Second Philosophy of Technology Essay

I decided to truly challenge myself with this writing assignment and find the most wrong-headed concept it this essay. It was tough competition: I could easily have gone with his personification of machines (that unconscious lumps of metal have “points-of-view” and “function as virtual members of society”), or the closely related confusion he has between people being lazy in their use of technology and the idea that an inanimate lump has somehow “mastered” them. I might have focused on the UTOPIA project, the closed-circuit of which seems the most perfect plan for destroying human advancement ever created. However, I have elected step back a bit and discuss the entire concept of “democratizing”—that is, politicizing—science and technology.

Mr. Winner’s argument in proposing the politicization of science and technology seems rational and straightforward: technology affects everyone, therefore, everyone should have a say in what technologies are created. It seems clear. It seems fair.

Of course, Mr. Winner’s arguments are based in the context of a rather stunning number of logical errors and fallacies. First, there is the aforementioned pathetic fallacy; Mr. Winner assigns human attributes to inanimate objects (“does a computer in the workplace function as a servant, slave, controller, guard, etc.?”) (“They can be seen as ‘forms of life’”). He also commits the fallacy of faulty causation: he believes that technologies change society (“What matters is that a whole new kind of society was created.”). He makes the error of believing that technological innovation can be controlled (“No innovation without representation.”), and the dependant error, the culmination and “purpose” of his essay, that such control would somehow be a means of preserving “human liberty and dignity.”

If a teacher used a computer to grade tests, Mr. Winner would not acknowledge the teachers’ use of technology to free himself of a repetitive task, or his greater responsibility to discuss the test with his students. Instead, Mr. Winner would whine that the computer now ran the classroom, with the teacher subservient. The truth is that technologies don’t change societies; societies change—they always have and always will. If new technologies are present, they will be incorporated into that change; but change is inevitable, regardless of technology. Technological innovation cannot be controlled—even in the most perfect vision of Mr. Winner’s anti-scientific fantasy, somebody somewhere will eventually have a new idea of how to do something. The idea that attempting to prevent people from coming up with new ideas will somehow preserve “human freedom and dignity” is ludicrous once it’s clearly examined; even if it were possible, by nay-saying one technology “democratically,” you are almost certainly passing up later insights which will lead to much better technologies.

There is a fairly obvious connection between all of these essays: not matter how they may couch their language to pretend otherwise, they are all ultimately anti-scientific. Saying that we “must create a new science” really means that science must be abandoned. A philosophically-inclined reader will find that this common anti-science is based in the school of post-modernism, in which “feeling” is given primacy to logic. It doesn’t matter that if Mr. Winner’s “three guiding maxims” were retroactively applied to human history, we would all be living at the mercy of the elements to ripe old age of maybe 40; it feels good for Mr. Winner to imagine that we can “take control” and force the world to conform to our fantasies. It doesn’t matter that sectional sofa cushions are popular because they’re easier to clean beneath; it feels good for Mr. Sclove to imagine that it’s some Western anti-Communist plot (much like eating utensils that only feed one mouth at a time—I shudder to imagine the alternative). It doesn’t matter that phrases like “male machines rather than female fabrics” are the utterest gibberish; it feels good for Ms. Wajcman to imagine that she has enlightened herself to some ages-old conspiracy to control women.

Will Mr. Winner’s essay have any practical influence on my use of technology? Absolutely not. Is there an important call to action to be found? Absolutely—in the entire selection of essays. Post-modern “thought” (and I use those two terms together in the loosest of arrangements) is a cancer which has metastasized throughout academia, the news media and the political sphere. The longer it is allowed to grow, the worse our condition will become. The only antidote is logic, which I will both introduce and encourage it at every opportunity.

Published by Little-Known Blogger

I spent the first years of my life in a trailer park outside of a tiny town in rural Missouri. I grew up to be a long-haired, gun-hating, military-hating, Presbyterian super-liberal. Well, perhaps the “growing up” happened later. While in high school, I was on the cross-country and wrestling teams, and actually won my weight-class in a State powerlifting competition. I went on to attend college on a Bright Flight scholarship, where I promptly became an atheist. I trained for a few years in Shotokan karate and Cheng-system taijiquan before training in my first real martial art, Hwarang-Do, under the late Franklin Fowlkes (later the Founder and Grandmaster of the Five Elements Martial Arts System). I married an older Taiwanese woman my junior year, got divorced in short order, and dropped out of college. After completing my AA in Psychology, I decided I needed a complete change of scenery and joined the U.S. Marine Corps (having early been assured that there was no way that a skinny liberal like me would ever survive Boot Camp). Contrary to what the Hipster Zombies will tell you, this did not “brainwash me into being a Conservative”. Instead, it made me a very unhappy, short-haired liberal, surrounded by guns and the military. However, I spent my whole contract (after schools) on the island of Okinawa, where I was exposed to points of view not dominated by the American liberal media. During this time, I taught ESL classes as a side-job, trained under some of the highest-ranking masters of karate on Okinawa, and discovered the practice of Buddhism. I also spent some time in Korea, where I got to train in hapkido. It was during this period that I came gradually to realize how stupid and evil American liberalism actually is. This was partly due to my Military Police command sending me to Small Arms Instructor school, which gave me more exposure to guns than I could ever have imagined—thus negating my idiotic liberal distaste for them. After the active-duty portion of my Marine Corps contract was over, I worked several jobs, from security contracts to operating a forklift in a warehouse. In 2002, however, when the invasion of Iraq was getting under way, I signed up with the Missouri Army National Guard, and have remained with them since, continuing as a Military Policeman. I am also full-time corrections officer, a member of the Anglican Church, and at one time was an Instructor Candidate in Dekiti-Tirsia Serradas Kali (until my instructor moved away). My hobbies (beyond blogging) include strength training, shooting sports, martial arts, creating digital art, and being a huge science and science-fiction geek.

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