Social Science

Assignment 08

SO245 Social Impact of Technology


Relying solely on the material in your course, use your own words in order to write a short comparison and contrast essay that defines and explains three distinct perspectives on the evolution of technology. As you write, imagine you are talking to a friend who has no knowledge of this topic. In short, write the way you speak, using a conversational tone. Also, try to alternate short sentences and longer sentences to make your writing more readable.

Before, during, or after you’ve completed your essay, be sure to create a title and cite yourself as the author. For example:

A Comparison of Three Perspectives on the Evolution of Technology

Heather Jones

Your essay should have 5 paragraphs. Paragraph 1 is your lead paragraph. It will contain an overview of what you have to say in comparing and contrasting the perspectives of Gerhard Lenski, Leslie White, and Alvin Toffler with respect to the evolution of technology.

Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4, are your body paragraphs. In your essay, paragraph 2 should describe the perspective of Gerhard Lenski.

In paragraph 3, you’ll write about the perspective of Leslie White.

In paragraph 4, you’ll describe and discuss the perspective of Alvin Toffler.

Paragraph 5 is your summary and conclusion paragraph. Here, you will compare the three perspectives to show how they are, or may be, similar. You’ll contrast the three perspectives to describe how they are different. You will end this process – and your essay – by expressing your view as to which theorist or theorists offer the most useful insights into the evolution of technology.

Approaches to Measuring Technological Progress

Sociologists, anthropologists, and other scholars and intellectuals have developed distinct approaches to understanding the nature of technological progress. We’ll discuss four important theorists in this section of the lesson. They represent four perspectives on the relationships between technological development and our social world.

Gerhard Lenski

Sociologist Gerhard Lenski maintained that technological progress has been the driving force in the evolution of human civilization. In effect, civilization and technological progress go hand in hand. In this regard, the key to human progress is information. In particular, the more we know about how to harness and utilize the resources of the natural world, the greater our ability to advance the interests of human societies. He recognized four stages of communication.

· Stage 1 is the passing on of genes from generation to generation. You might call this biological communication.

· Stage 2 is sentience. As we develop our abilities to understand and become aware of the world around us, our adaptation to Earth’s environments is facilitated. We are able to share our experience.

· In Stage 3, we become capable of logic. Now we can serve collective goals based on observation and fact-based analysis. For example, if dark clouds gather on the horizon, we can normally assume that rain can be expected.

· In Stage 4, humans master language, writing, and the capacity for creating symbols. At this stage we have the foundation of civilization.

Lenski also proposed four levels of technological development.

· At the hunter-gathering level, existence is a hand-to-mouth effort to reduce food insecurity.

· At the next level, part of the food supply comes from what amounts to horticulture.

· At the next level, we have organized agriculture. Food surpluses allow for the rise of complex social orders, including social class inequality and a complex division of labor that lends itself to technological advances in arts, crafts, architecture, and civil engineering.

· With the industrial revolution, the food-based economies are replaced by a new kind of social class inequality and revolutionary advances in the means of production.

Reference: Elwell, F. W. (2013). Lenski’s Evolutionary Theory. Retrieved from

Leslie White

Anthropologist Leslie Alvin White focused on the harnessing and control of energy. For White, controlling energy is the primary purpose and function of any culture. White differentiated five stages of human development.

· Stage 1: Human muscle power is the source of energy.

· Stage 2: Humans harness the energy provided by domesticated animals. Humans raise and herd livestock for food energy while using some animals, especially the horse, to provide transport and mounts for warriors and hunters..

· Stage 3: The agricultural revolution provides surplus food energy to extend the value of Stage 2.

· Stage 4: Especially as expressed in the Industrial Revolution, humans harness the power of natural resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.

· Stage 5: Nuclear energy is harnessed. (White was perhaps a bit too optimistic about nuclear energy, given its dangerous drawbacks.)

White developed a formula that remains useful in our day: P = E*T. Here “E” is a measure of energy consumed and “T” is the measure of efficiency respecting technical factors utilizing that energy. “P” is what we get when calculate “E*T.” For example, in comparing early steam engines with steam-powered turbines, the efficiency of the latter will increase the value “P.” In White’s words, “culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased . . . or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased.”

Reference: White, L. A., Energy and the Evolution of Culture. American Anthropologist, Vol 45, July-September, 1943, No. 3, Part 1. Retrieved from:

Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler is a journalist, social critic, and futurist. While various intellectuals are associated with ideas and prognostications about what we have come to think of as the postindustrial era, Toffler stands out. That’s because what he had to say reached a large audience. Here’s a quote that gives you a good sense of Toffler’s view of our current era. (The quote can be found at

To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots– religion, nation, community, family, or profession–are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.

Toffler is best known for the concept of future shock. He defined future shock as one’s personal perception that there is “too much change in too short a period of time.” Toffler provided compelling arguments to the effect that human societies are undergoing mind-boggling social and technological structural change. We are living in an era of unprecedented revolution as industrial society is morphing into what he calls a “super-industrial” society. And, in Toffler’s view, the acceleration of change is overwhelming for many, if not most of us. Millions of us are feeling disconnected, living a life characterized by “shattering stress and disorientation.” We are “future shocked.” We are all but drowning in what he called information overload. (He invented that term.) In Toffler’s view, future shock is responsible for most of our current social problems.

Toffler identified three stages in the development of society: agrarian, industrial, and postindustrial. Stage 1 got underway in the Neolithic period (New Stone Age) when humans invented agriculture. He associated the advent of the agricultural revolution with an advance from “barbarity” to “civilization.” Stage 2 began in England with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. During that period, Toffler pointed to the inventions of machine tools and the steam engine. Stage 3 began in the second half of the 20th century with the inventions of automated manufacturing, robotics, and the computer. Stage 3 is also associated with the exponential growth of the service sector. As a result, the need for brain work has increased as the need for manual labor (such as factory work) has decreased.


Your document’s margins should be 1 inch, top, bottom, left, and right. That’s the default option if you use MS Word.

All your copy should be flush left.

For purposes of evaluating your essay, skip a line between each paragraph.

Make sure you use a standard indent for the first sentence of each of your paragraphs. Pressing the tab key one time is a simple way to do that.

It’s permissible to use direct quotes from the lesson. But don’t overdo it. One to three such quotes should be your limit. In any case, be sure to bracket a direct quote with quotation marks. For example: According to Marlowe, “White and Lenski are on the same page.”

Begin by writing a first draft. Then, remembering that writing is rewriting, try and try again to make your prose readable. After you think you’ve composed a final draft, go over your essay again to locate and correct grammar and spelling errors.

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