- Feb 2018
Summary Marquit begins by introducing us to the principal concern of philosophy of technology, which is how technological development influences societal organization and culture and how culture and society influence and drive technology. He then repeats the three theories of technological and societal relationships that Nye introduced us to last week. Technological determinism states that technology spontaneously evolves and that society must adapt to make efficient use of it. Second, technological advance is driven by human culture and cultural developments. Third, a mix of both of those views is the most generally held. Marquit makes the case that Human evolution is intertwined with technology and that technological, biological and societal interactions make up a kind of pyramid of forces that created the modern Human. Bipedality freed up our hands to use and create tools, while the need and ability to use tools may have driven us to develop brains large and capable enough to make use of the tools. Changes in the hand allowed for the use of tools, while the lowering of the larynx and decrease in canine teeth size enabled articulate speech which was another use of larger brains. Tools, intelligence and bipedality were critical in the move to humans as hunters. The first evidence of human hunting is from one-hundred-thousand years ago, an eight foot wooden spear found in an elephant. As a case-study for ancient hunting societies the Mbuti people of the Ituri rain forest in Zaire are a good example. Most of the people in the society participate in the hunt, and there is little hierarchical structure. There is much cooperation between ages and genders, especially in the important songs used for various reasons. Group members make decisions collectively, with the chief providing guidance in conflict, the shaman providing religious guidance, and singers and dancers serving important roles as well. The first major revolution in social organization associated with technological developments was in 10,000 B.C. with the advent of the city-state in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Mesoamerica, and the Andes. The first sign of technological change involved the transition to complex foraging, society becoming more static with the ability to acquire a surplus of resources and store them. This gave rise to larger populations and allowed for some specialization. Social differentiation arises through the need for individuals to be in charge of administrative tasks. Structures are built to house goods and ceremonial structures hint at the possibility that leaders and central management were present. Eventually the state emerges as a bureaucratic institution and exerts control over resources. Needing a reason to justify this control, institutions are put in place based on morality and being enforced with the threat of physical violence. In 3300 B.C. bronze metallurgy is introduced in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The ability to create metal tools significantly increases productivity and harvest capability, leading to a surge in population and allowing for more specialized professions, including the first known specialization that is not related to the ruling bureaucracy or directly to food production, the blacksmith. Urban developments spring up as a result of these changes and society becomes stratified into state societies by the 4th century B.C. which are ruled by priest-kings. Later in the Middle East accounting for all the surplus supplies becomes critical and because of this need, mathematics, the first currency and the first written language, cuneiform is developed. Greeks as discussed in the last article, equated technology and physical labor as being lesser than theorizing about philosophy of mathematics. The Greeks also have slaves, so labor is much more efficient than implementing new technology. The Romans a few centuries later did innovate and had a much higher opinion of technology. They used their centralized power to build aqueducts, roads and grain mills. The Chinese in Asia, valued technology, science and writing very highly. As a result were much ahead of their western peers for a long time. The early move to a feudal system of a lord, taxation in the form of unpaid labor, and very centralized government however, stunted their growth, there was not enough free time available to the lower class and the middle class was caught up in serving the lords who were content with the system.
Response Marquit lays out the principal concern of philosophy of technology which is how technological development influences societal organization and culture and how culture and society influence and drive technology and I think this is the lens through which we should be looking at this article. The course dictates that we look at how this frames our relationship to technology which I think is complementary. Regarding the triangle or pyramid of society, biology and technology, I find this very relevant in today’s world. Soon technology and society may even more directly impact our biology. Indirectly our biology has been greatly shaped in recent years by modern medicine. In times past many of us with what are seen as minor health issues today would be dead or looked upon as detrimental to society, today many of these health issues are able to be corrected. In the near future the relationship with biology and technology/society will have a much more direct impact. As long as society allows, humans will begin augmenting themselves, if not at a dna level perhaps as implants, and it will be something to keep an eye on. I found the portion of the article relating to the formation of city-states and production and storage of excess products extremely interesting and important. The relationship between technology and society is really boiled down and almost purified in this moment. Society was so simple before we had excess food, there was little to no hierarchy and no social classes. We see a clear delineation between the time before and after humans started to settle down. The creation of modern society is seen in its’ infancy in this period and I think it can be a great place for me to study technology going forward. It surprised me how much studying history really taught me about how technology affects us today! I am happy that we will be studying more about Greek and Chinese society after this paper, because it seems brushed over compared with how much detail and growth we really see in the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures within the article. I did find it interesting how these more modern (by comparison) groups were described as failures in Marquit’s opinion. The Greeks held themselves back by thinking of technology as a lesser endeavor, while the Chinese organized their society in such a way that they did not allow for growth, the lavish lifestyle of the upper class cramped the growth of their area.