- 1 Relationship with society
- 2 Private source
- 3 Side effects
- 4 Control
- 5 Technology and philosophy
Relationship with society
The relationship between society and technology is quite complex, creating what many characterize as a co-dependence upon the other; society creates and depends upon technology to meet its needs and desires, and technology's very existence arises due to society's needs and desires. However, this "symbiosis" goes further than that: Every advancement in technology influences and eventually changes society. So the needs of society change, creating more needs, and, eventually, creating more technology. (McGinn 1991)
Consider the telephone, and its latest sibling the mobile phone. With the invention of the telephone, society began to depend on quicker ways of communication with others. Higher expectations for quicker communications were initially met using short-range radio systems for use in emergency vehicles. However, even higher portability was realized with miniaturization of components. This demand for a new product led to the invention of the mobile phone. The influence of portability is so pervasive now anyone can be accessible to talk in most urban places in the U.S.
Technology has frequently been driven by the military, with most modern applications being developed for the military before being taken up for civilian use. However, this trend has recently seen a reversal, with the industry often taking the lead in developing technology which is then adopted by the military.
Some government agencies are dedicated specifically to research, such as the American's National Science Foundation, the United Kingdom scientific research institutes, the American's Small Business Innovative Research effort. And many government agencies dedicate a major portion of their budget to research and development.
Research and development is one of the biggest investments made by corporations toward new and innovative technology.
There are two types of effects from the use of technology, main effects and side effects. Main effects are those intended by the technology, usually to fulfill some desire or need. Side effects are (usually) unintended, and often unknown prior to technology's implementation. This portion of the article deals with those side effects.
The most subtle side effects from technological uses are sociological in nature. Subtle because those side effects can go unnoticed without careful observation and contemplation of individual, institutional, and group behaviors.
The implementation of technology influence the values of society by changing expectations and realities. There are (at least) three major values that are the result of technological innovations:
- Mechanistic World View. (McGinn)
- Efficiency. (McGinn)
In many ways, technology simplifies life.
- The rise of leisure
- more informed
In other ways, technology complicates life.
- too much information
- New forms of danger
- Globalization of values
- Embeddedness of values
- Use of natural resources
- Debates over economics
In one line of thought, technology develops autonomously, in other words technology seems to feed on itself, moving forward with a force irresistible by humans. To these individuals, technology is "inherently dynamic and self-augmenting." (McGinn, p. 73)
Jacques Ellul is one proponent of the irresistibleness of technology to humans. He espouses the idea that humanity cannot resist the temptation of expanding our knowledge and our technological abilities. He, however, does not believe that these seeming autonomy of technology is inherent. But the perceived autonomy is due to the fact that humans do not adequately consider the responsibility that are inherent to technological processes.
Another proponent of these ideas is Langdon Winner who believes that technological evolution is essentially beyond the control of individuals or society.
Generally, Technicism is an overreliance or overconfidence in technology as a benefactor of society.
Taken to extreme, some argue that technicism is the belief that humanity will ultimately be able to control the entirety of existence using technology. In other words, human beings will eventually be able to master all problems, supply all wants and needs, possibly even control the future. (For a more complete treatment of the topic see the work of Egbert Schuurman, for example at .) Some, such as Monsma, et al., connect these ideas to the abdication of God as a higher moral authority.
More commonly, technicism is a criticism of the commonly held belief that newer, more recently-developed technology is "better." For example  , more recently-developed computers are faster than older computers, and more recently-developed cars have greater gas efficiency and more features than older cars. Since current technologies are generally accepted as good, future technological developments are not considered circumspectly, resulting in what seems to be a blind acceptance of technological developments.
Optimism, pessimism, and appropriate technology
On the somewhat pessimistic side, are certain philosophers like Herbert Marcuse, Jacques Ellul, and John Zerzan, who believe that technological societies are inherently flawed a priori. They suggest that the result of such a society is to become evermore technological at the cost of freedom and psychological health (and probably physical health in general as pollution from technological products is dispersed).
Perhaps the most poignant criticisms of technology are found in what are now considered to be literary classics, for example Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.