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American Academy of Arts Sciences


claim that the machines structures and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions of efficiency and pro ductivity not merely for their positive and ne

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Document on Subject : "American Academy of Arts Sciences"— Transcript:

1 American Academy of Arts & Sciences clai
American Academy of Arts & Sciences claim that the machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions of efficiency and pro ductivity, not merely for their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which

2 they can embody specific forms of power
they can embody specific forms of power and authority. Since ideas of this kind have a persistent and troubling presence in discussions about the meaning of technology, they deserve explicit attention.1 Writing in Technology and Culture almost two decades ago, Lewis Mumford gave classic statement to one

3 version of the theme, arguing that "from
version of the theme, arguing that "from late neo lithic totalitarian state." Echoing the views of many proponents of appropri ate technology and the soft energy path, Hayes contends that "dispersed solar sources are what is most interesting and troublesome about the subject. In another around the gro

4 wth and largely untested innovation, we
wth and largely untested innovation, were added to the foundry at an estimated cost of $500,000. In the standard economic interpretation of such things, we would expect that this step was taken to modernize the plant and achieve the kind of efficiencies that mechanization brings. But historian Robert Oz

5 anne has shown why something in between
anne has shown why something in between. But we usually do not stop to inquire whether a given device might have been designed and built But the benefits such subtly ingrained years many local, national, and international disputes about technology have centered on decisive element in the story.17 Fr

6 om such examples I would offer the ineg
om such examples I would offer the inegalitarian, re pressive or liberating. This is ultimately what is at stake variety of tasks, from running the steam engine to is "fixed by the authority of the steam," laborers must learn democratically. Plato goes on to suggest that governing a state is rather l

7 ike being captain of a ship or like prac
ike being captain of a ship or like practicing medicine as a physician. Much the same conditions that require central rule and decisive action in orga nized technical activity also create this need detail operation. At the same time, the capitalistic form of that industry reproduces this same division o

8 f labour in a still more monstrous shape
f labour in a still more monstrous shape; in the factory proper, by converting some sense inherently contemporary writer who holds that "if you accept nuclear power plants, you also accept a techno-scientific-industrial military elite. Without these people in charge, you could not have nuclear power."2

9 9 In this conception, some kinds of tech
9 In this conception, some kinds of technology require their social en A second, somewhat weaker, version of the argument holds that a given kind of technology is strongly compatible with, but does practical necessity independent of any larger political system in which the bomb is embedded, independent

10 of the kind of regime or fulfilled; th
of the kind of regime or fulfilled; the material possi bilities that modern technologies make available could not be exploited otherwise. Chandler acknowledges that as one compares sociotechnical institu tions of different nations, one sees "ways in which cultural attitudes, values, ideologies, politic

11 al systems, and social structure affect
al systems, and social structure affect these imperatives."26 But the weight of highly compatible with centralized, hierarchical managerial control. The interesting question, however, has to do with are practically necessary in the workings of particular kinds of technology and what, if anything, such

12 measures require of the structure of hum
measures require of the structure of human associations. Was Plato right railroad" (or steel mill, or airline, or communications system, and so on). Here we encounter an important quality in modern political discourse and in the way people commonly think about what measures are justified in response co

13 nclusive, they do reflect a sentiment in
nclusive, they do reflect a sentiment increasingly common in redistribution of wealth or broader public partici pation but, rather, stronger, centralized public management?President Carter's proposal for an Energy Mobilization Board and the like. An especially vivid case in which the operational require

14 ments of a technical system might influe
ments of a technical system might influence the quality of public develop a powerful central authority better able to enforce strict safeguards." He avers that "once a quantity of plutonium had been ipates and worries about the kinds The two varieties of interpretation I have outlined indicate how art

15 ifacts can have political qualities. In
ifacts can have political qualities. In the first instance we noticed ways in which specific features in the design or stake in disputes, that both kinds of understanding are applicable in different circum stances. Indeed, it can happen that within a particular complex of technology? a system of commun

16 ication or transportation, for example?s
ication or transportation, for example?some aspects may be flexible in their possibilities for society, while other aspects may be (for better or worse) completely intractable. The two varieties of interpretation I have examined here can overlap and intersect at many points. These are, of course, issues

17 on which people can disagree. Thus, some
on which people can disagree. Thus, some proponents of energy from renewable resources now believe they have may be that we will thorough grasp of York (New York: Random House, 1974), pp. 318, 481, 514, 546, 951-958. 9Ibid., p. 952. 10Robert Ozanne, A Norton, 1978), p. 731. "Ibid. 20Ibid., pp. 732, 7