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Technology and Philosophy: Has technology improved our lives?

  • Jan 25, 2014 · 3:00 PM

I'm trying to find a specific topic to continue from the previous general one, and finally I found it, here is the topic - Technology.

Many of us are dependent on technology, and it is intertwined with our lives. 

But has it really improved our lives?

What does it mean to say, 'improved by technology'?

What kinds of technology?

What is technology?

The main question in this discussion is this: What is the value of technology and has it improved our lives in the current age?

Please see the below post for details of the format of the discussion.

The goal of this discussion is to hear differing viewpoints regarding the above questions, and to try to answer them. What is your take on it? What are your perspectives and opinions? Do you agree, why not?  

This is a challenging but rewarding topic to think of, for our lives are influenced by technology so much that we cannot think ourselves as separate from it. Do come and discuss with everyone else! 

Join or login to comment.

  • Alo

    Hi, I've put a reading in the 'Files' section on Technology, do have a look.

    February 3, 2014

  • DLJ

    Enjoyable. Thanks

    January 28, 2014

  • Alo

    ...cont'd from below

    A stronger point would be this: when one speaks of neutral, that is a value judgement itself. Whether good, bad or neutral, a referent has to be made by us. The qualities we hold are still judged. The skeptical challenge therefore fails because it has made a value judgement conclusion about technology by denying value judgements are possible for technology, which is circular.

    However, it does point to a larger problem about how we were talking about technology.

    The difference could easily have been resolved by demarcating between the 'Hardware' or Materiality of technology, and the uses and ends of technology. If we talk about the former, then neutrality makes sense. If we talk about the latter, there is no such thing is neutrality.

    January 26, 2014

    • Dustin S.

      It's true that when talking about the usage of technology, then it isn't possible to separate technology from social activity. But then the same question of who decides if it's good or bad comes in.

      Taking the example of war tech, we could potentially kill our enemies while minimising the danger to our own troops and civilian life by concentrating attacks on enemy bases rather than gun fights on the streets. Some may argue that's a good thing, whereas others will insist war is inherently a bad thing. Same usage, polar viewpoints.

      January 26, 2014

    • Alo

      Dustin I get what you mean, certainly if value judgements enter, then there must be some way to decide how it is good or bad. There is definitely the question of who often gets to make such decisions, then there is the separate question of why or how it is good or bad. Good point.

      January 26, 2014

  • Alo

    I would like to address the issue of value in technology which has bugged me. I realize that during the discussion, there isn't any fundamental disagreement between the value-neutral and not value-neutral camp.

    First, although definitions are to some extent arbitrary, they matter a lot for discussion. The camp that was neutral was referring to technology as material things in itself, as if it were standalone. It is claimed that all value judgements are inherently human.

    The not value neutral camp, which is what I support, says that technology cannot fundamentally be divorced from political and economic systems. Therefore, technology is social as much as it is material.

    Now the neutral camp threw this challenge: technology could be good in the past but bad now, therefore values are not in technology but in human beings. I would like to address this skeptical challenge.

    January 26, 2014

    • Alo

      First, by proving that values change over time do not prove that technology is neutral. The proposition do not entail the conclusion. Here is the problem, as laid out:

      1. Technology is good in the past but bad now.
      2. Technology X is the same.
      Conclusion 1. Therefore, human qualities are bad or good, not technology.
      Conclusion 2. Therefore, technology is neutral.

      The first conclusion doesn't follow from the propositions. This is because I cannot simply conclude about human qualities simply by saying what is not in technology. Likewise I can't conclude that anything is neutral simply because it has changed over time. Values may have change over time, but it remains there nevertheless.

      January 26, 2014

  • Dustin S.

    Apparently there's a character limit of 1000 for posts, so I'll have to split my summary into 3 parts.

    I believe the definition everyone settled with was something to the degree of "The application of science to achieve a desired effect".

    The overall consensus seems to be that all "technology" is generally at least "beneficial" for a certain party because by definition, all technology tends to be designed with a purpose in mind. Aloysius pointed out that while certain technologies may be seemingly beneficial for people in developed nations, the people mining for the resources may have a different perspective.

    January 25, 2014

    • Dustin S.

      Off the top of my head some of my key takeaways:

      1. How beneficial a "technology" is depends on perspective, moral code and usage. A few examples pointed out during the discussion:
      a) "Medieval torture devices are just terrible!"
      "I'm pretty sure the Catholic Church would disagree..."
      b) Many consider it a no-brainer that nuclear warheads are terrible, but if it acts as a deterrent to war, is it actually so bad?

      2. There is no way to predict the relevance or usage of any given technology in a rapidly-changing world. Rifles used to be essential to hunt for food. In modern civilisation however, the need to hunt for food has diminished, and rifles are now instead used for war.

      3. How "beneficial" any given "technology" is can change very rapidly. Most would agree that the energy supplied by the nuclear power-plant in Fukushima was "beneficial" to people for more than 30 years. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the "technology" not only lost all benefits, it also became "harmful".

      January 25, 2014

    • Dustin S.

      Other interesting points/questions during the discussion:

      1. Aristotle's "Techne" and "Phronesis" thingy and how society may be leaning too much towards a utilitarian way of thinking. Sorry not familiar enough to elaborate here.

      2. While we can't predict all possible uses or outcomes of any given technology, we can and should do our best to optimise risk.

      3. At the end of WW I, the allied forces basically trampled on Germany by imposing all sorts of crappy bans. That resentment led to WW II. Perhaps there's a need to balance technological advancements with mutual respect/sharing of ideas.

      4. While it's true that individual perspectives may differ, how does a society determine if a technology is good? Based on the flow of the discussion, the answer seemed to generally come down to economics/supply and demand.

      January 25, 2014

  • Alo

    Hi all, I'm at Hans. Please head to the back, where there's the big joined tables. I'm in gray collared.

    January 25, 2014

  • Sealwe S.

    Hi peeps, my mum doesn't allow me to go for the meet up for the fear of u noe... Mean ppl etc. Can u ppl tell me the outcome of the discussion pls? Whether majority feels that technology has improved our lives or worsened it. I would live talking about this issue but sigh parents are really a pain at times.....

    January 24, 2014

    • Sealwe S.

      My mum wanted to come but I think it is very awkward. Sigh, my parents are super protective of me and I kinda hate it. Yep u may say they mean well but it has made me a 'tofu' easily hurt:(

      January 25, 2014

    • Sealwe S.

      I like to talk about life, human nature and dog psychology( I'm a Cesar millan fan). Is anyone who is brave enough to converse with a stranger willing to leave their email address here so we can exchange thoughts about life. My friends around me dun understand why I like to talk about these things. They totally think I'm weird!!! Any kind souls out there who is willing to email me?

      January 25, 2014

  • Joseph G

    An observation:
    Technology has indeed contributed positively in the management of my daily task, however without its ills on my lives I consider essential.

    For instance, the hand phone and internet have brought convenience to me, at the same time it can be intruding and disruptive to my personal space – in which privacy and especially space for self-culture are compromised.

    The internet while keep us connected, has brought us further away from direct personal interactions - which is to live and experience the real thing.


    Respectful...

    January 25, 2014

  • yyt

    sry, got down with flu, cant make it today...

    January 25, 2014

  • Alo

    Hi, for those who RSVPed, you are free to bring anyone you like (up to additional 2 each). Otherwise, tomorrow is on - see you there!

    January 24, 2014

  • Tim B.

    May be a bit late but coming. Do you mean modern electronic technology or all tech? What counts as "improvement"? How big do the ++ vs the -- have to be?

    January 24, 2014

    • Alo

      Tim, your above concerns will be part of the discussion!

      January 24, 2014

  • Lim Huan H.

    Sorry I have something up suddenly, can't come anymore. Have a good discussion!

    January 24, 2014

    • Alo

      it's alright, see u another time...

      January 24, 2014

  • Alo

    Hi update on the plan. Given the large number of people from diverse backgrounds, of varying levels, I'm going to change the format of the discussion.

    1st 15 mins - Group Introduction
    Next 15 mins - Group Activity
    Next 15 mins - Group Discussion
    Next 30 mins - A Brief Presentation
    Next 30 mins - General Discussion pertaining to the questions in the above write-up.
    Next 10 mins - Break & Interaction
    Next 45 mins - continuation of discussion

    If you are making suggestions during the discussion, it is preferable to say why you think or feel that way, and use reasons or examples to support yourself.

    In my presentation I am not going to present a comprehensive argument, only a brief suggestion about how to think about technology.

    The main question is this: What is the value of technology and has it improved our lives in the current age.

    January 22, 2014

  • Alo

    Hi, for those who RSVPed, do turn up if you plan to, and cancel it if you have last minute plans. The meet will start something like this:

    1. I will give a general exposition of some aspects of the current literature - followed by my argument. Time taken will be about 45mins.

    2. Then we'll discuss it all around. This will take about 1-2 hrs.

    During the discussion do speak and give others a chance to speak as well.

    Do have a look at the readings posted by Mark below as well.

    Please head to the back area of the Han's outlet. I will be in Gray.

    Other than, see you Saturday!

    January 21, 2014

    • Mark

      Yup it would be good of people to try to update their RSVP status to "No" once they know they can't make it, especially since the current list of attendees has now reached its maximum of 15. If you already know you can't make it, changing your RSVP to "No" would make space for others. :)

      January 21, 2014

  • Mark

    Not sure if Aloysius has specific readings in mind, but these links that I posted last month give broad background information on "technology" as a philosophical topic:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/technolo/

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/technology/

    They outline how "technology" has been thought about at different times in the history of Western philosophy, and the many different ways in which philosophers today ponder it and its implications.

    But if you find those pages too long and dry, maybe have a look through these sections:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/technology/#SomRecTheEthTec

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/technolo/#H4

    January 21, 2014

    • Alo

      hi Mark thanks for linking it up. I think these should be enough! will put a few more after the discussion.

      January 21, 2014

    • Mark

      For some reason, on mobile devices the fourth link doesn't link properly to the specific section. The link was to section 4a of that webpage, which mentions different ways technology has been defined.

      January 21, 2014

  • Sealwe S.

    Hello people, is there an age limit for this meet up session?

    January 21, 2014

    • Alo

      no age limit!

      1 · January 21, 2014

  • Joe G.

    i had no idea such drama happened, until today. -_-. ah well.

    1 · January 12, 2014

  • Alo

    Hi Mark (and to anyone else). I think there is a bit of misunderstanding on your part. I'm not out to condemn technology, or think it is disadvantageous. What I am doing is to be critical about technology in the sense of trying to examine it more closely and see which aspects have been detrimental. My argument is more nuanced than it looks, and I'm placing certain conditions, which I will explain more during the discussion, in order to understand the issue.

    Generally speaking, I will lay a series of propositions as follows:

    1. Our relationship with technology is not neutral.
    2. If it is not, then there are certain cases, or instances, when we will be influenced by it.
    3. Influence can sometimes be positive, sometimes negative.
    4. The negative is increasing in some ways more than positive.

    5. Therefore, technology may be more bad than good.

    Will provide a more detailed account during the discussion, hope you will be able to go!

    January 5, 2014

  • Mark

    On the topic of technology: I actually disagree with yyt and Aloysius, and I more or less agree with former member Atamert's position that our lives, at least for people living in First-World conditions, have been improved technology. (Which is a bit ironic since he seemed to think I was biased against him and out to attack him, and now he's not here to hear me agreeing with him.)

    There's harmful technology and many negative effects of technology, but I don't see why we need to condemn technology in general, rather than just condemning those particular harmful forms and effects. Will try to elaborate more during the meetup, if I attend it.

    January 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    > Also, please define 'technology' and 'scientific knowledge' before moving on for it is pointless if nobody understands what you mean by 'technology'.

    Did you even read my comments?

    > Again, I do not wish to stop you from speaking, and explaining your ideas, but please respect that this is a discussion and everyone comes into it from different levels.

    What exactly do you want from me? What exactly is disrespectful? So you can just misread my comments and then call me rude and curt and that is not disrespectful. But when I state that something should be obvious that is too disrespectful it requires an admonition.

    No, you don't have my cooperation. But I will leave you guys alone if you are not actually interested in an intellectual debate.

    January 4, 2014

    • Alo

      hilarious, sounds like a hymn

      January 4, 2014

    • Mark

      Beatles.

      January 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    > I understand you have your own ideas about certain concepts and words

    Do you have other people's ideas about certain concepts and words?

    > Please refrain from using comments like 'stop ranting' or 'obvious'

    I didn't say "stop ranting". I said "enough ranting" and I was referring to myself. Because I had written a preamble before I answered yyt's question.

    Why is "obvious" a forbidden word? If something is obvious to me, can't I just state my opinion? Why does it bother you that I said something should be obvious?

    > Many of your statements, frankly speaking, are simply assertions.

    If you think they are false you should challenge them. Isn't that the whole point of philosophical conversation?

    January 4, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      You are not saying I was rude. You are saying I came across as rude. That's an assesment. And it seems you think, based on such assesments it is alright to accuse someone. And you are saying this after I pointed out that all of those accusations are either false or (the accusation itself) vague. Did you just write this comment so that you can insert your passive aggressive attack at the end of it?

      January 4, 2014

    • Mark

      No, I'm saying I don't think you were being rude in your original comment which I quoted, but I do think you were rather rude during November's meet, and that might be an influence on how your comments here get read, especially their tone. (No one mentioned it to you during that meet-up, but I thought I should mention it now, since it's relevant in explaining this disagreement and since Aloysius has alluded to it anyway.) Above I was actually trying to defend your comment, hence I was acknowledging that I think Aloysius misunderstood it, while also trying to point out why it might have come across to Aloysius the way did.

      January 4, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    > When you said for example 'Technology is the application of scientific knowledge', it is far from clear if that is the case. Are you kidding me?

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/technology
    http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/585418/technology
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology

    > Why is it so? Examples say nothing about what is true. Anyone could highlight any source of example to back up any view. You cite one example, another person cites the opposite example, no one is correct. I have no idea what you are trying to say here. But the idea embodied in last part comes up a lot: "no one is correct". If we have concluded that no one is ever correct there is no point in getting together for a philosophical discussion. I am interested in truth. In search of truth some will be wrong sometimes.

    January 4, 2014

    • Mark

      But as far as I can understand, you were trying to define "technology" as "application of scientific knowledge". To me that implied that you were making "technology" and "application of scientific knowledge" synonymous with each other, so I was trying to point out politely that why that seems problematic. If what you meant was rather that technology involves the application of scientific knowledge, and is one such application among others, then that seems like less of a definition but more of a mentioning of one feature of technology. In any case, even if I have understood you incorrectly, it'd be good if you could please be a bit less abrasive and dismissive in your response. When you write, "So basically, long comment, let's be only fair to Aloysius, and no substance. You said nothing"...to be honest, a response like that does come across as a bit too abrasive and dismissive.

      January 4, 2014

    • Mark

      I wasn't saying let's only be fair to Aloysius; I was saying: in fairness to you, what you said about technology does seem to be the conventional way of defining it, and you've backed it up with those references, you've made a legitimate statement, but in fairness to Aloysius, we can raise problems with and understandings different from that definition, so what he said is worth thinking about too. I was trying to engage in a civil discussion and show some appreciation for both sides, in the hope the discussion would be constructive without being inflamed further. But if you find there's no substance and it's biased towards Aloysius, then I'll stop.

      January 4, 2014

  • yyt

    This topic is close to my heart; I have harboured thoughts on the illusion of progress for a while now, and technology being such a large part in progress I wonder what it means when people say technology improves lives. Surely our parents were as happy, if not more, as us living in their "less technologically advanced" era. And surely, so were the billions of people who lived before us, at some point in human history.

    January 2, 2014

    • Alo

      Many of your statements, frankly speaking, are simply assertions. When you said for example 'Technology is the application of scientific knowledge', it is far from clear if that is the case. Why is it so? Examples say nothing about what is true. Anyone could highlight any source of example to back up any view. You cite one example, another person cites the opposite example, no one is correct. Also, please define 'technology' and 'scientific knowledge' before moving on for it is pointless if nobody understands what you mean by 'technology'. Also, if you have a specific definition, you should explain why you say so. What are your reasons?

      ...cont'd

      January 4, 2014

    • Alo

      Again, I do not wish to stop you from speaking, and explaining your ideas, but please respect that this is a discussion and everyone comes into it from different levels. When another person is speaking we need to hear and give time to that person to explain him/herself. That is how everyone can improve and develop intellectually.

      Appreciate your cooperation.

      January 4, 2014

  • Alo

    hi, going to move this one back and do the Hegel and Nietzsche first.

    December 28, 2013

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