Technologies are not neutral

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Lazlo_Woodbine
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Oct 6 2005 16:22
Technologies are not neutral

OK, OK, I know we've done this one quite a lot already -- but take a look at a new analysis from Corporate Watch that's just been published

(http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=2067).

I didn't write it, but it seems like a fairly sensible take on the question -- although I might argue for a bit of a more total critique.

"This 'technological sceptic' approach argues that:

--Technological progress is a flawed concept

--The current direction of technological development, dictated by the existing structures of corporations and states, is wrong

--The balance between costs and benefits to society from a given technology is often neutral or negative

--The vision that there will always be technological solutions to social problems -- themselves often caused by earlier technological developments -- is a dangerous illusion: it is more important to address the political and social causes of"

"Corporations, by controlling research and development, automatically influence which of these technologies are to succeed. The dominance and structure of corporations, along with the search for profit, encourage particular forms of technological development. In order to reduce wages, companies push technologies which replace labour with machinery. A side-effect of this tendency is that technology comes to be identified, in the popular imagination, with machines or goods which do work previously done by humans. Innovations which work in the opposite direction -- such as those elements of organic agriculture which replace chemicals with labour -- fail to be identified as technologies at all and are seen as regressive."

meanoldman
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Oct 6 2005 17:26
Quote:
--Technological progress is a flawed concept

Depends what you mean by that. If progress in this context is seen to be something external to society then it clearly is flawed, technology may become more complex and powerful but actually worsen social conditions. It is though meaningful to speak of technological progress if the term is tied to society - so you could say that technology has progressed if it has changed to be able to meet social demands more effectively.

Quote:
--The current direction of technological development, dictated by the existing structures of corporations and states, is wrong

True, but not an argument against technology being neutral, it is quite possible to see technology as a tool, so even if currently it's development often makes our lives worse it could be used to make our lives better.

Quote:
--The balance between costs and benefits to society from a given technology is often neutral or negative

Again this has no relationship to arguing about the nature of technology itself. I don't think you'll find anyone here disputing that, or even that individual technologies and even entire periods of technological development have been damaging to society. It is my view though that some technologies do help society, and that if socially controlled the general direction of technology could be one that increasing helped us. This is what I understand by technology being neutral (it is a tool - unlike say that state which, being a set of social relationships, promotes certain social relationships and could never not do this). There are clearly further issues related to the specialism required by technology, and indeed anything more complex than a hunter gatherer society, but again my view is that there being a body of people knowing more about a particular field that is the problem, it's the (social) way in which access to and use of that knowledge is controlled.

Quote:
--The vision that there will always be technological solutions to social problems -- themselves often caused by earlier technological developments -- is a dangerous illusion: it is more important to address the political and social causes of"

I hope it's an illusion that I'm not guilty of, I certainly don't percieve that view to an inevitable consequence of technology being neutral.

meanoldman
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Oct 6 2005 17:29

A further thought, "The vision that there will always be technological solutions to social problems" is much more widespread (and indeed inherent) in the view that technology is negative. If technology is negative then reducing it's use will solve social problems, which is precisely a technological solution to social problems.

MalFunction
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Joined: 31-10-03
Oct 7 2005 09:26

greets

used to read radical science journal and its follow-up Science as culture.

sadly it got far to expensive to buy (currently 4 issues sub is £61) and nowhere / no-one around where i live gets it.

be interesting to know if anyone is at an academic institution that has access to the on-line version as they did produce a lot of interesting material.

details of journal here:

http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/09505431.asp

i notice some familiar names among the contributors too.

mal

meanoldman
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Joined: 15-01-04
Oct 7 2005 11:34

Is it available on Athens?

meanoldman
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Oct 7 2005 11:44

I can indeed access it online. Or at least I could if I'd gotten round to getting an Athens password. I'll apply for one and once I've accessed the journal will get in contact with you.

kalabine
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Joined: 27-03-04
Oct 8 2005 10:11

i was wrong to say technology is neutral

it's beneficial 8)

Jason Cortez
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Joined: 14-11-04
Oct 8 2005 15:37

Anyone interested in previous debates

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1199&highlight=technology+neutral

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4331&highlight=technology+neutral

there might be some stuff in various primmo threads but I couldn’t be bothered to trawl through the scorched earth to find out.

Your friendly nieghbourhood confused circle A

Jason Cortez
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Oct 9 2005 21:15

Obvisously everyone took one look at the previous dicussions and ran a mile. tongue