Technological Determinism #edcmooc

Theories and debates on Technological Determinism are probably as old as technology itself. However, before I started to wade through the wealth of materials provided on EDCMOOC, I wanted to get a clear understanding of what Determinism actually meant, so I started my explorations by looking at various definitions of this term, some of which I came across are:

de·ter·min·ism – [dih-tur-muh-niz-uhm] – noun (source – www.dictionary.com)

  • the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.
  • the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

And then it goes on to say that

Also called: necessitarianism  the philosophical doctrine that all events including human actions and choices are fully determined by preceding events and states of affairs, and so that freedom of choice is illusory

  1. the scientific doctrine that all occurrences in nature take place in accordance with natural laws
  2. the principle in classical mechanics that the values of dynamic variables of a system and of the forces acting on the system at a given time, completely determine the values of the variables at any later time.

Uh-oh… even more confusing.  I was nowhere close to comprehending this than when I started out looking for its meaning. Nevertheless, I patiently browsed through a lot of material and came across some really interesting views and thoughts, which I will now attempt to share on this space.

I came across this very interesting article – Against Technological Determinism  by Joseph Goguen, where he says –

1.Technological determinism is the theory that technology is an autonomous force that changes society. This provides explanations for many changes that can be observed in society, and it has a very simple cause/effect form. However, this theory is false: if you think you have an instance, it means you are looking at just one part of a much more complex situation, and ignoring the complex social network that supports the technology.

2. Social determinism is the theory that society is an autonomous force that changes technology. This provides explanations for many changes that can be observed in technology, and it also has a very simple cause/effect form. It is the converse of technological determinism, and it is also false: if you think you have an instance, it probably means you are looking at just one part of a much more complex situation, and ignoring some of its significant technical aspects.

He further goes on to say that “A myth that is closely related to technological determinism is that technological progress is inevitable, and inevitably leads to social progress. Most of us know that this is not really true, but we still have somehow internalized it. Of course, technology has continued to evolve for a long time, but whether its results can always be called progress is open to debate, in several different ways. One problem is defining progress. But if we look at specific cases, most of us can probably agree about the outcomes. It is all too easy to think of examples where technology has had positive outcomes, so let’s consider some cases where the outcome is (most likely agreed to be) negative.”

Then he goes on to illustrate the above statement with the example of weapons. Weapons are developed using technology, but their effects on society are always negative, without any exception. He further illustrates this point by using the example of drugs, which are developed using technology and research, but their abuse leads to negative effects on the society.

Which again brings to mind a statement that I had made earlier with respect to Utopia and Dystopia – two sides of the same coin. And what is my view on all this ? I, perhaps, tend to lean towards the determinist view, knowing fully well that it is considered to be negative. However, I am a firm believer that technology is the answer to a lot of issues. Technology is life-transforming in many ways, and I have, over the years, witnessed it changing the way the world did things. I have applied it successfully to my own life, and am heavily dependent on it.

Yet at the same time, I am not blind to the negative aspects of technology, especially when it comes to addiction with technology. I had, at one point, become a tech junkie myself and had to consciously make an effort to wean myself away. Some would say that in fact I’m not quite out of it yet.

That having been said, I am fascinated with the endless possibilities of online education, and I love exploring new avenues of learning. My exploration with the resources of week 1 will continue as and when time permits, and more stuff will appear here as and when I get around to doing it.

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  1. Pingback: Beyond Basix » Technological Determinism #edcmooc

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