Monday, August 30, 2010

TECHNOLOGY - a philosophical view

A Reflection

In our everyday lives most of us use a number of words which we assume have a universal, agreed-upon, and accepted meaning for all people in all contexts.

Often, the more frequently the word is used more we take for granted that our usage is the only possible usage of the term.

One word which belongs in this category is “technology.”

The vast majority of technology as machines, computers and other forms of modern hardware – the province of the scientist, engineer or specialist professional.

We have to transcend this narrow view of technology since every technology starts from a human purpose, from the intention to satisfy some human need or behaviour.

Indeed, technology is the manipulation of nature for human purpose.

Now man is also a part of nature and by manipulating nature man is manipulating himself.

Thus, technology manipulates man and influences, even governs, human behaviour, and in turn societal behaviour.

It is therefore imperative to reconceptualise the concept of technology by viewing it though the philosophical lens in order to understand the “soft” social, cultural, individual, psychological, behavioural and intellectual dimensions of technology in contrast to the “hard” technical dimension.

Language is a “soft” technology, an invented system of communication. Alvin Tofler specifically discussed “political technologies” in his description of “Third Wave” changes in our world environment. Indeed, “soft” technologies take many forms. They include the invention of social institutions – methods of organizing people for the achievement of particular ends.

Arthur Harkins defines “culture” as the metasystem or system of systems of human-invented and hereditarily transmitted technologies, and further emphasizes that human have codified technologies into what anthropologists call culture.

Even more fundamentally, or expansively, technologies are philosophies, ideologies. Ways of thinking, or world-views (Weltanschauungen). The key realization is that technologies are way of structuring and ordering the world.

This philosophical reconceptualisation of technology entails a broader image wherein technologies are viewed not merely as physical or technical apparatuses but as inseparably interconnected with the fabric of social policy, values and desires and are in fact complex constellations of devices, processes, beliefs and mechanisms which are perceived as a system of interrelated innovations comprising a coherent nexus pertaining to the systematic manipulation of nature.

Technologies reconceptualised from the philosophical viewpoint are mutually supportive and harmonically attuned process and philosophies for synergistically aiding the individual or society to reach specific, hopefully preferred, future states; they are instruments for attaining and integrating the proposal future with the perceived present.

Since technology is essentially invented rather than discovered, such a reconceptualisation would help to introduce a premium for creativity and divergent thought into the academic world alongside the traditional emphasis on scholarly research and the quest for truth and would encourage cross-fertilization across disciplinary boundaries.

It may be apt to conclude with a comment by RM Pirsig, who states that: “The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is… not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both”.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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