There has always been a time when society was under some control by technology, from the time that fire, then tools, then agricultural husbandry and textiles were developed. Technology is discovered and enhanced by individuals or tiny groups, then expanded to the larger society, then raised to the level of being a requirement for the lifestyles that society becomes accustomed to.
Even technology that was used to empower spiritual leaders or to grow mythology has become a controlling factor for societies. The person who could use a natural or man made process, attach magical or spiritual connotations to the process, then keep the secrets to him or herself was a very powerful and well protected person who could influence rulers and followers alike.
The secular expert or master of a technology was a powerful person when he or she could control the secrets to a critical or valuable process because they could influence the powerful and control the competition. If a better technology came along, then that person could lose their power and protection, as would all people who served or depended upon that person. The people who control the society become dependent upon the technology available to them, and thus the technology controls the society.
In terms of labor, technology has wiped out whole fields of work, where people spent their entire careers in mastering work processes. In other ways, technology has created whole fields of work that would never exist without the latest innovation or process. The growing volatility of technology, it’s effect on labor and labor markets and its influence on those who are in power creates a need for adaptability and the possibility of fatally flawed decision making.
Technology that had people camping out overnight for a shot at the first generation of a product is now so outdated as to be laughable. The labor behind those products has had to keep adapting to changes in their focus, their work and the demands that are placed upon them in order to innovate ahead of the competition within a constantly compressing set of deadlines.
In terms of communication, society is now increasingly dependant on portable, instant and cost effective ways to send and recieve data, images and voices. From lovers to loved ones to stalkers, it is very easy to be burdened with too much accessibility. Work is no longer confined to the eight hour day. Play and shopping is no longer confined to after work hours. People isolate when they are too interested in the technology. Technology takes down important barriers and separations and technology creates important barriers and separations.
Technology allows for far less secrecy and privacy. In an urban area, there are few ways for a person to go from place to place without being filmed with such resolution that just a picture of their face, a biometrics software and access to the host of surveillance camera databases is all that is needed to find out where they have been and where they most likely are. Cell phone “pings” and GPS records tell tales that no one can conceal or modify to suit themselves. This has enormous legal implications for everything from law enforcement to public safety and civil claims. In totalitarian societies, the individual is hard pressed to find the secrecy and freedom required to mount a resistance to an abusive government.
In medicine and in the biochemical sciences, technology is capable of extending the duration of life to the point where quality of life is also being demanded. Surgeries, chemotherapy, diagnostics and treatments can now be refined in such detail that exponential change and breakthroughs, for good and for bad, can create massive financial problems while they resolve disease processes. Where such technology is possible and plentiful, the society is now being pressured to use the technology, rather than to suffer or die. Some have their deaths accelerated because it is more profitable and possible to transplant their body parts. Society has new ways of disposing of human remains by converting them into diamonds, spreading their ashes or freezing their bodies.
Drugs alone account for hosts of societal controls, from the lifestyle that a patient or addict has to have in order to get and to be under the influence of the drugs, to the prisons that house and punish the repeat offenders who take and sell illegal drugs.
And society has new ways of being killed en masse by man made microbes, toxins and poisons of power that nature was never capable of and never intended. Thanks to technology, society is aware of the possibility of mass extinction and, if that ever happens, will be able to know about the real time progress of the extinction for as long as the broadcast media and Internet are functioning technologies.