Social Impacts of Emerging Technologies

What drives Social Change – Society itself or Technology

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril. ” – World Economic Forum

The last 10 years, starting from 2011, are designated as the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the post-Internet era, the fuel of social transformation is simply Technology Innovation. Technology Innovation leads to changes all across. Often with unintended social consequences. It is no longer a fight between techno-pessimists and techno-optimists. Technological Citizenship is a modern-day virtue. Technology unburdens modern citizens that leads to happiness.

A technological system or application is rarely having only a technical context. It has huge economic, social, political, even cultural, and organizational impacts. 

Innovation Society – Economic Characteristics

The primary economic characteristics that influence the Innovation Society are as follows:

  • Capitalism without Capital 
  • Globalization
  • Liberalization of markets
  • Investment in information and management technologies
  • Investment on Innovation
  • Investment on Competencies
  • Investment in Data gathering for Automation
  • The tendency of Wealth to accumulate.

Innovation Society – Technological Drivers

The technologies that influence the Innovation Society the most are as follows:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • 5G
  • Smart City
  • Blockchain
  • Quantum Computing

Innovation Society – Who is falling through the cracks?

Important questions are whether Technology Innovation is driven by goals towards serving humanity or the market or whether the appropriate distribution of wealth generated through technological progress is actually taking place. Policymakers should set up proper governance around Emerging Technologies to address the following social perils:

  • Income inequality
  • Inequality between generations
  • Inequality of place
  • Inequality of esteem

Ethical Challenges of Emerging Technologies

  • Gender and Technology – For technologies driven by historical data, the unbiased quality of data is a pre-requisite for the fairness of machine intelligence-based decisions.
  • Need to address the concerns of Michael Foucault as conveyed in his book “Power/Knowledge” regarding the relationship between knowledge and power and how technological power creates oppressive imbalances in society.
  • Making sure that the privacy and dignity of mankind are safeguarded while applying emerging technologies. Privacy has a bearing on video/image/photo of the individual, personal data, genome/health data, financial data, cell phone location, biometrics, etc.
  • Sustainability, Environment, and Climate are the key factors for a modern society.

Weaponization of Technology

With the shifts in the global political scenario, there is a potential threat of misuse of emerging technologies against mankind. The arms race, cyber warfare/hacking, the propaganda of disinformation influencing citizens through Social Media, etc are looming large in front of the world societies.

What it means to democratize technology

It is not only the legal rights with democracy as exist in present society. It’s the elimination of the digital divide. Not a society with technology haves and technology have-nots. There should be a legal infrastructure around demands and corrective measures around technological controversies.

Responsibility of technology for the human and environment, not for power and profit. The technology society should stand by human rights and dignity, and support the physical and mental health of humans.

Future of Jobs

In an Information Society or Knowledge economy, the majority of jobs are based on Information Technology or knowledge-based. Efficiency in labor use is the key factor influencing future jobs. Repetitive tasks are getting automated with technologies like Robotic Process Automation, AI/ML, etc. It creates a skewed unpredictable relationship between technology and wages, with probable job losses if retraining of skills is not taken care of.

Mostly the tasks that don’t need cognitive skills along with emotional dexterity are more vulnerable to automation. Depending on the value alignment of the tasks with the strategic value of the organization, the tasks are earmarked for automation. The first step of task automation is to deconstruct the job.  Analyze for optimization with the use of emerging technologies. Use appropriate automation technologies.


In the days to come, technologists should collaborate with the policymakers with an emphasis on the following key factors impacting modern society:

  • Equity in the application of technologies
  • No weaponization of technology
  • Risk analysis of potential technological disasters and failures like Bhopal Gas Leak as happened in India
  • Legal Infrastructure around the use of emerging technologies
  • Robot as a member of the society