Science and Technology in Society

Science and Technology in Society, or STS 101, is a philosophical course in the effects of past, present, and future technologies in culture and humanity and how to deal with them.  These are my first three classes of notes, appearing in ascending chronological order.

STS Notes
August 22, 2008

Read the eReserves articles.


Pop culture in 1960s:
- Civil Rights Movement
- Anti-war Movement
- Environmental Movement
Three Influential Books
- Silent Spring: Opens with a spring day which is silent; birdless.  Explores the dangers of DDT effects on eggs.
- The Limits to Growth: Created concern about resource usage and the limits of our non-renewable resources.
- Unsafe at Any Speed: About safety hazards in American automobiles; primarily about the Chevy Corvair.  Had indep. rear suspension, and rollovers were huge.  Created a concern about automobile safety.

Another Book
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: Most influential intellectual book of the 20th Century.  Postulated that social influences affected the evidence that scientists find.  
Because scientists must work in social groups to achieve significant results, and because these groups are incompetition, science is strongly influenced by social dimensions.


STS explores the causal relationships between scientific advances, technoloical developments, and society.

There are advantages to being in groups (mutual security) and groups in society fight for these advantages.

The printing press took us from a pre-literal society to a literal one.

Martin Luther required people to read their own bibles to have a connection with god.  This forced people to become literate and influenced society at large.

The Royal Society created the first set of guidelines for what made an experimenter scientifically legitimate.  There had to be no money at stake, he had to have training, and had to be a gentleman, for example.  They also created a protocol for reporting experiments - such that it can be reproduced. (The Requirement of Replicability).


Sometimes, the purpose of technology is for one group to control another.  With McCormick's reaper, it sucked, but it forced workers to accept lower pay rather than be replaced for no pay.

   Mon Aug 25, 2008

--- Humanity ---
A viewpoint from the humanities is a viewpoint which assumes that "Man is the measure of all things."  This can be seen in Sacred Geometry; granted, the assumption that man is the measure of all things must be countered with the possibility that all things follow the same universal measurement of man.

What makes us human?  Other organisms use crude technology.  What is unique about human is the value judgements we make about our actions and works.  Our idea of ourselves is one of the features that couples with value judgements.  The deconstruction of the geocentric theory is an example of a major shift in self-realization.

--- Progress ---
The Enlightenment was not just a change in healthy habits and scholarship; it introduced a major shift in freedoms and perception of man's relationship with culture and society.  Along with the industrial revolution, it also brought about a change in the cultural requirements for ownership of (unnecessary) goods.

The creation of weapons through technology created a school of thought which refuses to accept further progress for the safety of humanity.  Today, this school of thought still exists alongside the philosophy that progress can continue with control and safety.


We don't have enough experience to have a long term view.

Before 1968: Japan's products were considered "cheap junk", much like Chinese products are today.  They started exporting these products as an economic recovery after WWII.

1968: The Honda Accord.  It changed the foreign view of Japanese exports because of its high quality compared to other automobiles.

Chatper 1 - The Nature of Technology

Technology is not simply "applied science".  There isn't a simply way to define technology, but all technologies share certain characteristics.  

The development of technology in the mid second millenium underwent a tranformation from random gadgets to a way to achieve salvation or englightenment.

Technology is a system of knowledge manifested in physical objects or organizational forms for the attainment of specific goals.

> "Knowledge" must be true in this definition... c'est a dire, "the earth is flat" was never "knowledge".
> "Knowledge" must be scientifically justified through a replicable observation.  This is the only way to justify a knowledge.  This includes word-of-mouth, personal experience, common sense, dreams, et cetera... they are not justification.

STS begins with common sense beliefs (widely accepted truisms based on personal experience but never subjected to careful scrutiny).  These are often universal generalizations (of the form All X are Y).

No comments:

Post a Comment