Tagged: Capitalism

Theses on Technological Progress

Assuming technology always “evolves” better versions is medieval thinking.  This way of thinking about technology only makes sense if one assumes that Man is on top of Nature’s Great Chain of Being, and that technology, our prosthesis, is made in our image, as a Microcosm of Man.

Technology doesn’t “evolve,” it’s designed.  The modern understanding of “design” originates in the European Renaissance.

Technological “evolution” exhibits some features of reproduction with variation, but these variations are determined by design, not by natural selection.

Markets may resemble natural selection in certain cases, but “competition” — which drives evolution under the model of natural selection — is not a defining feature of today’s organized industries.

Commercially-produced industrial technologies are often released in successive iterations, but to consider each iteration as a sign of “progress” makes a categorical error.

Progress is a teleological concept: it is goal-oriented.  One makes progress along a line from A to B.  “Intelligent design” is also a teleological concept because it involves God having a plan for Man.

The technological iterations commonly deemed “progress” involve complex tradeoffs that are often qualitative in nature.

The modern concept of “progress” originated in the European Enlightenment, which was defined by the cultural rediscovery of Classical wisdom from antiquity.

In action, “progress” does not entail improvement, nor does it implicate “advancement” as the word might be understood in the “pure” sciences.

With respect to technological “progress,” consider a case in point: the mobile phones of today offer inferior voice quality with a more fragile connection than the landlines of yesterday.  The wireless capability of mobile phones may offer one advantage over our natural limitations, and the ability to speak at a distance another, but, as cultural artifacts, telephones neither directly nor by analogy “evolved” the ability to send and receive text messages, in response people tiring of habitually speaking into them.

Pollution is by and large a problem with commercial technology.  Yet with religious fervor, most people unquestioningly believe there is a technological solution to the problems of technology.  This assumption may prove disastrous for anybody reading this, or their children, or their grandchildren, but it will happen that soon.