Different (naive) views on technology

Technology as neutral view: Common idea that technology simply increases capacity, but it does not affect values: you can use a hammer to build a house or hurt people.

Techno-Utopian View: Tech is values positive. Tech gets selected only if it gets selected by the market, thus creating value for people.

Luddite View: Tech messes up religion, our values, ecosystems and is actually net-negative on society

Complex view:

Tech is values affective, it affects values in complex ways, both positive and negative. In designing new tech we need to take into account both the positive and negative externalities, in addition to the main purpose it was created for.

  • tech affects psychology and then affects culture

  • The technology you have at hand changes your perception of the world (ways of looking), and your intention and extends your actuation capacity

    • a camera may orient you to look for beauty
    • a chainsaw to cutting trees
    • a spear to kill things or hit targets
  • We normally design tech for a specific, narrow purpose

    • when designing new tech we need to think about externalities
      • not only physical ones, also psycho-social externalities
      • Instagram, with its focus on images, introduction of filters and emphasis on likes bred narcissism and body dysmorphia across population

Example of the Plow

  • The plow revolutionized agriculture, increasing food production by relying on animal work (ox)
    • Caloric output using the plow increased dramatically
      • Technology becomes obligate - If a tech confers a lot of capacity, it also confer a game-theoretic advantage in a rivalrous context. Any group without that tech gets outcompeted (arms races)
    • Changed value systems around animals
      • having to beat animals forced humans to remove the sacredness from animals (societies used to be animistic before)
    • More surplus - more capacity for wealth inequality
    • Women could not operate plows - contributed to spread of patriarchal society

Article on Consilience Project