Science and business have always worked together, but they could sometimes present humanity with unexpected challenges. Technology, especially since the Industrial Revolution, has been a part of any growing and progressive economy. It has made our world into what it is today, but it has also presented humanity with problems that we are still trying to resolve today.
Venki Ramakrishnan, the Royal Society’s current president, wrote in an essay for the BBC that people and businesses need to be more concerned and watchful with current technology, as it has effects we may not yet realize. This progress has never been more apparent than in the world of business and industry. Today you can have software that helps manage your team, create a business intelligence software that plans your projects like the ones you find at lpa.com, or even use artificial intelligence to handle clients and queries. But how many of these technologies had hidden dangers or benefits we only realize now? Here are some technologies that surprised us with their consequences.
The Microwave Oven
The microwave oven was an offshoot of humanity’s work with radio waves and microwaves in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1945, while working with microwaves, engineer Percy Spencer discovered that when microwaves came from an active radar, the chocolate in his pocket melted. In 1945, the first microwave oven was patented by Spencer’s company.
But as the decades passed, it appeared that one of the microwave oven’s unsuspecting effects was to alter the eating habits of many families—moving them out of the home into the world of instant processed food and the decline of the family dinner.
Plastic has been with humanity since the 1850s, but it was only in the 1950s when polystyrene and polyethylene were invented to be used in almost everything that was manufactured. It made packaging more durable and made furniture more affordable. But now we see the unintended consequences of using plastics: animals poisoned, the environment polluted, and even people ingesting plastics in their body that might be carcinogenic.
Now people realize the effect plastic has on the environment and wildlife, and so many countries are starting to recycle plastics and reuse them in different ways. But there is still a lot to go, as plastic is everywhere: straws, shopping bags, and even face masks.
The internet was a technology developed by the United States Department of Defense in the 1960s. The main goal was to connect several computers and enable time-sharing. But in the 1990s, Tim Berners Lee programmed the WorldWideWeb, the first browser that connected computers anywhere in the world via satellite. The internet has now become the playing field for anyone in the world. Digital marketing, social media, education, industries, and governments now rely on the internet to communicate with anyone. But it has also created a world where privacy is compromised, and information has become a precious commodity that is often stolen or hacked.
Science and progress have always made giant steps for people to lead better lives, such as medicine and engineering. But we should also check the ethics of what science is giving us, and whether the economic benefits would make the world a truly better place.