HPS202 Textbook Reading - Slack and Wise Chapter 1 (Progress)

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Published on 30 Sep 2011
School
UTSG
Department
History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Course
HPS202H1
Professor
HPS202
Slack and Wise Ch1
Progress
new machine evidence human race moving forward, race improved and life somehow
better
US idea of progress allied with idea of technology and vice versa
(progress=technology) but question of validity
definition: move forward, cultural sense: move towards something, implying direction
or goal and endpoint
advancing toward future with envisioned utopia, not blindly
progress shows how far we’ve come, achieved, how much improved, where going
goals usually unstated, determined by reading culture, typically “good life”
goals associated with progress:
material betterment (comfortable, healthier life, more things)
moral betterment (spiritually enlightened)
goals of progress usually match fundamental values of society
progress at particular moment
“chicken in every pot” - democratic value of universal health and well-being
“car in every garage” - indicating values of widespread personal mobility and
private ownership
absence of war/violence - value of peace and spiritual enlightenment
combination of three
tendency to conflate or collapse sense of progress as something new (moving
forward) with progress as material and moral betterment (moving toward utopia)
when make assumption explicit, see it’s not true but automatic assumption
tech+progress
Importance of Criteria
measurement always criteria, standards of reference to judge
easier to count tangible things, common to use measure of more things as measure of
progress
problem with relying on numbers of things as progress reduces progress to those
things that can be counted, lose sight of qualitative (more doesn’t mean better
necessarily)
often think technologies as things and easily measured, culture accepts more things
equals progress
tech in culture linked with key values of Euro enlightenment of 18CE (scientific
objectivity, efficiency & rationality); valuing science -> valuing applications -> more tech
as applications of science come to mean progress, and tech allow produce more and
undertake new tasks for efficiently, achieve maximum output for minimum work with min
resources
tech seen as rational, power of reason to order the world and achieve particular ends,
chart progress
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HPS202
Slack and Wise Ch1
main criteria for measuring tech progress: value of efficiency -> dehumanization
humans urged to become machinelike to become efficient
replacing humans (far less efficient) with machines as embracing progress
(efficiency)
scientific objectivity, efficiency, rationality and ease with which one can see, measure
and count technologies... existence of more and new tech only yardstick of progress
culture focus more on criteria than goal, assume achieving progress is goal itself
progress = more tech, not progress = better world from tech
Progress in American Culture
US was to be place where excesses held in balance (between industrial tech and
nature, between tech betterment and moral betterment, between better tech and better
life)
America new Eden, primarily for source of material wealth and resources
independence as revolution in humankind advocating democracy, freedom, liberty in
New World
Marx ideal “machine in garden” vs Jefferson/Franklin aware of balance not happening
on its own and dangers of industrialism, viewpoint that tech as ends themselves would
upset balance
Jefferson emphasize tech as means of achieving progress, balance had to be stuck
between material prosperity as mark of progress and moral and spiritual growth as mark
of progress, focus on goals not means of progress only
Franklin refuse to take out patents on inventions arguing good of society more
important than individual gain
idealism of founders diluted, lure of profit and wealth too strong, Industrial Revo heat
up 18CE
cheaper production, canals and railways for easy movement, life prosperous and new
machines most obvious sign of prosperity
adoption of tech seen as inherently good
country lose sight of moral and spiritual dimensions of term, steam engines and
railways mean progress in themselves
Emerson: works and days offered, we took works
rapid geo expansion of country aid sense of progress, US constantly moving forward
into future.. frontier experience, ordained by God
steam railroad conquering frontier symbol, American Progress painting (woman,
liberty, progress as Native Americans run)
Manifest Destiny and progress, underlining evangelical Protestantism
Calvinism and principle of predestination, chosen few inevitably succeed, US as
chosen land
promise of machine tarnished as pollution, slums of Europe recreated in New World
through 19CE
bloodiness and civil war shake faith of peace and prosperity but tech progress strong
due to new symbol of progress, electricity
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