Technology and Values LO11578

William J. Hobler, Jr (
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 18:36:04 -0500

Replying to LO11558 --

Welcome aboard to Jeff Kenyon. In your first post I think you opened a
vital question that is much like chickens and eggs. You stated;

>Technology will always be ahead of values, institutions, etc. I think
>that's inevitable.

I see it that technology is a product of institutions and expression of
their values. First assume that institutions are organizations and both
exist within and as their own culture. That is, GM and GE are both
organizations with their own cultures existing within American culture
within world culture.

GE produces a new medical imaging technology and offers it for sale. That
expresses GE's culture. Similarly the Internet was produced by the US
Department of Defense in the academic and research world reflecting that
culture. As it expands world wide it has changed to express the wider

Perhaps it is more accurate to consider technology as an emergent
phenomenon. It emerges from the culture and the possibilities existing
technology presents.

>But I don't see that implying that technology will
>spin us out of control. Only that technological forces will exert a
>certain amount of influence over the direction in which we choose to

I would suggest the emergence concept again. All technology is common
property of our world culture. There are many experiments being conducted
to test the survivability of the next technical development. Those that
survive will be found valuable by the society or culture in which it is
developed. Perhaps it will spread to other cultures.

What happens to yesterday's technology? It atrophies and disappears or it
fades into the background. In the US the ability to plug into the
electrical power grid is background. Most Americans don't even think
about the hugh infrastructure that makes this so reliable. Note that this
technology is not background in many parts of the world.

The Internet will probably disappear before it fades into the background.
Its replacement will be an even more ubiquitous communications utility
that makes person to person and small community communications as easy as
plugging into the wall to get power.

Like universally available electric power, universally available person to
person communication untility is many generations away.


"William J. Hobler, Jr" <>

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