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PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fwd: from Lawrence Pub Philosophy Meeting, 6PM, sunday: The Individual and Tech

--- In philomadridgroup@yahoogroups.co.uk, "philomadrid"
<philomadrid@...> wrote:

Dear Friends


Next Sunday we have the opportunity to talk about the very thing that
keeps
us in touch with each other: i.e. technology.


We all assume that things will work and you get the message, but
experience
tells us otherwise. So please pass the message just in case.


Thanks


Take care


Lawrence´

-----SUNDAY 6.00pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
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The individual and technology


Two things happened yesterday. It was the first time in three or four
years
that I was without electricity at home due to a power cut in the
neighbourhood. The other thing was that I read a report about future
plans
to use super computers outside research laboratories and for the
benefit of
the community. For example, these super computers will be able to
identify
diseases quicker and offer treatment specific to the needs of the
individual.


In both examples the lives of individuals was and will be directly
affected
by technology.
By individual it is not meant as some unidentifiable member of a society,
but rather each of us independent of the society we live in. By
individual
we should really mean you and me. This is important because claims like
'super computers can identify diseases and find treatment for individual
needs' does not mean that everyone on Earth will benefit from all this
technology. The reality is that usually only a few people will benefit
from
such technology; in the same way that when the wealth of a country
increases
not everyone enjoys the benefits.


I make this distinction because when we speak of the individual as a
member
of a society things tend to happen in a probabilistic way. Not
everyone is
poor and not everyone is rich. However, when we speak of the individual,
such as you and me, things happen in an absolute way. I was left without
electricity for 20 minutes.


We can even now rephrase the question and ask what does technology
mean to
you and me? But let's differ this question for later. For now we can
look at
how technology bears on the individual as well as society. There are two
specific spheres where technology and the individual come together:
ethics
and economics.


What we call technology is nothing more than tools we use for
production to
survive as biological entities. The days when we could live by foraging
around the forest are long gone. In other words, technology represents
wealth because it is the primary way of producing the needs for survival.


Whether it's a sports car, a nuclear power station or potatoes someone
must
have thought that it was worth producing, manufacture or build. The fact
that what looks like a good idea today might turn out to be a dud or a
pup
is besides the point. The point is that someone somewhere made some
money
from the endeavour. It should not therefore come as a surprise that
technologically advanced societies have, at a very minimum, some
political
or economic power, not to mention that in general they are quite well
off as
well.


In fact this is an important argument put forward by governments and
other
political institutions. Governments and countries demonstrate their
wealth
or power by spending a lot of their national wealth on military
hardware or
building huge industrial plants. Others take the pragmatic view and
spend
it on their leaders.


In a way technology is neutral in the sense that on the whole technology
can be both beneficial or detrimental. Take nuclear energy, this is
certainly a very efficient way of producing sustainable energy. It can be
cheap, it can be safe and it can be plentiful. It is, however, the misuse
and abuse of safety standards and maintenan

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