“As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”
Few subjects have experienced as many interpretations and dramatic changes as the concept of progress in the western world. The idea of “progress”, which basically denotes the human aspiration of breaking away from the limitations of the past, has undergone dramatic changes in meaning as society has redefined its values and goals.
Seeing technology through an historical lens provides an educational opportunity to understand the complexities and ambiguities of our technological world. The lens used for such an analysis, however, may vary as will the conclusions reached. The perspective considering technology and culture are seen in relation to each other is ever shifting, requires constant redefinition, a good knowledge and an understanding of reality, as well as intellectual honesty.
As newer technologies and scientific breakthroughs are fast unfolding before us, we must study their implications, determine the terms of their use and establish priorities. We must examine technology as a part and parcel of all other aspects of the culture that defines us. Examining and reflecting upon the interlock of the technical and non-technical domains becomes an imperative for any student today.
A critical view of technology grew in unprecedented way, particularly, in the United States during the late sixties and seventies. American universities, intellectuals, social critics and a variety of anti-establishment-dissenting groups launched a general protest against a technologized society in which the individual had fallen victim to the machine or what was referred to as "technocracy". Organic and decentralized economies and small-scale technologies provided an alternative to the military-industrial appropriation of technology, an alternative that looked both feasible and more humane.
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