The idea that technology changes society is false: society creates a technology when there are already changes in it

The idea that technology changes society is false: society creates a technology when there are already changes in it

We could call a "technological fallacy" the false, or at least simplistic, claim that new technologies change society. In reality, just the opposite happens: society develops technology to cope with the changes taking place in it .

Here are some glaring examples of this counterintuitive statement, which again makes us realize that correlation does not imply causality.

Correlation does not imply causality

In his book Paper , the author Mark Kurlansky gives dozens of examples of technologies that were born by circumstances. In other words, the technologies do not create the circumstances. If anything, they precipitate them. A paradigmatic example of this took place in 250 BC. C., in China, when Meng Tian invented a brush made with camel hair:

His invention did not inspire the Chinese people to start writing and painting or to develop calligraphy. It was rather the other way around: Chinese society had already established a writing system and had the ambition to create more written documents and to develop its calligraphy. His previous tool (a stick dipped in ink) could not meet this growing demand.

Technology, then, is a mere intermediary. Society changes, and this change creates new needs. This is the reason why technology arises. As a result, Luddites were wrong to smash mechanical looms, just as taxi drivers were wrong to boycott Uber: the only way to stop a new technology is to change society .

That is why the printing press did not really cause the Protestant Reformation either: it was the ideas and the will to spread them that led to the invention of the printing press. Not even Gutenberg invented it. Not even Edison invented the light bulb. Most inventions have many authors and are produced, with little lag time, in many countries and continents. Because new technologies, new ideas, are inevitable under the right circumstances .

New discoveries, new inventions, even social movements that seem to introduce new ideas into society, take place because society reaches a point that it needs them. That is why the stories of the suffragettes or Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the end of the bus are actually fables that simplify reality and, moreover, confuse cause and effect, as you can abound in the following video: