A Critical Attitude to Technology

According to technological pessimists, the overall value of technological progress is questionable. In this chapter, we take a closer look at technological pessimism and contrast it with technological optimism. Technological optimists stress that, all things considered, humans are much better off today than ever before, which is largely due to technological innovations. The optimist admits that not every single technology has turned out to be beneficial, but modern technology as a whole has brought us enormous benefits. Technological optimists believe that many problems we face in today’s society can be solved by new technological innovations, or “techno-fixes.” Critics of technological optimism do not deny that modern technology has enabled us to improve our living conditions, but they question the claim that we are much better off than our ancestors. They also question the idea that the negative sideeffects of modern technology can be solved with techno-fixes.

The critical approach to technology is an intermediate, less extreme position in this debate. Rather than making bold claims about the positive or negative value of technology as such, defenders of the critical approach argue that we should evaluate each and every new or existing technology individually. We can, of course, suggest design improvements or take other measures whenever that is motivated, but we should refrain from making general claims about the value of technology as such. A restaurant critic should praise or criticize individual restaurants (and sometimes individual dishes on the menu), but it would be pointless to praise or criticize all restaurants in the world collectively.

Back to top