Frankly, is technology still truly neutral?
Every day in human beings’ lives technology embodies in devices, tools, instruments, or gadgets to make their lives easier. They assist what human beings cannot do or what human beings can do longer if they do not use technology. It is inevitable that we cannot elude not using any technology for our daily life. We can find every single activity we do needs or is equipped by technology, from waking up to sleeping — even in sleeping we still need and use technology.
It is said that the function of the technologies only emerges when used at precisely the moment. Here, we have a sort of a grand presupposition that technology is neutral to the life of human beings. Every value of it is materialised only once we engrave on it. Otherwise, the value is nothing.
We often analogize the neutrality of technology to the existence of a knife. That that knife can be used to cut vegetables or to stab a person’s stomach is genuinely dependent upon its user. How and for what we use the tool or technology is what determines “what value” of the technology is. In other words, technologies do not have intrinsic value contained within them. The value is manifested, only manifested, when, and only when, we are using that for what.
The presupposition as to the neutrality of technology has been taken for granted, thus barely do we try to rethink and reconsider the problem anymore. In my eyes, we need to elaborate this more thoroughly so as to locate the problem in terms of what it in fact is.
Indubitably, we ourselves experience lebenswelt (life-world) with our body-perception, and absolutely we change that experience which is experiencing lebenswelt when we are not using our body-perception itself. There is, in fact, a conspicuous distinction between a person seeing a collection of stars with her or his naked observation and a person seeing it with a telescope. Not only is her or his perception altered, but also the phenomenon observed by her or him is modified. The two are incommensurate phenomenologically, so that that person is experiencing lebenswelt differently.
From my exposition above, we can take a simple conclusion that technology we are using determines what we are experiencing. In that instance, there are two functions of the telescope, to magnify and at once to reduce simultaneously. Firstly, the objects observed by the person are magnified so conspicuous differently that the person does not gain the same conclusion, or radically “objects”, as the person, when not using the telescope, does. Secondly, when the objects are magnified, in other words, there is a reduced reality since the object which the person wants to observe must be zoomed in for a close-up of the landscape. Therefore, the person cannot see whatever the telescope is not scoping.
The use of the technology changes human beings’ perception as well as experience, so that what is experienced will be diverse in spite of the same or identical reality. Thus, despite the same reality, we cannot equate the telescope-observed reality to the naked-observed reality because those experiences of our perception and our perception of the experiences are not seriously alike. This indicates that our “embodiment relations” to lebenswelt are clearly determined by the use of the technology.
In the use of watch, absolutely, there is a striking difference between a society not using watch and a society using it. In days of yore, before watch was discovered, agrarians recognised time by seeing the changing seasons and the circulation of the sun as well as the moon. They did not depend it upon a concept of time which was reflected on a watch or a clock as we do nowadays. They enjoyed time more relaxed because there has not been a fixed time to make them exist in haste.
Certainly, this society differs from our society now in which we have had a different concept of time which makes us recognise time differently. The time has now in fact been quantified in hour, minute, second, and even nanosecond, with the result that the time which we perceive is not the same as did the agrarians perceive. We do not need to look at the position of the sun so as to know the time as they did, because we now only stare at a clock on our wall or a watch on our wrist to know what time it is — which is actually “at what o’clock it is”. They were and we are experiencing the “same” time differently using the concept of time being dissimilar each other.
Exactly, there is still a clear difference, in our concepts of time, between analogue clock and digital clock. In digital clock we perceive a whole time, while in analogue clock we only perceive the precise time happening at the precise time (11.09)— we do not see the entire time, only the-here-and-the-now when we are dwelling and experiencing. However, in those two modes, we are experiencing the time as a leap in each of its discrete part, where without clock or watch as heretofore they were experiencing time wholly, in a continue stream. That really means there is drastically a change of concept of lebenswelt from flowing time into frozen time.
That likewise happens to our perception of “space”. Using map, or google map currently, we can position ourselves out of the surface of the Earth or as though we were above it using “other eyes” to observe a place where we are actually residing or on where our feet are treading. This situation changes our embodiment relation to the space which we are observing, as if we were beyond the space, which is, in fact, not. Now, it has been our culture that we experience lebenswelt such a drastically different way that we sharp the world so unsimilar a way as we have not had — “modern” — technology.
Has that a technology is consistently neutral been palpable? Actually the life in which there is not any gun is, in point of fact, unlike to the life in which there are guns. No matter how we try to consider it neutral, as a matter of fact we are in a pitfall of “self-reference” where we try to go beyond our place “of standpoint” on which our feet are treading, transcending ourselves which are, in fact, immanent. Frankly, technology is very laden with — likely political — tendencies. If you are still hesitant, or contrary to my viewpoint, could you answer, “For what is a nuclear weapon as “an explosive device” made?” Let us ruminate deeply on this conundrum.