Technology and Society

Technology is nothing but the resultant of human creativity plus technological know-how. If you ask an artist to create a painting; he should not only have the skills of an artist but also possess the technical know-how of painting. Now, if we could lay our hands on the entire art workshop which consists of all instruments, materials, and skill required in painting then we would not be able to create an artwork in spite of possessing the best painting tools and software. So, what is technology? How can technology be beneficial for us?

Schatzberg identified three categories of technological systems which include the technological system, the cultural approach, and the productive system. He further divides the technological systems into six sub-categories: analog, digital, power, digital communication, microelectronics and optical technologies. Thus, according to Schatzberg, there are seven different types of technological systems. The categories of the culture and analytical category are: communication, computer systems, computer studies, economics, engineering, education, and field studies.

Schatzberg further explained the difference between technologies that are applied in organizations, those that are developed within an organization and those that are applied at a later stage. A technological process is one in which technology is developed for a practical end, while a technology application is one that is developed for the sake of meeting some perceived need. Thus, according to Schatzberg, a technological application is more important than a technological process. According to him, in order to determine whether an invention is technology application, we should use “the old test: if it is useful, it is technology.”

Applied science, according to Schatzberg, is not a distinct term but rather a term used in combination with others. Thus, according to him, there are eleven different applied sciences which are: biology, chemistry, physics, radiology, zoology, zoological studies, engineering, dental, medical, engineering technology, civil engineering, applied research, applied linguistics, applied chemistry, computer sciences, applied mathematics, and mathematics. In addition, there are two technical systems: science of technology (which includes computer science, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, etc.) and engineering technology.

In discussing the differences between these three terms, Schatzberg points out the fact that Aristotle, because of his “deduceivist” method of argument, failed to distinguish between technology and arts, whereas, on the other hand, Rawls adopts a more traditional approach. However, Schatzberg adds that he favors a more traditional view because it is consistent with his view of human beings as social beings. He further suggests that a better choice may be to adopt a mixed view, which includes the importance of technology in enhancing human activities although it should not be the primary motive. In addition, he acknowledges that there has been a tendency in the twentieth century to downplay the role of technology in modern society, which he says is unfortunate because it leads to absurdities such as computers in classrooms and its effect on the market.

On the other hand, Aristotle maintains that man is primarily an animal, and thus, there is no place for technology in his life. According to Aristotle, science and technology are independent, meaning that the one cannot be substituted for the other. He further argues that, when science attempts to supplement technology, it tends to become a mere shadow of what it originally was, since, according to Aristotle, knowledge and technology are both personal. Furthermore, Aristotle maintains that because of the nature of the human mind, man cannot be made to be a machine, thereby negating the possibility of science. For Aristotle, science and technology are compatible because both are inquiry-based activities, which aim at understanding the world.

According to Rawls, a properly defined society will recognize and value technological innovations, thus making them a necessary part of the social order. According to Rawls, in a technological order, technological innovations are the means by which people organize their lives and facilitate their social interaction. The social significance of technological systems is determined by how they contribute to the well-being of the society as a whole. Aristotle would argue that a technocratic order, in which a technological order is the preeminent political order, would guarantee the equality of individuals and social organizations, a democratic polity, and a just social order.

According to J. Johannes Beck, there are three distinct types of technological change: potential, actual, and utility. Potential technologies are those that are not in use or are only possibilities; utilities are those that already exist and have a significant value for current use or for future use; and actual technologies are those which are in practical use and are being modified or developed. Potential technologies are ones that are influenced by social forces and conditions and are not self-sufficient, whereas utilities are those that are important for current use and are therefore often self-sufficient. There is also a tendency to lump all technology under the broader category of ‘technological management’ and to deny its social and political aspects. Johannes M. Beck’s book serves as an excellent guide to this complex subject.