Technology has become an important part of modern society. Despite its widespread use, philosophical debates have arisen over how it should be used in society. The relationship between technology and society is generally viewed as co-dependent, synergistic, or co-producing.
Philosophical reflection on science and technology has largely focused on how we should reason about theories. Scientific concepts, such as the scientific method, and evidence, such as data, have been the focal point of philosophical consideration. This focus is often reflected in the field of ethics. Ethics of technology is characterized by a diverse range of approaches and backgrounds.
As technological innovation and progress continue, there have also been many critiques of its impact on the environment. Recent developments in clean energy have led to a surge in investment in this area. However, the same technologies can lead to pollution, harming both the environment and individuals.
One of the first issues that is examined in the study of technology is its origins. In order to better understand its role in society, it is important to understand the ways in which it came into being. Some of the key early contributions to the study of technology include the doctrine of the four causes, which asserts that technology has four primary causes – nature, design, human actions, and the social structure. These four causes are discussed in the writings of Aristotle.
In the mid-twentieth century, the study of technology underwent a period of lively discussions. Many prominent philosophers had an interest in technology. They included Karl Marx, who believed that ongoing technological innovation was needed for communism. During this period, a critical attitude predominated. These philosophers were schooled in the social sciences and humanities. Compared with scientists, these scholars had little first-hand experience with engineering.
During this time, the concept of “appropriate technology” began to emerge. Appropriate technology explains situations where a new technology is not desirable. It includes instances where imported parts or skills are required. Additionally, it describes situations where it is not practical to develop the necessary infrastructure on one’s own.
Another early contribution to the study of technology was the philosophization of the operational principle. While this term was not explicitly defined, it appears to have originated with Polanyi (1958).
Modern technology is so complex that entire fields have developed to support it. Many of these fields are in the realm of sociology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Such technologies often require advanced training and complex construction organizations.
Another issue that is examined by analytic philosophers of technology is the problem of technology’s influence on society. These philosophers examine technology’s ability to affect societal values, such as those related to the economy, politics, and culture. There are numerous examples of the effects that technology has had on society, including the development of a leisure class, and the rise of political oppression.
Several recent criticisms of modern technologies include Neo-Luddism and anarcho-primitivism. Both of these positions are opposed to the pervasiveness of technological advancement in modern societies.