Novak and the Fourth Point of His Triangle Subject


Michael Novak stated that there were three influences on
any society: Political influences, Economic influences, and
Moral\Cultural influences. The political influences consist
of the governmental body of that society and the laws and
regulations set by this governing group. The moral\cultural
influences consist of the "voluntary associations" of a
society: the churches, media, education systems, the people
in this society. The final influence being the economic
influence, which is the rate of employment, GDP, incidence
of poverty, and structure of economic activity. Novak made
this theory into an object, a "triangle" of sorts, with
each influence being a point on this "triangle." Novak goes
on later in his theory to deal with other influences, but
as other dimensions. What Novak appears to have missed in
his theory is another very important influence on society
that influences, and is influenced by the other points of
this "triangle," technology. The Middle Ages did come up
with a few inventions, such as windmills and horseshoes,
but technological process was imperceptible compared with
what is happening now. Very soon, a fiber the diameter of a
human hair will be able to transmit, in less than a second,
the contents of every issue of The Economist magazine that
was ever printed (Economy Survey 4). Since Adam Smith,
economists have recognized that technology is important for
growth, but only in the past two decades have they been
studying this subject in earnest (7). There pioneer was
Joseph Schumpeter, one of the few economists who tried to
explain growth mainly in terms of technological innovation.
In the 1930's, he presented a model that postulated growth
through the interaction of bursts of technological
development and competition between companies (8). His
evidence pointed to history. First, the 1780s to the 1840s,
which brought the steam power and drove the industrial
revolution. Second, the 1850s to 1890! s introducing the
railways. Third, the 1890s to 1930s with electrical power.
The fourth, the 1930s to 1980s with cheap oil and the car.
Now, today it is argued that Schumpeterians' would label
this period of history as being powered by technology in
all areas (9). Then there was "new" growth theory, hatched
in the mid 1980's by the work of Paul Romer, an economists
at Stanford University. His theory attempted to incorporate
technology directly into models of economic growth by
explaining how knowledge in the shape of both technology
and human capital is created and spread through the economy
(8). This essay will attempt to use evidence created by
economic research and show how technology is influencing
and influenced by political, economic, and social/moral
issues; creating a fourth point on Novak's triangle.
Technology throughout history has been a major influence on
governments in many different societies. It has caused
wars, and prevented them too. The invention of the cotton
gin played a major factor in leading to the Civil War.
Because of the cotton gin, production of cotton rose and
the export of cotton from the United States to other
countries rose too. The need for more workers, slaves at
the time, rose too. This influenced the government by
pushing the need for slavery, and look what happened as a
result. Sputnik help lead a governmental race between two
countries to see who could reach the Moon first. The
invention of the A-bomb led to the end of a real war and
the start of a cold one. Just recently, technology has been
a major factor in the fall of several Communist
governments. With the invention of the television and
satellite dishes, as well as the Internet, many people
could have access to media, propaganda, and information not
available in their own society! and learn how their
governments really were not all that great, leading to a
fall for those governments. Just recently, the Chinese
government was influenced by technology and decided that
many Western ideas could cause the same result of
government failure via the Internet. They banned over 100
sites or links on the Internet to prevent this (Chen 1).
The idea of terrorism has been around for many years, but
the idea of cyber-terrorism has not. With the technological
advances in communication lines overseas. Terrorist hackers
could cause more damage on a governmental body's computer
system than could a nuclear missile and at a cheaper price.
This has forced many governments to spend money and create
protection from these types of attacks. Technology has also
been influenced by governments as well. With the railroad
movement in the late 1800s, governmental rules and
regulations helped technology to be used as a catalyst for
competition. Technology, in the form of television and
radio, are both heavily regulated in the United States and
in other countries. Currently, the Supreme Court is making
the decision if cable systems must carry all the local
channels. During the "Great Leap Forward," Mao's government
helped stop technological process by making the Chinese do
nothing but farm or make iron of no value. Government's
also influence technology by imposing restrictions on what
can be invented to better society (or so they say). For
example, if it wasn't for government restrictions on
environmental issues and car technology over the past
decade, the car could be as cheap as $100 and get 100,000
miles per a gallon (tempting, isn't it) because of less
money spent on regulations and more on research. Other !
policies have prevented the continuation of genetic cloning
and other "black" medical projects. Without adequate
funding from a governmental agency, new technologies can
not be invented or even thought up. With the technological
influence and governmental responses to these technologies,
economies can get stronger or weaker. This leads to the
other point on Novak's "triangle," economics. Falling
prices, one of the best measures of the speed of
technological progress, confirms the impression that the
pace of changes has accelerated. The rapid decline in price
also encourages more people to buy more technology,
allowing it to be distributed more widely (Economy Survey
10). Technology has greatly influenced many economic
systems of the world. Japan is a prime example. One of the
many great boosts to its economy after W.W.II, was the
innovation of new technologies that other countries would
like. With these new technologies, Japan has become one of
the strongest economies of the world. A look back at
American history can show that technology was a great
influence on the economy. During the Industrial Revolution,
trains helped pave the way for small business in towns
formed by these railroads, and trade among cities and other
countries increased at a rate of almost 40% a year. With
the help of Henry Ford, the idea of the production line
(which is still cons! idered a technology), helped lead to
production of thousands instead of hundreds of automobiles.
The PC and communication revolution of recent years has
caused almost every company small, and large, to
incorporate the use of computers in order to make these
companies' goals more feasible. One advantage of
technology's influence on economies is that it reduces
communications and transaction costs, helping markets to
work more efficiently (10). Technology also follows Says
Law of supply creating its own demand. VCR's, PC's, contact
lenses, Super Nintendo's, etc., are good examples of
creating markets out of thin air and in turn, helping the
economy. At the same time, rapid technological change is
confusing and rapid forecasts are easily hyped, which can
cause some negatives for the economy too and adversely,
affect technological progress. Technology is greatly
influenced by economics in the form of funding and demand
for new technologies. Imagine what would have happened if
the PC was invented during the Great Depression. There
would not have been any "PC Revolution" during this time
period because of the state of the economy, as no one had
the money to afford to create or buy PCs. The same is true
for many countries today. Africa's economies have never
been that strong and technology has not been much help to
these countries because of the economic situation. Until
recently, India was pretty much the same way. With a
stronger economy, there is now more money being spent on
R&D, resulting in more technological progress for the
future in India. How much money is placed in R&D (Research
and Development) greatly influences how technology will
evolve. The stronger the economy, the more technology that
comes out of this economy. Of course the economy is also
strongly based on the people and their desire for! this
technology, which leads to the final point: moral\cultural
influences on technology. What would life be without TV?
Automobiles? Nintendo? Ask any kid these questions in a
developed country and they would respond very negatively.
Most people know what these technologies are because their
society has been influenced by technology. Imagine what
life would be like without the invention of the boat or
airplane! These are just some of the technological
innovations that have influenced society. American history
can tell many stories of how technology has influenced
society, but most people can just look around and see it's
affects (both positive and negative). Some of the positive
influences of technologies on a society's social/morality
can be seen by the medical advances and healthcare. Some
negative influences are the increase in violence and
illiteracy. Before the TV and Radio, many children read
classic novels and their homework. Now, the overall
education of these children is pathetic. One advantage to
the new technology is the vast amount of informa! tion
available to people that was usually not available. China's
governments actions can show how much these technologies
have influenced its society in a "negative" way for a
Communist government. The best way to see technology
influencing societies is looking at other societies that
are not as developed as the West is. For example, India's
society has just recently been greatly influenced by
technology in the form of cable television and consumer
durables, such as washing and dryer machines. Their society
now has machines that can do the work of what many had to
pay someone else to do or do themselves. The idea of a
machine doing the work of a human scares many societies and
causes a backlash against technology. This leads to the
influence of societies' moral and cultural standards upon
the pursuit of technological growth. Unemployment due to
machines has been the greatest fear of many societies.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, people
have predicted that machines would destroy their jobs and
their lives as well. The book, Frankenstein was the result
of a technology gone astray. The author wrote the story to
keep people from inventing all these new technologies. Karl
Marx himself said that, by investing in machinery, factory
owners would create a vast army of the unemployed. In the
late 1940s, Nobert Weiner, a pioneer of computing, forecast
that this new technology would destroy enough jobs to make
the depression of the 1930s looks like a picnic. With all
the negative publicity of new technologies, many societies
choose not to invest in some technology and without a
demand or the ideas for technology, progress is slowed.
Unemployment is not the only driving force behind the
influence of society on technology. There are many groups
against technological progress. These g! roups help stop a
technology by petition, debating, and by any means
necessary (as did farmers with burning the cotton gins in
1840s). Technology can not progress unless there is someone
that thinks up an idea, but that idea can be stopped very
quickly by a societies' view of that idea. John F. Kennedy
was quoted as saying: "If men have the talent to invent new
machines that put people out of jobs, then they certainly
have the talent to put these people back to work."
(Unemployment 21) Kennedy's speech was based on the idea of
creative destruction: new jobs are created, while others
are rendered obsolete. Societies must learn that to
complain is human; to adjust essential. Either way,
technology is influenced by this point. Michael Novak
stated that there were three influences on any society:
Political influences, Economic influences, and
Moral\Cultural influences. As seen by this essay, there are
many reasons that there should be a fourth point added to
this "triangle." Throughout history, technology has seen to
influence and be influenced by political decisions. These
technologies also have helped build economies and destroy
those that chose not to use technology. Society has also
been greatly influenced by technology in positive and
negative ways, and society has greatly influenced
technology as well. Technology as the fourth point of a
triangle? How about a square or trapezoid? 
Works Cited
Mowery, David C., and Nathan Rosenberg. Technology and the
Pursuit of Economic Growth. New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1989.
McKenzie, Richard B., and Dwight R. Lee. Quicksilver
Capital. New York: The Free Press, 1991.
Rosenberg, Nathan. Inside The Black Box: Technology And
Economics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Chen, Kathy. "China Bans Internet Access To as Many as 100
Web Sites." Wall Street Journal 5 Sept. 1996: 1-2.
"Technology and Unemployment." The Economist 11 Feb. 1995:
"Technology In Finance." The Economist 26 Oct. 1996: 3-22.
"The World Economy." The Economist 28 Sept. 1996: 3-4,
7-10, 19-23, 43-45.

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