Technocrat to a Philosopher

Technocrat to a Philosopher

I can’t remember precisely if I heard this, read it, thought it up, or a combination, but “Philosophy is the antidote to the technocrat.”

A technocrat, with an overriding preference for the transformation of human experience by means of scientific invention, favours learning a science, designing machines and thus having more effective control. Technology is a highly enriching industry, and radical enthusiasm for it is only to be expected. But expensive in several ways, including: resource-depletion; labour and time expenditure; political coordination.

Philosophy is the most ancient academic discipline…(or is it mathematics? - I can’t remember that either.)

Its roots are grounded in the origin of theory (science = natural philosophy, if you plough deeply enough), offshoot and branch into other subjects. Technology began with tool-making, facilitated by the evolution of verbal language, so since we’ve had agriculture, architecture, geology and textiles, we’ve built technologies. Hence technology is also ancient. Technology tackles the question: How do I efficiently control my physical environment? Philosophy tackles the question: how do I live my life?

In a technocracy, society is governed according to the advice of technical wizards. Not such a bad idea perhaps…well-implemented, we might imagine a self-sufficient, progressive synthetic environment: flying cars; ultra-green recycling; forty four screens of TV - on the wall - to choose from (choose from.)

Human beings have a vested interest in the evolution of technologies - for the purposes of a more comfortable lifestyle. Is it in fact the greatest interest of all civilisation?

A curve-ball: the greatest interest of human civilisation is mathematics. This is the case; mathematics is the highest truth known to man; insofar as we have communicable knowledge, the best example of it is held in the calculations of mathematical logic, which support the configurations of mechanics, physics and geometry. Maths is the one true source of certainty within the remit of human understanding. As a consequence, we should be living in a mathematocracy… - !

Mathematicians might in some cases agree with this, or aspects of its integrity as an argument.

To return the curve, the greatest interest of human beings is architecture, society’s exoskeleton, the creative extension of habitat in structures - where would we be without buildings? They are the fort of accommodation; the nest of the species; the bedrock of civilisation. The biggest market in the economy. To cater for the needs of an expanding population, architectural development is key. Architect-ocracy!!

As surely as history is an important subject, the question of how to go forwards as a society is answerable, partly, to wisdom taught deep in the past. And now I think it’s history; the story of how we got here, what we did and why. Everything that has ever happened belongs to history. Yesterday, for example, is historical. And where would we be without yesterday? It’s a catch-all!

We’re heading towards an increasingly technocratic civilisation. And technology is supreme in its own field, to use a tautology. So is philosophy, which underpins academia, and lays claim to very little in the way of content - rather assuming the form of a process, like figuring out for the first time how to plant a seed in the ground in order to grow something. Let’s say you were stranded on an island and figured it out for yourself…the motives behind the inquiry might involve: a need for nourishment; dietary habit; familiarity with the nature of the seasons; attention to growth cycles of plants and feeding requirements; use of agricultural tools; and knowledge of how to build those tools. The skill set upshot would be agricultural and scientific; the lesson, natural philosophy.

Striding forwards with technology…on the basis of scientific understanding…impelled by agricultural and architectural needs…structured according to measurements describable mathematically…with a regard for astronomical and geological factors…knowledge of chemical processes…and an overarching respect for historical information on how civilisation has become what it is…philosophical reflection should be the initial step. Where we pitch our civilisation may be a technocracy or some other-ocracy; technology is a perspective on the field of human activity - a visionary one - but it is just one curve. The antidote to the technocrat is inquiry into the humanitarian advantages of a particular design or its production; an ethical question. And while technological advances may be effective in practice, they do not per se address the principal moral question: why do I do this? They solve the scientific question: how do I do this?

Technology is a means to societal progress; philosophy offers a criteria for deciding the direction society should take.

‘Antidote’ suggests technology needs an antithesis…but there’s probably a technocratic tendency in us all; a drive towards sophisticated systems for our benefit. Technology is deductive; it learns through empirical investigation of the physical laws of nature. Philosophy is inductive; it is primarily based on reason and a search for truth, but fundamental, asking what it means for something to be deductive or inductive, and pointing to political/ethical opinion on the value of the (mass) production of new technologies.

The objective could well be technological progress, but what is the original intent?

Philosophy is motivational. Technology: practical. Or what is the use of a designing a pencil without an idea to put on the page?

The reason and motive behind the use of a technology is a valid subject of inquiry…

Which I hope accounts for this discourse.





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