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The One Minute Case For Technology

What is technology?

Technology is the sum of material entities created by the application of mental and physical effort to nature in order to achieve some value. Technological progress is made possible by engineering, the field which applies scientific knowledge to solve practical problems by developing and applying new tools, machines, materials and processes.

The history of technology.

The evolution of technology has been a progression from reliance on physical effort to a growing role for the mind. The first tools, such as chisels and hammers, augmented raw muscle power. The creation of powered machines eliminated the reliance on muscle and allowed much more powerful mechanisms to be built than with human or animal power alone. The introduction of the automaton in the twentieth century embedded human knowledge in machinery. The trend continues as human beings improve their ability to exploit nature to meet their values through the use of automation and achieve more and more material values by mental effort.

Does technological progress cause unemployment?

In 1811, the Luddites became alarmed that technological innovations introduced by the Industrial Revolution threatened their livelihood. In a sense, they were right – most jobs that existed in 1811 have made superfluous by technology, and this process continues today. Yet outside of wage and price controls and other forms of interventionism, large-scale unemployment has never been a threat. Technology has not made most people permanently idle because it not only eliminates dreary, labor-intensive jobs, but also frees us to pursue more activities. The tremendous improvements in productivity that came with the Industrial and Information Revolutions gave us more free time and created opportunities to allow us to discover and pursue new passions. Highly repetitive agricultural and manufacturing jobs have been replaced by service industry and technical jobs. Entirely new institutions, such as professional and amateur sport leagues, museums, and online multiplayer clans have evolved as the public’s free time has grown.

Is technology good?

While the industrial revolution greatly improved the quality and longevity of human life, war and threat of nuclear annihilation have demonstrated the destructive power of technology. Rapid technological progress makes it likely that future inventions will increase both its creative and destructive potential. Yet there is reason to be optimistic that technology will be used for good.

While technology can be subverted and copied to serve evil, societies which enslave the human mind cannot sustain the capital stock or the intellectual base necessary for progress. Technological progress requires a society which values rationality, initiative, and voluntary cooperation. Most important is the need for freedom: inventors must be free to propose new ideas, and entrepreneurs must be free to turn them into reality. The failure of Fascism and Communism, and the success of the United States in the 20th century is a powerful testament to the power of a free society.

What is the future of technology?

Technological evolution follows two trends: the replacement of physical labor with more efficient mental labor, and the resulting greater degree of control over our natural environment, including our ability to transform raw materials into ever more complex and pliable products. This process culminates with man’s ability to achieve all of the material values technologically possible to him by mental effort. The growing importance of intellectual activity implies that intellectual property will become increasingly more important relative to material labor and physical goods. The current system of patent laws and copyrights will evolve dramatically as intellectual transactions evolve to meet the requirements of a civilization with rapid innovation on a global scale.

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Filed under Economics, Science

The One Minute Case For Science

Science is an epistemological method

Science is the field which applies reason to the study of nature. Science is necessary because knowledge of how nature works is not self-evident, but requires a systematic method to collect evidence and correctly interpret it. Science is different in degree from informal empirical methods such as “trial and error” and in kind from non-empirical methods such as revelation, astrology, or emotionalism.

Science is the application of philosophy to specialized fields

Science is made possible by the acceptance of certain philosophical axioms in metaphysics and epistemology. In metaphysics, science requires recognizing that all entities behave in a causal manner according to their nature. In epistemology, it recognizes that man is capable of perceiving and understanding reality by the use of his senses, and because his consciousness is fallible and not automatic, he needs to actively adhere to reason and logic to reach the right conclusions.

Science is empirical

The scientific method is a formal methodology for using reason to study nature. Proper application of the scientific method can produce a scientific theory — a unifying and self-consistent explanation of fundamental natural phenomena derived from the evidence. Some essential principles of science are:

  • Observation: scientists attempt to sample and describe the full range of observed phenomena, ideally including the use of controls which counterbalance the risk of empirical bias.
  • Causal explanation: a scientific theory must provide a causal identification of the underlying processes of particular phenomena.
  • Prediction: scientific theories must explain nature in a replicable way, so that hypothesized causes correlate with observed events.
  • Falsifiability: the ability to eliminate plausible alternatives by repeated experimentation of observation. This requires scientific theories to be formulated in a way which can be independently tested and corroborated by others.
  • Integration: new theories must integrate with the existing body of scientific knowledge. When a contraction is found, the theory must be amended or discarded if not compatible with the evidence.

Science is hierarchical

Scientists build on existing work to form a hierarchical body of knowledge. Sometimes new evidence disproves existing theories. In other cases, new evidence may show that an existing theory is not a complete explanation in all contexts. For example, Einstein’s relativity theory did not prove Isaac’s Newton classical mechanism wrong. Classical mechanics is valid in the context of non-relativistic speeds, whereas general relativity theory explains for a wider range of behavior. Quantum mechanics provides evidence that a new theory is necessary on the sub-atomic scale. As scientific knowledge delves ever deeper into the fabric of the universe, new theories build on existing knowledge.

Pseudoscience versus science

The tremendous success of science in learning about the material world and applying that knowledge to benefit mankind has encouraged some anti-scientific movements to adopt a façade of scientific verbiage to mask an anti-scientific, anti-reason ideology. Some indicators of non-scientific reasoning are:

  • Use of vague and untestable claims which cannot be independently corroborated.
  • Reliance on testimonials and anecdotes rather than carefully structured, large-scale studies.
  • Argument of ignorance: placing the burden of proof on skeptics.
  • Evasion of peer review combined with claims of institutional conspiracies to suppress results.
  • Lack of progress beyond the initial theory. For example, in the case of astrology and religion, claims can remain unproven for thousands of years.

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Filed under Science