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ISBN-10: 0120121247

ISBN-13: 9780120121243

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Extra info for Advances in Computers, Vol. 24

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Of course the nature of that dependency changes over time, sometimes in radical fits and starts, but it remains, nonetheless, a condition of our condition. And this dependency means that assessments of future technologies are always relative to the current technological state, not relative to some pretechnological or non-technological state. Technology is always part of the context, and to see it as exogenous to the human in some über-Cartesian spasm of solipsistic individualism is simply wrong.

We have gone from technology as a particular artifact or machine that just does its job to understanding that it emerges from social systems and thus necessarily reflects, internalizes, and often changes power relations and cultural assumptions. We recognize that social systems are in reality techno-social systems, that these systems impose certain orders of behavior on our lives about which we have little choice, and that these systems lock in paths of dependency that make a mockery of human agency—just try decarbonizing the global energy system!

But even if one is sympathetic to the perspective that certain technologies threaten some shared sense of essential humanness, the holistic mushiness of this view cannot easily compete with the more philosophically reductionist arguments based on the rights of individual choice. So here we are in the maw of an unhelpful, even incoherent discussion pitting the integrity of a vague and inescapably normative shared human essence against the concreteness of an individual human right. But what if we ask a different sort of question?

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Advances in Computers, Vol. 24


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