivery, also called digital psychiatry. Another challenge is to develop new

products and services in highly agile environments, providing opportunities for those displaced

through automation penetration.

Each generation of technology lays the foundation for the next; for example, the invention of

simple machines in turn enabled building larger engineering structures. Naturally, the role of

technology as the fuel for future societal change and the social implications of technology emerged

as the focus of research which flourished along with other new social movements of the early 20 th

century. Study of the negative impacts that the First Industrial Revolution had on society and the

powerful capabilities enabled by the adoption of data driven decision making was emphasized

since 1950. The full implications of the innovative breakthrough technologies on human life

required several decades to manifest, for example the widespread nuclear energy use became

popular in the 21 st century. Technological innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries along with

contemporary global challenges and their underlying processes are deeply ingrained in


Industrialization has resulted in extraordinary prosperity while forcing large rural populations to

move to urban areas leading to higher levels of migration. The wealth gap between nations has

widened too. According to UNESCO one in every five children, adolescents, and youth is out of

school worldwide. Also, more than 25% of the world is at risk of preventable diseases, due to lack

of clean drinking water. The World Bank’s forecast is that extreme poverty has declined to 8.6%.

We move into the age of 4 th Industrial Revolution with all these statistics, while striving to

distribute the benefits of prosperity. Given the emergence of complex adaptive systems,

convergence occurs at every level, so interdisciplinary approaches to understanding systems are

critical, for example, the earlier generation OSI model for communication networks fail to make

sense of newer capabilities emerging from the cyberphygital convergence enabled by the Internet

of Things and the deep interconnection of computing devices.

Technology trajectories enabled the UN to establish sustainable development goals driven by

innovation, changing the geopolitical landscape. For example, technological innovation influenced

the transformation of the superpower balance, enabling Asian countries to emerge as the global

market. In this multifaceted dynamic environment, nations make distinct choices with direct

societal ramifications like massive investments in artificial intelligence, often reflecting

unbalanced tradeoffs, such as those between enhancing defense capabilities against addressing a

more equitable approach to social development. Stakeholders in academia, business, and

government must have tangible results for the social impact of technology to be prioritized

considering ethical, legal and social implications.

Let us foster a culture of thinking about technology and society that is guided by the economic and

social concerns and incorporates ethics and fairness in decision making, thus co-designing for the

future, transforming society and introducing new forms of governance to influence technological

solutions. The future challenges of technology trajectories are significant but so are the

opportunities for new ways.

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