Computer Technology Essays

Is Technology Moving Too Fast?

Published on Monday, June 19, 02000  •  17 years, 8 months ago
Written by Stewart Brand for Time

The newest technologies--computers, genetic engineering and the emerging field of nanotech--differ from the technologies that preceded them in a fundamental way. The telephone, the automobile, television and jet air travel accelerated for a while, transforming society along the way, but then settled into a manageable rate of change. Each was eventually rewarded more for staying the same than for radically transforming itself--a stable, predictable, reliable condition known as "lock-in."

Computers, biotechnology and nanotech don't work that way. They are self-accelerating; that is, the products of their own processes enable them to develop ever more rapidly. New computer chips are immediately put to use developing the next generation of more powerful ones; this is the inexorable acceleration expressed as Moore's law. The same dynamic drives biotech and nanotech--even more so because all these technologies tend to accelerate one another. Computers are rapidly mapping the DNA in the human genome, and now DNA is being explored as a medium for computation. When nanobots are finally perfected, you can be sure that one of the first things they will do is make new and better nanobots.

Technologies with this property of perpetual self-accelerated development--sometimes termed "autocatalysis"--create conditions that are unstable, unpredictable and unreliable. And since these particular autocatalytic technologies drive whole sectors of society, there is a risk that civilization itself may become unstable, unpredictable and unreliable.

Perhaps what civilization needs is a NOT-SO-FAST button. Proponents of technological determinism make a strong case for letting self-accelerating technologies follow their own life cycle. Rapid development in computer technology, they point out, has spun off robotics and the Internet--to the great benefit of industry and human communications. Besides, it isn't so easy for a free society to put the brakes on technology. Even if one country decided to forgo the next technological revolution, another country would gladly take it up.

There are scenarios, however, in which technology may brake itself. In the aging population of the developed world, many people are already tired of trying to keep up with the latest cool new tech. Youth-driven tech acceleration could be interpreted as simple youthful folly--shortsighted, disruptive, faddish. The market for change could dry up, and lock-in might again become the norm. Stress and fatigue make powerful decelerators.

So do religious and cultural factors. Radical new technologies are often seen as moral threats by conservative religious groups or as economic and cultural threats by political groups. Powerful single-issue voting blocs like the antiabortionists could arise. Or terrorists like Theodore Kaczynski.

Change that is too rapid can be deeply divisive; if only an elite can keep up, the rest of us will grow increasingly mystified about how the world works. We can understand natural biology, subtle as it is, because it holds still. But how will we ever be able to understand quantum computing or nanotechnology if its subtlety keeps accelerating away from us?

Constant technological revolution makes planning difficult, and a society that stops planning for the future is likely to become a brittle society. It could experience violent economic swings. It could trip into wars fought with vicious new weapons. Its pervasive new technologies could fail in massive or horrible ways. Or persistent, nagging small failures could sap the whole enterprise.

With so many powerful forces in play, technology could hyperaccelerate to the stars with stunning rapidity, or it could stall completely. My expectation is that it will do both, with various technologies proceeding at various rates. The new technologies may be self-accelerating, but they are not self-determining. They are the result of ever renegotiated agreement with society. Because they are so potent, their paths may undergo wild oscillations, but I think the trend will be toward the dynamic middle: much slower than the optimists expect, much faster than the pessimists think humanity can bear.

First published in Time.

This is one of my model IELTS essays lessons where you can

  • read the essay
  • do a vocabulary exercise
  • get a full lesson on how to write the essay

Read the IELTS computer technology essay

We are becoming increasingly dependent on computer technology. It is used in business, crime detection and even to fly planes. What will it be used for in future? Is this dependence on technology a good thing or should we be suspicious of its benefits?

As we move into the twenty-first century, it is clear to see that we have become more and more dependent on computers and information technology. This technology now reaches into almost every area of our lives and it is easy to predict that this phenomenon is only going to grow. My personal belief is that this presents a variety of dangers.

It is highly likely that in the future there will be comparatively few aspects of our lives that will not be influenced by computer technology. The probability is that it will control more and more forms of communication, transforming fields such as education and business when video-conferencing platforms become more stable. It might even affect romance with more people forming relationships online.

While there may be benefits to this technological revolution, there are also a number of potential dangers. Perhaps the most serious of these would be  that if people rely on computers too much for communication, they could in fact begin to communicate less well. For example, if every member of a family had their own computer screen and smart phone, they might speak less and less often to one another and simply look at a screen. This would be serious because our ability to communicate is an essential part of our humanity.

My conclusion is that the growth of computer technology is inevitable, but that this may not be entirely positive. Just one area in which it is possible to foresee dangers is communication, and if we are going to ensure that computers do not become a negative influence, we need to think carefully how we use them.

Practise using the essay vocabulary

Learn how to write the essay

Thinking about the question

We are becoming increasingly dependent on computer technology. It is used in business, crime detection and even to fly planes. What will it be used for in future? Is this dependence on technology a good thing or should we be suspicious of its benefits?

A double question

The first point to note about the question is that there are in fact 2 questions. This is quite common in IELTS essays and it very, very important that you answer both halves of the question or you will be penalised heavily for Task Response.

The open question

The first question is an open question: “What will it be used for in the future?”. In a way, this is the harder question as you need to think yourself of 2/3 areas in which computers will be used in the future. There are a number of possibilities here, just a few are:

  • education
  • communication
  • transport
  • personal robots

You do not need to be very imaginative. There are no prizes for originality. I’d suggest you pick 2 areas and briefly explain how they might be used in the future, perhaps contrasting what happens now.

The closed question

The second question is a “Yes/No” question. Note that you must directly provide an answer to the question. You should also see that it is quite possible to answer it with a “Slightly” answer by saying that there are equal benefits and dangers to computer technology. The trick to answering this question is to give a reason why for your answer.

Making your answer coherent

I have two suggestions to make the essay coherent. The first is to make sure you explain  your ideas . This means explaininghow the technology will be used in the future, rather than just listing different areas in which it will be used in and also explaining why it may or may not be dangerous.The second idea is to try and link your paragraphs together. One way to do this is to refer to the same ideas about how computer technology when you write about the possible dangers.

Structuring the essay

There are 2 main possible structures for this essay. One is to write a topic paragraph about each question and a separate conclusion. The other is to write 2 topic paragraphs about how computers will be used in the future and then use the conclusion paragraph to answer the second question. If you take this second approach, be sure to write a complete paragraph for your conclusion, or the examiner may think you have not answered the question fully.

Grammar and vocabulary

This question asks you to write about the future. Be sure to try and vary your future language. It is important to use different structures to get a good band score; it is not enough just to avoid mistakes.You also want to try and avoid using the word “computer” all the time and try and find some varied vocab.

Read the essay notes

Here is my sample essay with notes. 

As we move into the twenty-first century, it is clear to see that we have become more and more dependent on computers and information technology. This technology now reaches into almost every area of our lives and it is easy to predict that this phenomenon is only going to grow. My personal belief is that this presents a variety of dangers.

It is highly likely that in the future there will be comparatively few aspects of our lives that will not be influenced by computer technology. The probability is that it will control more and more forms of communication, transforming fields such as education and business when video-conferencing platforms become more stable. It might even affect romance with more people forming relationships online.

While there may be benefits to this technological revolution, there are also a number of potential dangers. Perhaps the most serious of these would be  that if people rely on computers too much for communication, they could in fact begin to communicate less well. For example, if every member of a family had their own computer screen and smart phone, they might speak less and less often to one another and simply look at a screen. This would be serious because our ability to communicate is an essential part of our humanity.

My conclusion is that the growth of computer technology is inevitable, but that this may not be entirely positive. Just one area in which it is possible to foresee dangers is communication, and if we are going to ensure that computers do not become a negative influence, we need to think carefully how we use them.

(273 words)

Varying vocabulary

influence/affect/control are 3 similar words. See how I vary my vocabulary, rather than just repeating the same word.

Being academic

This essay is quite academic in tone. This is because I do not always use “is” and “will”. Rather I choose to lots of modal verbs such as would, might and may.

Matching the introduction and conclusion

The essay is extremely coherent. Part of the way I achieve this is by matching my introduction and conclusion. This is an easy trick to learn and will certainly help your essay writing.

 

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