Technology and Values LO11585
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 09:53:00 -0500

Replying to LO11578 --

William Hobler wrote:

>> I see it that technology is a product of institutions and expression of
>> their values.

It would appear that a good many people share this view, and I did until
just recently. I may go back to sharing this view, but it is unlikely. I
think we need to make a distinction between technology and values.
Technology may reflect _some_ of our values, but by itself does not tell
us _how_ we should use that technology to better mankind.

The Internet seems to be a good example (probably because that's how we're
communicating). The Internet is made up of so many diverse beliefs that,
if you wanted to you could:

- Learn how to build a bomb and blow up a building (similar to the Oklahoma
City bombing);
- Access child pornography
- Learn how to create a subversive political group such as right-wing
- Learn how to illegally tap phone lines

(I've chosen these examples because of their extreme nature; clearly there
is much good information on the Internet, such as all the stuff on
Learning Orgs, vacation spots, etc, etc.)

The only value I see inherent in the Internet is the desire to
communicate, and the desire for "free speech." The technology itself says
nothing about how it is to be used; it simply exists to be used. Our
values determine how we use it, and whether its use will improve mankind.

I would never build a bomb to blow up a building because I cherish human
life; I would never download child pornography because I abhor it; I would
never create a subversive political group because I love my country and
want to build it up, not tear it down; I have no need for an illegal wire
tap, so that has no benefit. What I can say, however, is that my homepage
is becoming a reflection of my value system. And so do many other people's

I would agree that "technology emerges from some of our institutions, and
some of our values." But I find it problematic to say technology is an
expression of our institutional values.

It is interesting to me how many times we've had conversations about
"values" or "morality" on this list since I joined in April. Why does the
topic come up so much? Is it because we have a gut feeling that we're not
making moral advancements as quickly as technology? Is it because we can
all see the great disparity between values around the globe, and how that
might threaten the world's long-term survival? Or is it because we're
simply interested in defining and refining our own personal beliefs?

I don't see technology as something to fear. I think we should continue to
make progress, to seek for new discoveries, and to come to know the world
and the universe in which we live. At the same time we need to have
constant conversations about our values and our moral beliefs. I have
found that associating with those whose beliefs differ from my own, and
presenting "scenarios" that could probe our beliefs and explore organic
they are to us has great value. It is from this type of conversation --
occuring over three years -- that I'm now beginning to become aware of my
belief structure, its implications, and its meaning. At the same time,
many of my beliefs have broadened. This has allowed me to develop some
very meaningful and enjoyable friendships that could never have occured
three years ago.


Benjamin B. Compton

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>