#3836 Created 04/28/2016 Updated 04/30/2016
A framework is proposed for analyzing technologies that technological systems at several levels, a primary level at which natural objects and people and decontextualized to identify affordances, complimented by a secondary level of recontextualization in natural, technical and social environments. 47
What makes technical action different from other relations to reality? This question is often answered in terms of notions such as efficiency or control which are themselves internal to a technical approach to the world. To judge an action as more or less efficient is already to have determined it to be technical, and therefore an appropriate object of such a judgement. Similarly, the concept of control implied in technique is "technical" and so not a distinguishing criterion. 47
Human beings can only act on a system to which they themselves belong. This is the practical significance of embodiment. As a consequence, every one of our interventions returns to us in some form as feedback from our objects.. This is obvious in everyday communication where anger usually evokes anger, kindness, and so on.
Technical action represents a partial escape from the human condition. We call an action "technical" when the actor's impact on the object is out of all proportion to the return feedback affecting the actor. 48
"...So the technical subject does not escape from the logic of finitude after all. But the reciprocity of finite action is dissipated or deferred in such a way as to create the space of a necessary illusion of transcendence. Heidigger and Marcuse understand this illusion as the structure of modern experience. According to Heidigger's history of being, the modern "revealing" is biased by a tendency to take every object as a potential raw material for technical action. Objects our experience only in so far as we notice their usefulness in the technological system. Release from this form of experience may come from a new mode of revealing but Heidigger has no idea how revealings come and go.
Instrumentalization theory holds that technology must be analyzed at two levels,the level of our original functional relation to reality and to level of design and implementation. Af the first level. we seek and find affordances that can be mobilized in devises and systems by decontextualizing the objects of experience and reducing them to their useful properties. This involves a process of de-worlding in which objects are torn out of their original contexts and exposed to analysis and manipulation while subjects are positioned for distanced control. 50
At a second level, we introduce designs that can be integrated with other already existing devices and systems and with various social constraints such as ethical and aesthetic principles. The primary level simplifies objects for incorporation into a device while the secondary level integrates the simplified objects to a natural and social environment. 50
These two levels are analytically distinguished. No matter how abstract the affordances identified at the primary level, they carry social content from the secondary level in the elementary contingencies of a particular approach to the materials. Similarly, secondary instrumentalizations such as design specifications presuppose the identification of the affordances to be assembled and concretized. This is an important point. 50
In determinist and instrumentalist accounts of technology, efficiency serves as the unique principle of selection between successful and failed technical initiatives. 51
More precisely, then, a technical code is a criterion that selects between alternative feasible technical designs in terms of a social goal. ... A prime example in the history of technology is the imperative requirement to deskill labor in the course of industrialization rather than preserving or enhancing skills. 52
For many critics of technological society, Marx is now irrelevant, an outdated critic of capitalist economics. I disagree. I believe Marx had important insights for philosophy of technology. He focused so exclusively on economics because production was the principal domain of application of technology in his time. 52
In Marx the capitalist is ultimately distinguished not so much by ownership of wealthy as by control of the conditions of labor. The owner has not merely an economic interest in what goes on within is factory, but also a technical interest. By reorganizing the work process, he can increase production and profits Control of the work process, in turn, leads to new ideas for machinery and the mechanization of industry follows in short order. This leads over time to the invention of a specific type of machinery which deskills workers and requires management. Management acts technically on persons, extending the hierarchy of technical subject and object into human relations in pursuit of efficiency. Eventually professional managers represent and in some sense replace owners in control of the new industrial organizations Marx calls this the impersonal domination inherent in capitalism in contradistinction to the personal domination of earlier social formations. 53
The entire development of modern societies is thus marked by the paradigm of unqualified control over the labor process on which capitalist industrialism rests. ... I call this control "operational autonomy," the freedom of the owner or his representative to make independent decisions about how to carry on the business of the organization, regardless of the views or interests of subordinate actors and the surrounding community. The operational autonomy of management and administration positions them in a technical relation to the world, safe from the consequences of their actions. IN addition, it enables them to reproduce the conditions of their own supremacy at each iteration fo teh technologies they command. 53