Is Technology Value-Neutral?

Science, Technology, and Human Values 46 (1):53-80 (2021)
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According to the Value-Neutrality Thesis, technology is morally and politically neutral, neither good nor bad. A knife may be put to bad use to murder an innocent person or to good use to peel an apple for a starving person, but the knife itself is a mere instrument, not a proper subject for moral or political evaluation. While contemporary philosophers of technology widely reject the VNT, it remains unclear whether claims about values in technology are just a figure of speech or nontrivial empirical claims with genuine factual content and real-world implications. This paper provides the missing argument. I argue that by virtue of their material properties, technological artifacts are part of the normative order rather than external to it. I illustrate how values can be empirically identified in technology. The reason why value-talk is not trivial or metaphorical is that due to the endurance and longevity of technological artifacts, values embedded in them have long-term implications that surpass their designers and builders. I further argue that taking sides in this debate has real-world implications in the form of moral constraints on the development of technology.



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Boaz Miller
Zefat Academic College

References found in this work

Pragmatism: a new name for some old ways of thinking.William James - 2019 - Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.
Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.Heather Douglas - 2009 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach.Karl Raimund Popper - 1972 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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