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For this assignment, you will write a 500-word expository essay on the topic of technology, history, and society. Your essay should have a clearly established and sustained viewpoint and purpose. In addition, your writing should be well ordered, logical, and unified, as well as original and insightful. Following are the content requirements of the essay:
Technology, History, and Society
“Every technology thus played out the drama of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
— Edward Wenk, Jr.
In the Unit 2 Assignment, you will further examine how the implementation of different technological innovations during the U.S. Industrial Revolution (1830–1920) positively and negatively affected U.S. society.
Many technological innovations address a perceived problem (say, the labor-intensive process of harvesting cotton), and the corresponding technological innovations are developed to solve the perceived problem. However, in many cases, there are unintended consequences of technological innovation for people and society.
Neil Postman, the noted social critic and author on many books concerning technology and society, argued that the “consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable, and largely irreversible” (Postman, 1998). Thus, when a technology has been embraced by society, that technology alters everything. Many of those changes are unintended consequences of the technological innovation.
An example of the intended and unintended consequences of technological innovation on U.S. society was the invention of the cotton gin. Before the late 1700s, cotton planters were limited in production because of the problems with short-staple cotton (often called green seed cotton). The issue was that the green seeds were difficult to remove. The removal involved a tedious and time-consuming process, which meant little profit for the planter (problem). In 1793, Eli Whitney, with the possible assistance of Catharine Greene, brought forth his famous cotton gin (solution). The gin was a “hand-cranked box-like machine, consisting of wire teeth set in a wooden cylinder that, when rotated, separated cotton fibers from the seed. A second cylinder turned in the opposite direction to sweep the fibers, undamaged, from the wire teeth” (Zainaldin, 2017). This simple invention would have a profound impact on American society. The rapid implementation of Whitney's cotton gin allowed farmers to significantly increase cotton farming throughout the Southern United States. In 1793, the South produced 2 million pounds of cotton. Just 12 years later, that total increased to 60 million pounds a year (Wood, 2009). This greatly benefited both Southern planters and Northern merchants.
Unfortunately, Whitney’s invention also meant a growing attachment to slavery. The new land being opened up required more slaves. Three years before the cotton gin, around 700,000 slaves lived in the Southern states. By the time of the Civil War, that number had increased to almost 4 million (Smith, 1998). The most dramatic increase was in Mississippi, where around 3,500 slaves lived and worked in 1800. By 1860, that number had risen to about 435,000 (Jewett & Allen, 2004).
The economic success generated by the cotton gin had created in the mind of Southern politicians the idea that the South was in an unassailable position because of the world demand for their cotton. South Carolina planter and politician James H. Hammond famously declared to the Senate in 1858 that “Cotton is King.” The Cotton Kingdom, built on the forced toil of African slaves, was born (Wright, 1978).
There are, of course, many other illustrations that demonstrate how technology influenced historical development of the United State
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