Podium: Don't Let Technology Shape Our Thinking ; from a Lecture by the Research Fellow in Philosophy at Stirling University, Given at the Hayward Gallery, London
Wheeler, Michael, The Independent (London, England)
WHAT IS the relationship between technology and human life? One answer to this question says that technology is simply the vast array of instruments, machines, artefacts and devices that we humans invent, build, and then exploit. Technology is basically a tool that we control. This answer will do. However, there is another answer, that suggests a disturbing vision. At least, that's what the philosopher Martin Heidegger thought. In 1966 he warned that the "essence of man is... claimed and challenged by a power which manifests itself in the essence of technology, a power which man himself does not control."
For Heidegger, technology is nothing less than a way of living. Indeed, it is the modern way of living, at least in the West. So, according to Heidegger, what is technological living?
To live technologically is to experience natural phenomena - animals and people included - as mattering only to the extent that they are resources to be harnessed.
Thus we, supposedly the exploiters, are in reality among the ranks of the exploited. In technological living, efficiency is a goal in itself, while practices and individuals that do not contribute to efficiency are dismissed as a waste of time.
As one scholar has noted, technological living is unmistakable at the point where a friendly chat in the bar is turned into networking. And I can't help but think that Heidegger would have raised his eyebrows at the trend for companies to take what used to be called "personnel" departments, and to rename them "human resources". Any region of nature (eg, an unexplored jungle), or any section of society (eg, this year's unemployed school leavers), that has not yet been harnessed is simply a potential resource.
In response to the complaint that we can surely still enjoy the beauty of the unabused natural world, Heidegger scornfully points out that in the modern age, so-called unspoilt nature is simply an object to be exploited.
About now it might seem that Heidegger's analysis of technology slots neatly into a …
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Publication information: Article title: Podium: Don't Let Technology Shape Our Thinking ; from a Lecture by the Research Fellow in Philosophy at Stirling University, Given at the Hayward Gallery, London. Contributors: Wheeler, Michael - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 24, 2000. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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