Technology is a process which tries to change the world. Various forms of technology are designed to achieve different goals. They can be used for good or for bad purposes. Some technologies can be regarded as a political phenomenon and are held responsible for their actions.
A number of philosophers argue that the role of technology should be democratized. This includes the role of engineers. Engineers see themselves as serving the public. In a democratic society, the public would have a say in the technological development. However, a new capability can be misused leading to human hubris.
The first philosophy of technology was developed in ancient Greece. Plato was a strong advocate for the use of technological imagery to communicate his belief in the rational design of the universe. He also disapproved of artisans.
During the Renaissance, philosophical reflection on technology increased. It was not expected that the study of technology would offer new challenges to analytic philosophers. Several comprehensive works were written focusing on the philosophical aspects of technology.
Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes can be considered one of the early contributions to the philosophy of technology. His arguments about the causes of nature have been present in discussions of the metaphysics of artifacts.
As an economic force, technology has a great impact on society. It is important to study the effects of technology on our culture. Science has had an immediate impact on human thought, especially during the scientific revolution. Karl Marx argued that technology was necessary for communism.
In the nineteenth century, a number of foundational issues were raised by a number of philosophers. One such issue was whether technology can be value-neutral. Most representatives of the critical attitude were schooled in social sciences and had virtually no first-hand knowledge of engineering practice.
Another issue was the difference between descriptive and prescriptive aspects of technology. This problem has not yet been solved. Nevertheless, it is clear that there are some differences in how these two aspects are construed. For example, the idea of a “technological norm” derived from Georg Henrik von Wright’s Norm and Action (1963).
There are several ways to conceive of technology as a value-laden concept. It can be viewed as a purely descriptive concept or as a ‘black box’ that has a function. These construals depend on the scope of the technology. Generally, technology is regarded as an attempt to change the world and to increase human capabilities.
However, some authors maintain that technological artifacts are not value-laden. This is because they are produced to serve a specific goal and do not produce waste products. While technology may have an inherent teleological character, many discussions of function focus on how difficult it is to use it in biology.
Ultimately, a philosophical assessment of technology should be focused on the ways in which it affects society. Although some philosophers of technology argue for a ‘value-neutral’ approach, others argue that technology has a moral agency and can be held accountable for its actions.