ISSUE-065

The primary goal of technological advancement should be to increase people's efficiency so that they have more leisure time.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


The development of science and technology has clearly increased human efficiency. However, with this increase in human efficiency, is it possible for humans to free themselves from work and thus have more leisure time? Common sense dictates that increased efficiency certainly generates a lot of free time. In practical terms, however, I do not share this optimism.


Technological developments should obviously make people more efficient, whether or not the goal is to generate leisure, because increased efficiency improves the quality of life in a variety of ways. For example, the assembly line has improved the efficiency of production, which has made it possible for automobiles to reach millions of households and facilitate travel; the Internet has greatly improved the efficiency of information transmission, which has made it possible for us to understand the wider world.


Therefore, it is argued that one goal of technological development is, of course, to increase people's leisure time, because leisure time is an important element of people's happiness. For example, the Internet has enabled teachers to teach students online instead of face-to-face, which allows them to serve more students and save time on commuting to get more time at their disposal.


But the real central goal of technological development should be to make people happier, and the length of leisure time is only one factor in happiness, and far from the most important one. Technology is improving people's quality of life in a variety of other ways, and these are important goals that cannot be ignored, such as: solving difficult diseases, enabling people to enjoy a higher quality of material and spiritual life, eliminating poverty and inequality, solving energy problems, and so on. In the future, we are likely to need technology to lead mankind further into space, which is a long-term, but still very important goal.


In addition, even though technology has increased people's efficiency, has this increased efficiency really led to more leisure time? It is true that increased efficiency can ostensibly lead to more leisure, but only if the total amount of work remains the same. Since the amount of work is constant and efficiency increases, the working time decreases and naturally leisure time increases. In a short period of time, when a technology is not widespread, but possessed by an individual company or group, individuals within that group will get a short-term boost in leisure time. However, when a technology is widely available, or when it is owned by a few competing companies, it is difficult for them to enjoy the increased leisure time. Because of the competitive pressures of the marketplace, and because of the increased efficiency of all businesses, people will only maintain or even increase their working hours, with the result that output increases and therefore leisure time does not grow at all.


Moreover, the amount of leisure time is not determined by efficiency at all, but by the culture of a society. For example, countries in the tropics are generally less technologically advanced than large American cities, but their people live at a much lower pace than white-collar workers in large American cities, because the two populations live in two very different cultures, and there is no correlation between them and efficiency.

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