Technology has a deep impact on our lives. In recent decades, new technologies have changed the way we live. However, these new advances have also had significant negative impacts on our environment, including pollution. This is why it is important to understand technology’s origins. Understanding these roots is essential to understanding its role in our society.
The earliest testimony on philosophy of technology comes from ancient Greece. The Roman empire was a time of great technological progress. Heraclitus is said to have been the first source of ideas about the exemplary role of nature. During the Middle Ages, technology was also a powerful force.
The positive attitude towards technology lasted into the first half of the industrial revolution. After that, there was a shift to a critical attitude. Representatives of this attitude were trained in the social sciences, and their approach was very different from that of scientists. They had a very narrow understanding of what technology was.
During the late nineteenth century, the philosophical literature on technology was dominated by the critical attitude. Among other things, this attitude emphasized the instrumentality of technology. It focused on the relationship between science and technology and the process of creating and using technology. Humanities philosophers of technology tend to take this approach.
Those who adopt this perspective are called instrumentalists. Unlike those who hold a critical attitude, they use a language of means and ends to describe what is meant by technology. They portray it as a technical rationality, and they emphasize its use as a means to an end. Although this definition is able to meet the needs of the technology, it may also misrepresent the technological role.
In modern times, scholars have begun to explore the relationship between technology and other phenomena. In particular, they have addressed the question of the relationship between action and rationality. Some scholars have argued that technology is an agency that has both positive and negative effects on people. Others have argued that new technologies can have serious societal consequences.
For example, Langdon Winner has argued that technologies can represent specific forms of power. By exploring the intervening power that exists between a person and a machine, he has opened up the meaning of technology. These interventions are present in everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth. Other examples include the sublime of planetary science, or the mundane of changing a car’s gear.
A third early contribution to the philosophy of technology is the doctrine of the four causes. Aristotle’s doctrine refers to technical artifacts to explain his doctrines. This doctrine is still a part of discussions of the metaphysics of artifacts.
One of the major tasks of a new thinking about technology is to disentangle descriptive and prescriptive aspects of technology. Disentangling the two is a challenge that has hardly been accomplished. To do so, we need a clear idea of the scope of technology.
We should also consider the distinction between artifacts and waste products. Artifacts are made to serve a purpose, and they usually exclude byproducts. However, waste products may be the result of an intentional act to produce something.