Is the Reformational philosophy of technology still relevant to our age? In this paper, an attempt will be made to situate the reformational philosophy of technology in the 21st century. I will make three relevant observations that pose some challenges, which lead us to some insight for the future.
First, the insight of the reformational philosophy of technology requires some adjustment to be adapted to different historical and local contexts.This demand is growing bigger in many countries where Christianity is as new as modern technology. Korean experience is a good example in the sense that Christianity and modern technology entered the country almost at the same time and grow rapidly together. For many early Christians in Korea, the Western science and technology was considered to be God’s blessing as the Gospel. It was quite difficult to distinguish the cultural mandate emphasized by the reformational tradition from the wholehearted pursuit of technological development.
Second, the contribution of the reformationalphilosophy of technology to the general development in the philosophy of technology needs to be reevaluated. It appears that the recent discourse in the field tend to focus more on the descriptive analysis of technology than on normative questions. Since the so-called empirical turn, which appears to share its rationale with the reformational philosophy of technology,one seldom finds debates on what good or desirable technology is or what direction or principle to follow in its progress. The problem is that this tendency, in anindirect way, promotes the wide-spread view that technology progresseslike the weather changes.It is very common these days to predict or forecast future technologies, as if they are talking about weather. You need to prepare an umbrella if the forecast says it will rain, or sunglasses if sunshine is expected. The notion of stewardship seems to have lost its grip in the public understanding of technology.
Third, the emerging technologies require more rigorous interpretation of the cultural mandate. Big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, bio- and nano-technology, to name a few, seem to have philosophical significance qualitatively different from that of technologies of the Industrial Revolution. If the latter allured us with the comfort and efficiency they provided, the former oblige us to join the seamless net of technological system without leaving any choice, especially when put together with the aforementioned public view on technology. It also challenges the very concept of human nature, freedom, body, and mind in a very literal sense. The challenge of the transhumanism that promotes a new mankind should not be underestimated in this regard. What would be the cultural mandate, if human beings are mandated by technology?
These observations reveals what is required of the reformational philosophy of technology to remain relevant to our era. A direct, specific, and more daring confrontation with individual emerging technologies is necessary. This should include concrete suggestions for human to direct the path of technological progress. Furthermore, the possibility for Christians to say “no” to certain technologies should be recognized as a viable option.
Key Bibliographic Resources
Kores, Peter and Anthonie Meijers (eds.) (2000). Research in Philosophy and Technology Vol.20: The Empirical Turn in Philosophy of Technology.
Mitcham, Carl (2010). “Placing Technology in the Religious-Philosophical Perspective: A Dialogue among Traditions.” Philosophia Reformata 75: 10-35.
Schuurman, Egbert (2003). Faith and Hope in Technology. Trans. by John Vriend. Clements Publishing.
Vries, Marc J. de (2010). “Introducing Van Riessen’s Work in the Philosophy of Technology.” Philosophia Reformata 75: 2-9.
More, Max and Natasha Vita-More (ed.) (2013). The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology and Philosophy of the Human Future. Wiley-Blackwell.
Michiel van Well – The Religious Aspect of Technology Professional Practices and Their Religious Rituals
In Western countries many scientists experience a tension between religion and modernity. This tension is most profound in debates on natural science and religion. However, if we make a little shift and focus on the relations between religion and modern technology, this tension is much less profound or even absent. The religion and technology debate is driven by ethical questions about the consequences of the world-wide application of technology, i.e. threat of freedom, warming up of the planet, pollution of the environment and so on. The prevailing idea is that that technology about functionality and that religious questions about technology play only a minor role.
In this contribution,we investigate the relationship between technology and religion. In an empirical philosophical study we focus in depth on the development of new digital health care technology: the patient portal PAZIO. We have studied the birth of this portal by qualitative methods: archive studies, action research and interviews. Our findings are not only surprising but also counter-intuitive. Generally, it is believed that the development of internet portals is guided by its functionality: to offer tools and information for patients in order to manage their health and illness. However, we found that this portal was driven by values that fully transcends this functionality. Even more, these values have a (pseudo-) religious character: they promise hope and a new life. Our findings even suggest that these (pseudo-) religious values can be described as the sacred of the technology that drives and inspires the technological development (Szerszynski 2004). In Dooyeweerdian terminology: a (post-) modern ground motive is revealed. Additionally, we discovered that procedures and protocols of this type of medical-technological practices are more than mere techniques but that they constitute rituals that give access to the sacred of this practice.
Christian philosophers like Van Riessen, Schuurman and others have contributed strongly to the understanding of technology in relation to values and beliefs. (Verkerk, Van der Stoep, Hoogland, de Vries, 2016) The so-called normative practice model has been developed to understand medical practices and gives room for the religious aspects of technology (Jochemsen &Glas, 1997; Jochemsen, 2006). The original model focusses on the consulting room: the place where the health care professional meets patient.New variants of this model pay more attention to the organizational imbedding of professional practices (Verkerk, 2014). The development of e-health and patient portals give a new drive to the patient – care giver relationships. New ways of delivering care are developed and new rituals are constructed. Building on the empirical material, Christian philosophy and current models for technology developments (Bijker, 1997) we develop a new model for the dynamics between religion and technology development.
Our research shows that in present society, that is driven by technology and economy, religion is an important driver and shaper of technological developments.
Bijker, W., 1997, Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs, Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change, Cambridge Massachusetss: MIT press
Jochemsen, H. &Glas, G., 1997, Responsible medical care (in Dutch), Buijten&Schipperheijn: Amsterdam.
Jochemsen, H., 2006, ‘Normative Practices as an Intermediate between Theoretical Ethics and Morality’, PhilosophiaReformata 71:96–112.
Szerszynski, B. 2004, Nature Technology and the Sacred, Wiley-Blackwell
Verkerk, M.J., Hoogland, J., Stoep, J. van der, Vries, M.J. de, 2016, Philosophy of Technology. An introduction for technology and business students, London: Routledge.
Dr. Christine Boshuijzen – Digital Technologies and the Commodification of the Private Sphere
Technology and society are inextricably interwoven and mutually shape one another. It is our aim to develop a philosophical framework that is inspired by Dooyeweerdian philosophy, in order to address the normative dimension of the current societal transformations that are brought about by modern information and communication technologies. We look at a specific phenomenon that is currently bringing about asocietal change, through technology, namely the ‘sharing economy’. Smartphone applications enable people to connect and allow a growing number of ways of sharing things or services, such as sharing food, underutilized tools, cloths, accommodation and car-use. The companies that develop the software and own the online sharing platforms often take a certain percentage of the transaction costs that are involved in sharing. Regulators have a hard time dealing with these companies, since they operate on the nexus of the private and commercial sphere. The smartphone owners have in some cases found new ways of earning money, such as in the case of Uber and Airbnb. In the case of Uber, which is a smartphone application based platform connecting private drivers with potential riders in a taxi-like manner, the drivers make use of their private cars. In the case of Airbnb, house owners rent out part of their house through the Airbnb online platform.
The paper should be read as an attempt to show the relevance of Dooyeweerdian thinking for gaining a greater understanding of real life socio-technical issues, including its ability to address normative tensions in socio-technical developments.We take Uber as a case in point for a socio-technical development which creates normative tensions. In this paper we develop a methodology that borrows concepts from Dooyeweerdian philosophy, such as multi-aspectuality, structure and direction, enkapsis and normative practices.
Dooyeweerd, 1953, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought by Herman Dooyeweerd (1953
Verkerk, M. J., Hoogland, J., van der Stoep, J., & de Vries, M. J. (2015). Philosophy of technology: An introduction for technology and business students Routledge.
Jochemsen, H., &Hoogland, J. (1997). De normatieve structuur van de medische praktijk. In H. Jochemsen, & G. Glas (Eds.), Verantwoord medisch handelen. proeve van een christelijke medische ethiek (pp. 64-99). Amsterdam: Buijten and Schipperheijn.
Dorenbos, A. (2014). Is the ride right? transportation network companies and taxicabs.Oxera, (August), 1-5.
Botsman, R. (27 May 2015). Defining the sharing economy: What is collaborative Consumption—And what isn’t? Retrieved from http://www.fastcoexist.com/3046119/defining-the-sharing-economy-what-is-collaborative-consumption-and-what-isnt