The 19th and 20th centuries were marked by great scientific and technological developments. These developments encompassed many different fields like transportation, communication, manufacturing, education, trade, health care and others.
The life of people has become quite comfortable with these scientific innovations as various types of machines have begun to perform complex tasks for them.
There was a time when man used to walk long distances to reach other places for trade and other pursuits. The invention of wheel enabled him to make hand-driven and animal driven carts to transport various types of goods to different destinations.
With the invention of petrol and the engines that could be used it as fuel came different types of vehicles. Cars, trucks, buses, bikes and other road transport means started being made. This was perhaps the greatest scientific development. People could go to long distances and in large number.
They started going to other countries. Not only the trade flourished but also there was cultural development because of interaction of people of different heritages, beliefs, traditions-each influencing the other in some way. Man conquered the oceans with the making of ships, vessels, boats. Going to other continents became easier. Also with the help of large ships the countries could transport large quantities of products to other places for purposes of trade. The fishing trawlers enabled people to get sea-food in large quantities, adding to their food security.
The biggest achievement in the field of transportation came in the shape of aeroplanes. The Wright brothers made the first aeroplane and flew on it for a few seconds, but most importantly, they gave the idea of the air transport. The idea was subsequently developed by aeronautical engineers into the making of aeroplanes. Today, air travel is perhaps the most important means of travel for its speed and comfort.
A person can have breakfast in India, lunch in London and dinner in some American or African country-thanks to the speedy air-travel. With the development of trade and increase in population, there was a need to build a transport system that could carry a large number of people and heavy amounts of cargo to different places on a regular basis. The answer came in the form of railways which solved both these problems. Crores of people travel to various destinations in trains across the globe. India’s railway transport system is the biggest in Asia.
The latest technological development in this area is the metro railways. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has made a network of metro services in the capital providing sophisticated, comfortable and quick mode of mass public transport system. Similar services are being started in many other major cities in India.
The invention of computers has been another major development in the history of mankind. Broadly speaking, computers are the machines that convert data into information. But with regular upgradation of computer technology, these machines have started to perform the most complex functions.
They are the storehouses of information, disseminators of data, processors of fed information and display systems of the latest positions relating to the area being searched. Invariably all the fields concerned with service industry-including banking, insurance, booking, education, diagnostics, developing, designing, etc. are working with the help of computers-which not only provide accuracy and speed but also variety and attractiveness.
Whereas the new technologies in diagnosis of various diseases have enabled us to detect deformities at exact places in the body and at an early stage of such happening, the treatment has also become easy and sure though expensive. There was a time when lakhs of people died due to epidemics of plague, smallpox, cholera, etc. But, due to research and new treatment technologies involving prevention through immunisation, these diseases are not allowed to assume epidemic and devastating proportions.
Some of diseases like plague, polio, smallpox, etc. have been eradicated. There are medicines for most dangerous of diseases and conditions. Serious ailments like heart trouble, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, liver damage, etc. are kept under control with the use of medication regularly. Medical check-ups have been very convenient and accurate with the help of new machines.
In the field of communication technology, the innovation of mobile phones has revolutionised the society. People can make a call from anywhere to anywhere exchanging valuable information. This has facilitated trade, strengthened relationships and brought connectivity in the society.
The cellphones can also be used to send messages, listen to music, set alarms, store telephone numbers, addresses, etc. Mass media thrives on technology. The TV programmes which run twenty-four hours a day, three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, bring latest news from all over the world. With serials, films, live telecasts and game shows, the TV has become the biggest source of information and entertainment for us. Its value to students through educational programmes and to people in general for increasing their awareness level is highly significant.
There are certain disadvantages of scientific developments. Scientists have made weapons of mass destruction and other warheads which are used in wars. Humanity has already suffered vast damage and destruction in two Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki when America dropped atom bombs on them in the Second World War-in which thousands of people were killed, several thousands were wounded, property worth several crores of rupees was destroyed.
With the making of such dangerous weapons, today’s wars have become highly dangerous. If there is a third World War only God knows what will happen to the world. The terrorists are using dangerous weapons like mines, explosives, machine guns and rocket launchers to terrorise civil society.
Another fall out of scientific development is the pollution of air and water which has reached alarming levels. The factories, industries and vehicles are giving out tonnes of smoke and effluents which are vitiating the air and water which are our main sources of consumption.
Scientific and technological inventions are for the benefit of mankind. It is for us to use them to bring progress and happiness in society. What we require is judicial use of resources at our proposal, banish war and confrontation and adopt methods of sustainable development. We need to enforce strict discipline to stop unscrupulous and illegal use of technologies.
Stringent laws need to be made against cyber crimes. We also have to ensure that scientific development does not become environmentally destructive. Sustainable practices need to be adopted to protect habitats and natural ecosystems. At international level, the world body-the UNO and other leading nations should assume the responsibility of ensuring that science and technology are not misused.