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Technology and Society Essay

“I believe two features of our discursive landscape – the realm of ideas, concepts, categories, and the many beliefs we take for granted – make it difficult to think critically about science and technology. I call these discourses about scientism and technological progressivism”

Today, science and technologies keep progressing at the unparalleled pace. In such a situation, people often take many concepts for granted, while they are accustomed to use modern technologies to the extent that they cannot even think of their life without these technologies. This is why the author believes that people cannot perceive science and technology critically. They have deep-rooted beliefs and concepts, which they do not dare to challenge or doubt. Instead, they believe in the rightness of existing scientific concepts and technologies. In such a context, the author apparently shifts toward post-modernism arguing that science and technology and absolute as people are accustomed to perceive them. In stark contrast, the author implies that people should be able to think of science and technology critically. However, the deep-rooted concepts and beliefs, which people take for granted, prevent them from the adequate understanding, assessment and implementation of science and technology in their life. The author implies that the modern society is science- and technology-driven, although science and technology may not always be good. This is exactly the problem the author implies because the critical evaluation of science and technology is essential for the objective assessment of effects of scientific and technological achievements on the life of people and the planet at large. In addition, the author insists on the critical thinking of scientific concepts and technology because such critical thinking is essential for the further progress of science and technology. Without challengeable and critical thinking, people will never make new discoveries.

“These examples are all legitimate cases of the social nature of technology. But they construe the social character of science too narrowly. I believe that technoscience is absolutely and thoroughly social. Even the idea that researchers cull truth from nature in an unmediated fashion is mistaken. We never look outside ourselves and see phenomenon through entirely naïve eyes. How we understand what we see – indeed, for all practical purposes, what we actually see – is shaped by a wide array of prior assumptions, commitments, and worldviews, what have you”

Technoscience explores two aspects of science technological and social. At the same time, the author places emphasis on the social nature of science and technology. The development of technology occurs under the impact of needs of individuals. People explore the surrounding world, conduct studies and make scientific discoveries being driven by their mere curiosity and naïve concepts, which they take for granted. People perceive the surrounding world, science and technology subjectively. Moreover, science and technology serve to social needs and interests of individuals. Science and technology are absolutely pointless for humans, if they cannot be applied for human needs and if science and technology cannot serve to their satisfaction.

In addition, people have a wide array of concepts that are subjective a priori. They develop their scientific works and technology on the ground of these subjective concepts. The author argues that people cannot look beyond their limited eyesight and develop science and technology independently from and irrelevantly to social life. Therefore, people make science and technology mere tools to satisfy human needs but human scientific and technological achievements are quite limited and grounded on naïve concepts.

“There are also cases where artifacts seem to literally embody values. Take, for example, the overpasses that cross Wantagh Parkway to Long Island, New York, and in particular to Jones Beach. Robert Moses, the designer responsible for these bridges, very consciously decided that they should be built at a height above the parkway that would make it possible for buses to pass under them. This decision, according to Moses’ biographer, reflected Moses’ racial prejudice and social class bias. The low overpasses meant that while more well-to-do whites could use the parkway for commuting and to reach destinations along it for recreation, it would not be accessible for low income citizens, many of whom were people of color, who needed to rely on public transportation.”

The author implies that technology mirrors existing social values. In such a way, the author reveals the close relationship between technology and social life. The reference to the bridges in New York is examples of the impact of social values on technology. At the same time, technology turns out to be limited to social values and norms. This means that the development of technology occurs within the framework of existing social norms and values. Therefore, social values limit the development of technology. In such a situation, the existing social norms and values play the determinant role in the development of technologies, while science becomes a mere tool in hands of people, which they use to develop new technologies. In addition, the dependence of technology on social values affects the development of science and technology.

“Social theory abounds with approaches to power. The way I find most helpful is to think in terms of structures, resources, and discourse. This three-fold distinction is analytical. In the world that humans inhabit – what we sometimes call the social world – the boundary between structures, resources, and discourses are blurry at best. Still understanding technoscience demands that they be disaggregated. At the most general level, I understand structures to constitute formal and informal, explicit and implicit “rules of play”. These entities define specific constraints and opportunities for actors depending on their location in a structural matrix. This matrix may be as amorphous as the system of class or gender relations or as concrete as a national state or a university laboratory.”

The author stands on the ground that technology and science depend on social and political factors. The development of science and technology occurred within the social and political framework that affect values, norms and structures to constitute “rules of play” on the ground of which the society develops and so do science and technology. The existing rules define the development of science and technology but the author argues that the progress of science and technology may be as amorphous as the progress of social and political relations. As a result, the author argues that technoscience should reject boundaries and limitations imposed on science and technology by social and political rules and norms and develop independently of existing biases and rules set by the society. Through such liberation of science and technology, it is possible to reach a tremendous progress in science and technology. Therefore, technoscience being dependent on social and political rules needs liberation and disaggregation from rules and norms.

“A second point I need to make concerns the status of “social construction” I believe, with many in the social sciences and humanities writing today, that the social world is constructed. But I differ with those who explore how, for example, gender, race, or science is constructed at the site “x”. I believe this is important work; however, it is also the case that our social world is relatively stable. At any given point in time, the already established features of the world-facts that have been constructed over time – serve to define the opportunities and constrains faced by actors. They shape actors’ preferences and the outcomes of social struggles, politics and programs.”

The author denies consistent changes that may occur in the social and political life. The author argues that the study of different aspects of social and political life is important but researchers should also take into consideration different aspects of the social and political life that are stable in their development. The author argues that any society has stable, established feature that exist throughout time and they affect consistently the development of the society. In such a way, the author argues that the development of the society is vulnerable to the impact of multiple factors and researchers should take into consideration not only changing but also stable factors that affect social struggles, politics and programs. In such a way, the society develops under the impact of multiple factors.

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