(Introduction) As the world undergoes rapid urbanization and industrialization, competition between firms is tough. Most would focus on outdoing others and maximize their profits through heavy emphasis on productivity, and the development of new technology to gain a competitive edge. Such an approach would work on the basis of short-term and immediate *financial* benefits, causing firms to often neglect the importance of producing technology that actually contribute to society, and many to say that technology should not be used for financial benefit. However, I feel that it is acceptable for technology to be used for financial benefit, as long as it not used solely for profits and is beneficial to mankind. Such is only unacceptable when it may result in detrimental consequences, such as damages to the environment/society.
(Refute 1) Companies obtain patents as a form of reward for their efforts in research and developing new technology. However, some unscrupulous businessmen may see it as an opportunity to further develop new technology or exploit technology that may harm the environment/society. For instance, Monsanto, an American firm that specialises in agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology, developed the herbicide glyphosphate through biotechnological processes and obtained a patent for it, causing sales to soar. Seeing the profits made, they further developed the “Roundup Ready Crops” and sold it to farmers to earn more money. These crops caused the growth of “superweeds” and threaten to harm the environment. In another example, during the 1984 Bhopal Disaster, Union Carbide India Limited used technology to produce pesticides from Methyl Isocynate in order to cut down on manufacturing costs in order to gain more profits. It resulted in the disaster which not only polluted the air, water and soil but also killed thousands and many others suffered from blindness, organ failures and other bodily malfunctions. These examples have shown how firms have caused harm to the society and environment in their pursuit for more financial profits. Technology, though beneficial as it can help to reduce costs and increase output of goods, brings about detrimental impact if it is exploited by the people who use it and very often, such instances occur when monetary benefits are brought into the picture. Hence, it is unacceptable for technology to be used for financial benefits.
(Supporting 1) However, some technology used for profits actually helps to sustain the environment, hence is acceptable. Toyota’s hybrid models is a good instance where technology, used for profit, helps to conserve the environment. Toyota’s hybrid cars are a substantial source of profits for Toyota Europe; They made a loss between 2008 and 2011, but managed to turn things around by cutting labor while consolidating production of hybrid models such as the Auris and Yaris. Now, in the most recently completed financial year, 2014, Toyota Europe reported earnings that were up 75% from the year before. At the same time, hybrid cars are environmentally friendly. Toyota calculates that as of 2015, its hybrid vehicles have resulted in approximately 58 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance. Hybrid cars have also improved air quality, especially in urban areas, as they generally produce a lot less smog-forming emissions than non-hybrids. In another example, Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., the world’s biggest solar company by value, climbed to $36 billion in market value and has its profits surging by 64% in 2014 following the sale of five power projects in China. Hanergy sold the photovoltaic power plants in China for 1.42 billion yuan ($229 million), at a net gain of about 778 million yuan, according to the statement. Solar energy offers power without pollution. In its basic form, it needs no distribution grid because it comes down from the sky, and is sustainable as the sun’s light would never run out. In such cases, these technologies can be exploited for financial benefit.
(Refute 2) However, when the technology used for profit results in worsening of income inequity, as companies continue to charge higher prices, it no longer becomes acceptable. Communication technologies such as computers and smartphones used widely by people all over the world today are usually produced by a few rich companies which develop and sell them. In pursuing financial benefits, those patent-holders will charge users sky-high prices. As people become more and more reliant on such technology, they have no choice but to accept the high prices. Also, with consumerism on the rise, consumers themselves desire to own these new technologies, and are willing to buy them at higher prices, thus resulting in a widening income gap with the rich companies becoming richer and richer. For instance, Apple reported a net profit of US$18 billion in its first fiscal quarter, a major part of which comes from the sale of its iPhones; they gained 39.9% profit per product.
(Supporting 2) However, I beg to differ. Communication technology developed for profits have also increased consumers’ choices, convenience, and pleasure, hence it is acceptable. In fact, precisely because these technologies generate profits, companies are willing to continue investing in and developing them to produce even better products/products with more functions, which in turn further increases the pleasure they brings to us. Using technology for financial benefit, at least, makes more new technology available for people to enjoy. If Apple did not make profits, we may not be able to continually get new versions of iPhones and iPads anymore. In another example, before China’s economic reform in 1978, all the companies were state-owned. There was absolutely no private ownership, meaning that any money earned by the firms must be given to the government. Managers and workers in the firms got their salaries from the government, regardless of how much profit they had contributed. The result of such “zero-profit margin” was that all the firms were reluctant to innovate or to improve their products, causing China’s high-tech sector to be essentially “stagnant” in those years.
(Supporting 3) Furthermore, some technologies used for financial benefits yielded secondary benefits in other areas. Some technology used for profits actually reduced poverty, hence is acceptable. Poverty usually exists in the form of a vicious cycle that trap the poor inside generation after generation. Many other problems are closed related to poverty, one of them being malnutrition. Today, it is estimated 800 million people around the world are suffering from malnutrition. Technology provides a possible solution to the problem of poverty, even though the primary drive for the companies to develop these technologies is financial benefit. For example, there have been more than 20 “Taobao Villages” emerging in China. The online business platform developed by Alibaba provides the poor villagers with an exit from poverty. Starting by selling handicrafts online and tapping into a lucrative consumer market, the villagers no longer rely on the physically demanding agricultural work which produces meager income for livelihood. Each “Taobao Village” generates 10 million Yuan per year, and people now enjoy remarkably different standard of living from the past. However, the reason why Ma Yun, the owner of Alibaba, developed this online selling technology is for financial benefit; the “rents” that every shop owner pays have made Ma Yun the 2nd richest man in China. Yet, besides capturing profit for the technology owner, Taobao helps to improve rural economies across China. In another example, The Village Phone Programme in rural areas of Bangladesh also helps alleviates poverty. Phones are given to selected ladies in the village, and these “village phone ladies” becomes entrepreneurs as they earn money through providing phone services to other villagers. Such shows how infocomm technology can be designed and developed to become an income-generating activity. At the same time, Grameen telecom, as the phone service operator, also benefits from increased profits through villagers’ calling activities. From this, we can see that while actions taken by private firms are usually driven by profit motives, if their actions could in turn help mitigate societal issues like poverty, it will be considered a win-win situation, which is desirable to the community.