+1 (208) 254-6996 [email protected]

Does this mean that technology is neutral, as instrumentalism believes? Not quite: mod- ern societies must all aim at efficiency in those domains where they apply technology, but to claim that they can realize no other significant values besides efficiency is to over- look the obvious differences between them. What is worse, it overlooks the difference between their current miserable state and a better condition we can imagine and for which we can struggle. One must look down on mankind from a very great height indeed


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Does this mean that technology is neutral, as instrumentalism believes? Not quite: mod- ern societies must all aim at efficiency in those domains where they apply technology
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay



not to notice the difference between efficient weapons and efficient medicines, efficient propaganda and efficient education, efficient exploitation and efficient research! This difference is significant socially and ethically and so cannot be discounted as thinkers like Heidegger would claim.

Nevertheless, the substantivist critique of instrumentalism does help us to understand that technologies are not neutral tools. Means and ends are connected. Thus even if some sort of human control of technology is possible, it is not instrumental control. In critical theory technologies are not seen as tools but as frameworks for ways of life. The choices open to us are situated a higher level than the instrumental level. We cannot agree with the instrumentalist that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Supply- ing people with guns creates a social world quite different from world in which people are disarmed. We can choose which world we wish to live in through legislation either making the possession of guns legal or illegal. But this is not the sort of choice the in- strumentalist claims we make when we control technology. This is what you might think of as a meta-choice, a choice at a higher level determining which values are to be embod- ied in the technical framework of our lives. Critical theory of technology opens up the possibility of thinking about such choices and submitting them to more democratic con- trols. We do not have to wait for a god to save us as Heidegger expostulated but can hope to save ourselves through democratic interventions into technology.

You will no doubt want to know more about these democratic interventions. Clearly, it would not make much sense to hold an election between devices or designs for tech- nologies. The public is not sufficiently concerned, involved, and informed to choose good politicians at this time, much less good technologies. So, in what sense can democ- racy be extended to technology under current conditions? Admittedly, this is a problem- atic hope. But not an absurd one. People affected by technological change sometimes protest or innovate in ways that promise greater participation and democratic control in the future. Where it used to be possible to silence all opposition to technical projects by appealing to progress, today communities mobilize to make their wishes known, for ex- ample, in opposition to nuclear power plants in their neighborhood. In a rather different way the computer has involved us in technology so intimately that our activities have begun to shape its development. Consider that email on the Internet was introduced by skilled users and did not originally figure in the plans of the designers at all. Yet today email is the most used function of the Internet and one of the most important contribu- tions of the computer to our lives. I could show you similar examples from medicine, urban affairs, and so on. Each one seems a small matter but perhaps all together they are significant.

Critical theory of technology detects in examples such as these a trend toward greater participation in decisions about design and development. The public sphere appears to be opening slowly to encompass technical issues that were formerly viewed as the exclu- sive preserve of experts. Can this trend continue to the point where citizenship will in- volve the exercise of human control over the technical framework of our lives? We must hope so for the alternative appears to be certain destruction. Of course the problems are not only technological. Democracy is in bad shape today on all fronts, but no one has




come up with a better alternative. If people are able to conceive and pursue their intrin- sic interest in peace and fulfillment through the political process, they will inevitably address the question of technology along with many other questions that hang in sus- pense today. We can only hope this will happen sooner rather than later.


Order your essay today and save 10% with the discount code ESSAYHELP