A study of the implications of information technology for society and its individuals. What is this course about? Historical perspectives, social context of computing, legal and ethical problems, economic issues, and philosophical frameworks for analysis will be covered.
Thinking about Technology Specific Topics include: Historical Context of Computerization Privacy and Surveillance Community Intellectual Property Free Speech Identity and Virtuality Work and Economics
Classic/ACM Approach to This Type of Course: Learn two evaluative ethical approaches (consequentialist vs universalist) Use these ethical approaches to evaluate and judge various high-tech issues. While important, it is a limited approach I prefer a more historical/contextualization approach
Thinking About Technology An Introduction to Some of the Themes in This Course
technologia Greek art, skill, craft, method systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique techne logikos reasoning, thinking tec Proto-Indo-Euro To make
Some claim that the first appearance of the word technology in its modern meaning was in Dr. Jacob Bigelow’s 1829 book The Elements of Technology .
Today, the word technology can refer to: 1. Things 2. Techniques 3. Abstract Knowledge
4. Technology as a System Technological system is complex of hardware, knowledge, inventors, operators, consumers, corporations, laws, and others involved in a technology. Thinking critically about technology thus requires knowledge of the system as a whole, how it was created (history), and how the parts interact.
The Ancient Greeks on Technology Some see myths as an expression of a pre-scientific understanding of human societies and the world they exist within. Others have claimed that in fact myths can provide a privileged insight into the origins and development of key human issues and concerns.
Oedipus and the Sphinx Thebes is suffering from a menace of nature: the Sphinx what walks on four feet, and two feet, and three feet and has only one voice; when it walks on most feet, it is weakest?
Humans The third foot is techne , our ability to craft and use technology. In the myth, it is this third foot, humanity’s technological know-how, that is at the root of Oedipus’s success and failure.
This third foot can also be a sword Just prior to Oedipus's confrontation with the Sphinx, Oedipus slays a stranger—his father—at a crossroad with his sword. Oedipus thus personifies the ambiguity of the human creature, an ambiguity that lies in his third foot, his ability to use his craft-knowledge for both good and evil at the same time.
This is a tragic vision: Technology is both a blessing and a curse, and these two natures are indivisible. If we want the blessings, then we have to live with the drawbacks. But this wasn’t the only way that the ancient Greeks viewed technology.
http://www.mwcag.org.au/orange/labyrinth/Theseus_Minotaur_Mosaic.jpg Theseus and the Minotaur’s Labyrinth The Labyrinth of King Minos of Crete at Knossos was considered the technological marvel of the ancient world.
Yet at the heart of this technological marvel is a true menace: the minotaur. One can journey into the labyrinth, but slaying the monster concealed in the technology is more difficult … … as is escaping from the technology
Theseus escaped via the forethought and reason of Ariadne’s thread. A way out of the confusing labyrinth that is technological change is possible via rational appraisal and by maintaining a link to the past. This course is an attempt at maintaining a thread of Ariadne …
Prometheus Gift of Fire to Humanity His punishment: Having his liver eaten every day Humanity’s punishment: ?
Pandora’s Box Which contains “ toil, pain, and hope”
Plato in his dialogue Protagoras: Prometheus steals fire as well as “wisdom in the crafts” “ Although man, acquired in this way wisdom of daily life, civic wisdom he had not, since this was still in the possession of Zeus”
Thus according to Plato, Prometheus (and humanity at large) suffer because Prometheus stole only part of what we need to live good lives: Prometheus stole fire (technology), but did not acquire civic wisdom. That is, having technological mastery without grounding it properly in a just political order is a recipe for suffering.
Plato argued that the tragedy of technology can be almost totally avoided by first and foremost thinking about technology in the context of its surrounding society and its political order. This course is all about this practice …
http://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.com/pictures/echo-narcissus-1903/ Narcissus and Echo … as interpreted by Marshall McLuhan
Technologies are extensions or expansions of ourselves “ Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves.” “ To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it.” “ It is this continuous embrace of our own technology … that puts us in the Narcissus role of … numbness in relation to these images [extensions] of ourselves.”
Within the Narcissus trance, we are too numb to recognize that “Man in the normal use of technology … is perpetually modified by it.” As such, we tend to be completely unconscious of the real effects of technology on the individual and on society and simply embrace each new technology uncritically. “ Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms.”
For McLuhan, the best way to avoid this Narcissus trance in the face of technological change “is simply in knowing that the spell can occur immediately upon contact.” That is also part of what we will try to be doing in this course: understand both the obvious and also the sometimes subliminal and subtle consequences of our technological infrastructure.