Quote of the moment - By all means email any worthy quotes

    What does a fish know of water in which it swims all its life? What does a man know of nature of which he is an integral part? The ancient answer is: he knows and he knows not. (cited in Saraswati, 1995 (Ed) Man in Nature)

    The more I have learned in life, and I have learned a lot, the less confident I am in what I know. From this, I conclude that adamancy is a sign of ignorance. M. Ferguson 2010- Polymathica

Friday, 19 September 2008

Extra post for September

I usually only do one post a month to avoid too much distraction But I had a discussion with someone yesterday that I simply must get out of my head.

Have you ever thought....
  • We never look at a Formula or set of numbers and say "those symbols and numbers are 'A' mathematics"; no- they are symbols that represent abstract mathematical concepts.
  • We never look at letters and say "they are 'A' language"; no- but they form the basis of a language
  • We never look at people and say "they were 'A' sociology"; no- but they were a society
  • We never look at a past event and say "that is 'A' history"; no- but it is historial
  • We never look at human body or plant and say "that is 'A' biology"; no - but it is bioloical
  • We never study a past society and say "that is 'AN' anthropology"; no - we make anthropological observations.
  • We never look at a building and say "that is 'AN' architecture"- it is a piece of architecture or architectural
and I could go on...and on...  (and so, perhaps I do)

But!   everyday in the media and in conversations we hear...
  • that fax machine is a technology
  • the computer is a technology
  • this new piece of technology this... that piece of technology that.... blah blah blah.
What's the go with that?!!!

The suffix '~al' means 'pertaining to', so anything technological therefore is 'pertaining to technology'  we could say that the computer is technological but it is NOT  'A' technology.

Is the device itself technological?- possibly (that requires more thought but it seems plausible).
'Techne', from which we get words like technique, technical, technology etc is often translated 'CRAFT'. The implication is that the craftsperson has internalised knowledge, skill and attitude to perform a task efficiently and proficiently (which is of itself a normative evaluation).  
Hence, to be Technical, requires an implicit sense of knowledge and reason directing action

To study how to use a technical device, such as a computer for a particular purpose, can be considered a craft in the same way using a knife, hammer, drill machine, an x-ray machine, or nano-machine, managing a organisational system, etc, etc, etc  requires techne (craft) to be efficient and proficient.

To the ancient philosophers, practicing medicine is techne and so, a craft not a science. [This may appear to be contrary to popular lay-views.]

So, learning how to use a technological artefact for human ends can really only be considered technical learning, and although technological (as in pertaining to technology) it is NOT technology in its true sence.

Next, add to 'techne', the root '~ology'  or 'the study of...'

Surely then,

technology then means the study of the reasoning and actions to perform tasks efficiently and proficiently [a step removed from the technical].

Given this- surely, to truly study  Technology objectively, One must observe, understand and develop knowledge about technical action holistically;   that is
  1. that which has the knowledge, technique, attitude and organisation (the agent);   
  2. the instruments systems and devices wielded in a technical act (technical systems)
  3. the existing materials obtained and modified from the natural or human-made ecology (eco-resource);  and
  4.  include the reason and the place that the whole synthesis of elements is brought together in the first place (the purpose and context)
There we have the four elements of technacy.

If One remains within the context of technical action to study technology it may be that judgements being made are "tainted" or contain bias from an experienced or crafted version of reality- this constructed reality may not be in the best interests of the planet or ourselves but without escaping the constructed reality we can never know.  This may seem terribly theoretical and not practical but technology involves change and so the best test of technological knowledge is to observe its effect.  And if current conditions of the planet are anything to be concerned about- our constructed realities in the past, may have served us well but may not be as appropriate as we may have thought.

Having developed technological knowledge there is no reason why a new construct of technology cannot be applied to improve technical action; indeed, technological knowledge only becomes fully realised in action. Modern science and the procurement of knowledge itself cannot progress without it... But that is probably a discussion for another time and probably best left to a real philosopher of science and technology. 

Friday, 12 September 2008

Amory Lovins

I cannot help but post a link to an article on Economist.com  [click here].  Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute has been very persistent in the face of doubt from others.   His approach can be described as developing holistic technological solutions that help address the urgency for energy efficiency and now the need to address climate change. 

Lovin's work is comparable to ideas and concepts behind Technacy;  i.e. Using knowledge  intellegently to re-organise (agent)  the way things are done (Technical systems and devices)  for the purpose of creating technologies that meet needs, wants and requirements whilst apportioning appropriate value for the eco-resource.

Additionally, Lovins presented some interesting ideas about his Work at 2005 TED conference. Including the idea that less than 1% of the energy produced by an automobile is actually used to transport the person.