The Nature of Technology

In his 2009 book The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves economist and philosopher W. Brian Arthur writes the following:
“These two views, that technology is a thing directing our lives, and simultaneously a thing blessedly serving our lives, are simultaneously valid. But together they cause an unease, an ongoing tension, that plays out in our attitudes to technology and in the politics that surround it” (p. 214).
The final two lecture topics of the semester deal with this exact tension: One–on technology addiction–invites us to think about our dependency on technology and how that dependency may be shaping our lives in unforeseen or undesired ways; the other–technology stewardship–reminds us of the power of technology to unite, to democratize knowledge, and to provide opportunities to individuals that might otherwise not be possible.
In this final short paper, your task is to reflect on this tension:
How have our contemporary lives been shaped–and how will they continue to be shaped–by technology?
Is technology a unifying force? Or, as Sherry Turkle puts it, is it creating a world in which we’re learning to expect more from machines and less from one another?
What does the technological future look like? Is it a utopia? A dystopia? Somewhere in between?
What can we expect of technology within the next 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years?
As you consider the relationship between technology and society at the conclusion of this course, are you hopeful about the future? Pessimistic? Ambivalent? And why do you think you feel this way?

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