Workshop 3A technology

Prof. Dr. Bruce A. Little – The Idea of Progress and Its Consequence for Humanity

This paper argues that idea of Progress as envisioned by Francis Bacon within a Christian worldview was radically re-directed by the Enlightenment’s vision of reality, thus contributing to the dehumanizing of humanity.  Progress has become the byword of western cultures in the last two centuries.  On every hand one hears of progress in this or that area. Moral lines are crossed in the name of Progress. Furthermore, it is within the context of the Enlightenment that the notion of progress has become firmly embedded in the cultural consciousness of the western world. In this context the idea of Progress developed a new social power and cultural orientation leaving western civilization without a transcendent order by which to understand man and to order western civilization. Humanity as explained by naturalistic categories and technological progress became the new hope of man. As the idea of Progress captivated the western mind it developed new organizing principles that redefined social structures and recast cultural the terms for human felicity. Accordingly, human happiness was attached to the development of new technology as technological advances were thought of as moral gains, namely that people would not just be better off — they would be better people. The criteria for progress in technology was the two-fold quantifying notions of efficiency and convenience which epitomized the mantra of the Enlightenment, namely that new is always better. As science developed more and more control over nature and offered man greater convenience and efficiency through technology, the western world more readily accepted the idea of Progress as the new ordering principle of life. In this case, Progress was affirmed by technology and, especially the power of media technology which dramatically changed how humans think about reality and the value of humanity, what they think about the idea of community (human relationships), and  what categories they think with to determine right and wrong, good and bad, essential and trivial.

Without doubt, technology has brought beneficial things to many. However, the failure to understand that when technology developed within a naturalistic worldview under the enchanting idea of Progress the results have been unfavorable in terms  of how it has shaped the vision of the world and humanity—probably unintentionally,  but nonetheless harmful. In fact, this has set the Christian vision of man and the world at odds with much of western culture. Unfortunately however, although many Christians have raised a voice against naturalism and scientism, they continue to think of technology (the handmaid of Progress) as benign with no implications for either ontology or epistemology. Consequently, much that is subversive to Christianity such as the subsequent corrosive ethos of consumerism which is inimical to a Christian view of humanity has slipped into the Christian world. It reduces man to a consumer, subverts Christian values such as commitment and sacrifice, and dehumanizes man by making man only a part of a larger machine.

Bibliography:

David Glasner, “Science and the Idea of Progress” in Modern Age, Winter 2001, 61-70.

Francis Bacon. , Novum Organum and Other Great Pars of The Great Instauration, translated and edited by Peter Urbach and John Gibson (Chicago: Open Court, 1994).

J.B. Bury, The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry into its Origins and Growth (Gloucestershire, UK: Dodo Press, nd).

Hubert L. Dreyfus, On the Internet, second edition (London: Routledge, 2009).

Neil Postman, Technolopy: The Surrender Of Culture Technology (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

Dr. Hercules Salmon Fourie – Fallacies of the Concept ‘Technology’

INTRODUCTION

Biology is the scholarly study of ‘bios’ (i.e. of what is alive) and sociology is the theoretical study of social phenomena.  Does it then follow that ‘technology’ ought to be seen as the scholarly study of technical phenomena?  This consideration has prompted an investigation into the differences between the two terms technology and technical.[1]

The problem here still is that the term ‘technology’ is used in different contexts but in an ‘absolute’ sense[2].

FIRST ARGUMENT

All meaning is revealed by relationships or contexts.

Going one step further we realise that context not only influence meaning but in a certain sense DETERMINE meaning.

Therefore meaning is always IN a context.[3]

THE SECOND ARGUMENT

If contexts determine meaning lets concentrate on contexts in the technical process and then try and derive meaning from each context.

To ease the problem we suspend the term ‘technology’ for the moment and create new ‘terms’ for the different contexts of the technical process.

MODEL OF THE TECHNICAL RELATIONSHIP

By investigating literature on ‘technology’ from Science and Technology studies (STS) and selected philosophers/engineers, the following contexts were identified.

CONTEXTS
  1. Firstly, the term TECHNO-PRACTICE will be used to indicate the technical activity involved in innovation, design, production and maintenance. The term includes the use of tools and other technical equipment to assist in the technical activity of design, production and maintenance.
  2. Secondly, the term TECHNO-SCIENCE will be used to indicate the reality (context) of technical sciences (engineering) where knowledge of the technical process and of relevant scientific principles of mathematics, physics, electronics, and so on, are researched, registered and conveyed.
  3. Thirdly, the term TECHNO-KNOWLEDGE will be used for technical knowhow in techno-practice – for instance the knowledge to maintain, design and produce technical components of artefacts.
  4. Fourthly, the term TECHNO-LITERACY will be used to indicate the human competence needed to operate any technical thing that requires some technical skill, for example a cell phone, ATM, computer, VCR, motorcar and so on.
  5. Lastly, the term ARTEFACT indicates the thing formed and designed by human ingenuity. Not all artefacts can be technical, because that will imply all cultural objects are ‘technical’
CONTEXTUAL FALLACIES

The above model allows a quick distinction of context and could highlight contextual fallacies very easily.

A plough could be a ‘technical’ tool in farming.  Farming is an activity or practice of an economically guided ‘biotic-production’ process where plants and animals are reared for food production.

This is not the same as techno-practice where design, manufacturing and servicing of artefacts are done.  If this difference is disregarded it would be easy to mistakenly equal farming (practice) with techno-practice and even speak of farming technology instead of farming techniques.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ihde, D, (1990): Technology and the Lifeworld: from garden to earth. Indiana University Press: Bloomington.

Strauss, DFM, (2009): Philosophy: Discipline of the Disciplines. Paideia Press: Grand Rapids

Tiles, M and Oberdeck, H, (1995): Living in a Technological culture: Human tools and Human values. Routledge: London and New York.

Footnotes

[1]                      Strauss argues a rationalistic legacy of us when we argue that sociology studies sociological phenomena instead of social phenomena.

[2]                     This could be an example of absolutizing technology, giving it an absolute meaning out of all contexts.

[3]                     This is possibly a simplified argument of Concept and Idea.  No constitutional concept is possible without a regulative idea.

Stephen McGibbon – Trust in communication technology

The literature reports a crisis in trust in society. The last two decades have seen a significant effort to understand the reasons for this, which has necessitated a deep and widespread analysis of the nature of trust itself.

The literature identifies the benefits of trust and the problems caused by its absence, but trust is a difficult concept to pin down,there remains a general conflation of trust with hope, faith, belief, assurance and of being trustworthy with morality, self-interest and ethics.

That said, there is widespread recognition that humans are social beings, and that trust is found to be essential to afunctioning society. “The importance of trust pervades the most diverse situations where cooperation is at one and the same time a vital and a fragile commodity: from marriage to economic development, from buying a second-hand car to international affairs, from the minutiae of social life to the continuation of life on earth.” [Gambetta]

Communications technology continually enables new modes of social interaction and erodes the barrier posed by distance to our forebears, and as this “death of distance” has occurred a corollary has been significant ongoing societal change. As affordable bandwidth increases ambient communication ,a degree of communication that wouldn’t have been possible in even in geographically collocated societies in the past is emerging.

Trust is vital to the flourishing of these new social paradigms. Little philosophical consideration is given however to the nature of trust in technological systems or agents, or to if, and how, it differs from the phenomenon we associate with human society. What is meant when a computer or software agent is said to trust?

Sociologists have struggled to elucidate societal trust, it’s therefore unsurprising that technologists have reduced trust to an engineering design problem. In the absence a sufficiently broad philosophical framework much of the effort to analyse trust flounders and this is leading to confusion and complexity in technology systems.

When you trust an online retailer what exactly are you trusting? The seller’s infrastructure? The security-certificate provider’s processes? Some software “somewhere”? Your credit card provider’s fraud indemnification? Or simply that you’ve not had a problem so far? A clearer philosophical understanding of trust in these scenarios will help designers and users alike.

This paper introduces a theory of trust which is based on Dooyeweerd’s theory of modal aspects.

  • Trust is shown to be multi-aspectual in nature, and significantly, centred not in the pistic aspect as is widely accepted but in the ethical.
  • The diversity of literature can be attributed to a focus on particular modal antecipations or retrocipations, and thus viewed can be seen together to have a new coherence.
  • The restoration and repair of broken or damaged trustis also examined from the perspective of the Creation-Fall-Redemption ground motive.

Seeing trust as fundamentally centred in the ethical sphere rather than the pistic alters its functional locus with the effects of highlighting the Christian nature of trusting as well as bringing the non-Christian literature within a Christian ground-motive and context.