Technological Determinism (MSTU 4020; Week 2)
A deterministic view of technology suggests that technology has the power to influence social organization, that technology itself can be a "change agent". In Marx and Smith's "Introduction" they distinguish between a hard and soft approach of understanding technological determinism.
HARD: The idea that the power to influence change comes from technological advancements itself.
SOFT: A view that locates technology in a social, economic, political, and cultural matrix (p. xiii).
In the end, the authors argue for a redefinition of tech determinism that acknowledges our need to create a kind of society that invests in technologies with enough power to drive history (p. xiv).
Robert L. Heilbroner's piece "Do Machines Make History" also argues for a more complex understanding of how technology can influence social and economic systems, and conversely, how social and economic systems influence technology. He proposes a soft, or mediating, view of technological determinism.
Based on these readings, I wonder:
- If technology makes history, or influences social systems, can it also be said that technology defines a given society? If so how? Can we define ourselves by the technology we use presently, or must the defining be done in retrospect (in the future looking back)?
- Heilbroner writes, “If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither, it would appear, does technology” (p. 57). Who, or what, does nature describe?
- How might Heilbroner’s soft view of technological determinism work to explain the evolution and social aspect of the Internet?
Here now is your moment of Zin.
Until next post...