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  1.    #1  
    I see the term "technological determinism" cropping up from time to time and am not really sure I understand it. To be called a technological determinist seems to be a negative. My guess is that this would be because we allow technology to drive the needs of a society rather than actually determining those needs and using that determination to create the necessary technology to take us in that direction. Here is one definition. Any social philosophers out there?
    Last edited by copernicus; 02/11/2007 at 10:44 AM.
  2. #2  
    For many things it makes a lot of sense, especially over longer time scales. We did not call epochs the stone, bronze and iron age for no reason.

    Of course random factors can intervene, such as epidemics, invasions, acts of god. It would be interesting to try and exclude the effects of these on the development of a society.

    Surur
  3. #3  
    I believe technology is driving things today. But in times past, technology emerged as a means of soving a need.

    The reversal of these roles is similar to the business concept or merketing. At one point marketing meant showing how a product met a need. Now the products seems to create needs. Bigger and better (and faster) have become means unto themselves.

    Interestingly, just yesterday, I mentioned to my wife my observation of how futile much of our societal puruits have become.
  4. #4  
    All of the printers where I work are networked. We can print on any printer from any PC, whether in our own building or elsewhere. Great! But getting any work done depends completely on our ability to print--and we had the printer server go bad one day a couple of weeks ago.

    And thanks to the ability to communicate over a large network, we could "offshore" our support operations, so when the print server went bad and made about a dozen of us unable to do any work at all, we couldn't even call for help for two hours. It took another two hours for them to figure out what caused the problem and get it corrected.

    So, thanks to this bit of technology, twelve people spent half a work day doing no work!
    "Yeah, he can talk. It's gettin' him to shut up that's the trick!"
    -Shrek
  5. #5  
    I tend to think it's always been a push/pull type of relationship. Going back to the bronze age, for example, metalworking gave rise to swords and created the need for battle armor which, in turn created the need for heavier and stronger swords and so on. The internal combustion engine answered many needs from manufacturing to long distance individual travel but it also created a whole new industry for never before needed technologies like cooling systems, transmissions, etc. Then, new technologies were necessary for safety features as people were able to travel at faster and faster speeds.

    Or, am I misunderstanding the question?
  6. #6  
    As a counterpoint (and probably completely mis-remembered) didn't the Japanese give up guns, and the Chinese give up boats, to preserve their way of life. It goes to show that a technology does not have the ultimate power over people, we can still decide to use it or not.

    On the other hand, just because you give up a technology does not mean your competitors will, which means it will catch up with you in the end (just like the Chinese and Japanese to their detriment found out).

    Surur
  7.    #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by hoovs View Post
    I tend to think it's always been a push/pull type of relationship. Going back to the bronze age, for example, metalworking gave rise to swords and created the need for battle armor which, in turn created the need for heavier and stronger swords and so on. The internal combustion engine answered many needs from manufacturing to long distance individual travel but it also created a whole new industry for never before needed technologies like cooling systems, transmissions, etc. Then, new technologies were necessary for safety features as people were able to travel at faster and faster speeds.

    Or, am I misunderstanding the question?
    No, no misunderstanding. Your post makes things clearer to me, it's a very interesting and thought provoking way of explaining the whole thing. I'm thinking more about it now...
  8.    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by surur View Post
    As a counterpoint (and probably completely mis-remembered) didn't the Japanese give up guns, and the Chinese give up boats, to preserve their way of life. It goes to show that a technology does not have the ultimate power over people, we can still decide to use it or not.

    On the other hand, just because you give up a technology does not mean your competitors will, which means it will catch up with you in the end (just like the Chinese and Japanese to their detriment found out).

    Surur
    Good point! I believe the Japanese did give up guns for about 100 years based on the belief that it would make them stronger (I may be wrong about this), but I did not know about the Chinese and the boats. At any rate, it points to how critical the importance and interpretation one gives to emerging technologies is. Sometimes making provisions for them, whether or not they actually improve things, can determine a group's survival.
  9. #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by copernicus View Post
    ..... Any social philosophers out there?
    Yes. My favorites include Ray Kurzweil (Age of the Spiritual Machine) and James Burke (Connections).

    Kurzweil describes technology as the ability to describe the process of tool making so that the making is reproducible. It seems to be that computer programming is a special case of that, with extraordinary leverage.

    Technology improves productivity and reduces scarcity. At the margins and in the short term, it encourages experimentation, not to say, waste.

    We tend to focus on the effects of the successful technologies and fail to notice those that were discarded along the way.
  10. #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by surur View Post
    As a counterpoint (and probably completely mis-remembered) didn't the Japanese give up guns, and the Chinese give up boats, to preserve their way of life. It goes to show that a technology does not have the ultimate power over people, we can still decide to use it or not.

    On the other hand, just because you give up a technology does not mean your competitors will, which means it will catch up with you in the end (just like the Chinese and Japanese to their detriment found out).

    Surur
    Not exactly. The Tokugawa shogunate banned guns for peasants and samurai but not for the military. And the ban wasn’t so much out of a sense of cultural pride as a sense of self-preservation. Yes, guns were Western and Western influences were eroding Tokugawa control but the shogunate also severely restricted personal movement within the country, marriage and religious services. Guns would also have allowed any one of the 1,000 revolts during the Tokugawa reign to be that much more difficult to quell.

    Interestingly, the samurai never really embraced guns as superior in battle to the sword. Guns required the shooter to crouch into a submissive and undignified position.
  11. #11  
    Which technology is shaping our lives at the moment?

    Surur
  12. #12  
    Quote Originally Posted by surur View Post
    Which technology is shaping our lives at the moment?

    Surur
    Healthcare would be one of the biggest, IMO.
  13.    #13  
    Quote Originally Posted by hoovs
    The Tokugawa shogunate banned guns for peasants and samurai but not for the military.
    Boy, I had that one wrong. Must have heard that story from the Samurai point of view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Surur
    Which technology is shaping our lives at the moment?
    Computer technology is definitely shaping my life, and it does have a life of its own. That's why the term "technological determinism" is such an interesting one for me. I find myself sometimes chasing after things without really understanding nor examining why I am doing so.
    Last edited by copernicus; 02/12/2007 at 02:41 PM.
  14. #14  
    I think cheap transport is very significant currently.

    Surur
  15. #15  
    Technology has given me a way to support my family for the last 10 years in a wide range of opportunities without ever having "to go to the office". Currently I telecommute 100% of the time (computers, PDA & smartphones, communication technologies, wireless, etc..). I also travel at times with work (again latest in communication tools, transportation, etc..). Technology has given me a professional lifestyle where I can focus on the important things in my life...my family.

    Personally my son and I play video games together.

    I love technology, but I make it a strong point to spend a lot non-technology dependent (within reason) time as well. For example I take my family camping each year. I make it a point to take my son out fishing and hiking a lot. We enjoy wildlife photography (I know using a digital camera, buy hey at least it is out in the woods!).

    Technology has given me the ability to live my life how I want to without being ruled by it.

    Of course I fully recognize the devil's advocate argument is that my dependence of the latest technology gives me the lifestyle I have so I don't have to work in a labor intensive 12 hour a day job. But the difference is my experience and skill set does not limit me to be dependent on the tools I am using in my current job.

    Any of this make sense?
    Last edited by HobbesIsReal; 02/12/2007 at 03:20 PM.
  16. #16  
    Quote Originally Posted by surur View Post
    Which technology is shaping our lives at the moment?

    Surur
    As a society:

    • Internet
    • Wireless Communication opportunity (both data and voice)
    • Weapons development (an EMP could bring us to a halt in nearly every aspect of our lives from electricity to water to transportation, non-manned air and ground crafts)
    • Entertainment (MP3 players, video games, HD video, sat tv, etc..)


    The decade long question is.....do these technologies bring us closer together or isolate us from others more?
  17. #17  
    Quote Originally Posted by surur View Post
    Which technology is shaping our lives at the moment?

    Surur
    Telecommunications.

    We can become aware of most anything happening most anywhere almost instantaneously--if not simultaneously.

    Also, frequency of communication seems to be more valued than accuracy of information.
  18.    #18  
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbes
    Any of this make sense?
    Perfect sense, of course!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbes
    The decade long question is.....do these technologies bring us closer together or isolate us from others more?
    Yes, an important question. With the exception of weapons development ( ), there is no doubt in my mind that the others (mentioned), will bring us closer together. Once we have dependable, accessible systems that people feel comfortable using there is no telling how fascinating and wonderful the world will become. Or, are we already there?
  19. #19  
    Are these the things we THINK or shaping our lives, or are they really. Some-one said modern health care, which allows us to have less children and expect to live longer. Does this depend on IT?

    Surur
  20.    #20  
    Quote Originally Posted by whmurray
    Yes. My favorites include Ray Kurzweil (Age of the Spiritual Machine) and James Burke (Connections).
    Thanks for mentioning these authors and titles.
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