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How far is science and technology value-free ?

This is one of the standard statements that we could write about science and technology :

Science and technology are value-neutral. Whether science and technology harm or benefit mankind has to do with how these are applied and the intention behind their use.

A simple example could be that of a weapon. When used for defence, it is seen as good, and when used to attack, it is seen as bad.

Another example could be that of the Internet. When used to learn, or do business, it is seen as good, but when used for gambling or pornography, it is seen as bad.

But things are not always this straight-forward.

 

 

Technology can become value-laden due to the way it works. Take the case of communications technology. Its key feature is speed or immediacy. Because we can communicate across vast distances almost instantaneously, we expect to accomplish more. Our pace of life quickens. So do our stress levels. Our patience wears thin.

We also try to adapt to new technology linguistically so that we can still communicate our intentions and feelings as effectively as we did before we had new technology.

In addition, the advent of social media and chat groups means that we have grown to accept that our idea of privacy has changed simply because technology gives us the opportunity to do so.

On top of this, we have developed trust issues because of the internet, social media and new communications technology.

All this happens regardless of the nature of our intentions. Technology is cornering us into changing.

 

 

Let’s use another example of nuclear technology. Nuclear technology is seen as good when we use it replace petroleum combustion and supplement energy sources. It is seen as bad when countries develop and amass nuclear weapons that threaten other countries. But the very use of nuclear technology itself, for whatever purpose, is value-laden because the very nature of that technology imbues us with a sense of insecurity and heightens our tolerance of centralized control, since organisation and tight control is needed to manage such immense power.

The question is, can we protect our values ? How ? Just switch off the computer or the mobile phone. The fact that we have to get disconnected in order to alleviate the impact of technology is proof that technology is not so value-neutral after all.

How successful can we be at upholding some of our values about what life should be? Chances are we will not be entirely successful. New technology is ingrained in so many domains of society that to be completely free from it, we would have give up interacting with the rest of the modern world.

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