what are our moral responsibilities regarding technology?

In The Whale and the Reactor, Langdon Winner notes that our culture has severely limited the moral questions that have salience when it comes to technology. As a society, we limit our questions to issues of public safety and health; harm to resources, the environment, or wildlife; and exaggerated social stresses. These concerns are of course valid, but don’t encompass all of the moral questions we could ask (50-51). I particularly love this passage:

Are there no shared ends that matter to us any longer than the desire to be affluent while avoiding the risk of cancer? It may be that the answer is no. The prevailing consensus seems to be that people love a life of high consumption, tremble at the thought that it might end, and are displeased about having to clean up the messes that modern technologies sometimes bring. To argue a moral position convincingly these days requires that one speak to (and not depart from) people’s love of material well-being, their fascination with efficiency, or their fear of death. (51-52)

Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.

This entry was posted in English 584 Postcritical Perspectives in Literacy Studies (Spring 2009), Ethics. Bookmark the permalink.

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