Technology and Values LO11676

Mnr AM de Lange (
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 12:16:34 GMT+2

Ben Compton wrote in LO11585

> 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.

> 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.

Dear Ben and all other fellow learners

I could not resist in answering this one. But first, may you all have a
prosperous new year.

Many of us have the gut feeling that technology and values are related.
But exactly what is this relationship?

The first thing we have to notice, is that the relationship is a very
complex one. Yes, we are back to complexity. We have a similar level of
complexity in genetics. A particular trait may be the result of a
combination of some genes taken from a pool of millions of genes. The
problem is to find the exact combination of genes when we wish to do some
genetical engineering.

Traditional linear science would propose what is know as a multivariable
regression analysis. The data of the predictable (to-be-predicted)
variable is compared with the data of many other variables. The basic idea
is to find the weighted combination of those variables which explains the
outcome of the predictable variable at best. The only problem is that the
more complex the situation becomes, the worse the regression analysis

Path analysis works much better than regression analysis. C J Li, the
discoverer of Path Analyses, tells a wonderful story of a particular
regression analysis which has been done in the far east in the fifties.
Thousands of people were interviewed and data gathered on hundreds of
variables (topics). One idea was to find out what variables limited best
the number of children in a family. The analysis (after many months of
intense, manual computations) showed that typical birth control methods
had a far lesser influence than the use of electrical gadgets (toaster,
radio, etc.). This result was hillarious in those days (when the concept
'quality of living' was unheard of). Today we know better. Increases in
the quality of living (of which electrical gadgets are some measure) lead
to decreases in the birth rate.

It was possible to show with path analysis how the regression results
really had to be interpreted. A hidden 'parent' factor was responsible for
both the 'child' factors - the birth rate and the use of electrical
gadgets. The basic idea in path analysis is to find the 'family tree'
(children-parents-grandparents-..) of all factors involved. In other
words, path analysis assumes succesive emergences to be an integrate part
of the situation.

Now let us go back to the relationship between technology and cultural
values. We need to find this relationship by path analysis rather than
regression analysis. This means that we should suspect a family tree of
factors. It appears as if we have two 'child' factors of which both are
inluenced by one (or more) 'parent' factor(s). Is the 'parent' factor our
institutions? I will not try to answer this question, except to stress
that we should begin to do some path analysis. A much more important
question to me is: Which factor is the great-great grandparent of our
institutions, our values and our technologies? This one I will try to

It all begins with our CREATIVITY. Every piece of technology was created
by humans. Every cultural value was created by humans. Every institution
was created by humans. Take our creativity away from us and we will not be
able to live even the life of the big apes. It is our creativity which is
the source for our technologies, our cultural values and our institutions.

Few people seem to realise that the efficient use of technology depends on
the creativity of the user. In other words, if we wish to promote the use
of technology, we first have to promote the creativity of the user.
Conversely, if we wish to impair the use of technology, we simply have to
stiffle the creativity of its users. I can keep you busy with hundreds of
stories how here in the third world the stiffling of creativity leads to
the most bizarre uses of technology.

A couple of months ago I mentioned on this list that to me morality is the
commitment to promote the creativity of my fellow humans. I cannot and
will not subscribe to any moral 'value' which impairs the creativity of
others. The norm of success cannot ever be to having been able to create a
palace on the shattered remains of other people's creativity. Check out
the news bulletins - how in every horrendous event of human conduct the
creativity of others had been destroyed.

If we know little about creativity, then we will find it extremely
difficult to master technology and to upheld morality. It is our
creativity which allowed us to become different to all other forms of life
on this globe. It is this very creativity which will eventually destroy us
if we keep on using it to shatter all other forms of life. We cannot
create a palace on the shattered remains of other forms of life. Nature
will retaliate deadly if we wish to follow this norm of success. We should
rather become sensitive to 'deep creativity', i.e. to percieve that
creativity is the most important property of this universe - material and
spiritual. We mus become the 'wardens of deep life' if we wish to succeed.

Best wishes

At de Lange
Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, South Africa


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