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Proceedings Of A Meeting Of The International

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n philosophy proper, thus far, technology and technics have been rather poorly represented. Their stature is low because of a tendency to class them amongst merely practical things in merely practical realmsвЂ"while "real philosophy" is thought of as dealing with fundamental, primarily theoretical problems. And this is so despite a respectable tradition in the modern era, notably highlighted by Immanuel Kant, of granting primacy to practical philosophy (unfortunately, most often only in principle or in theoretical terms).

With the exponentially-increasing growth in the realm of industrialization, it has become clear that technology will inevitably gain a prominent and important place in the modern world. Nonetheless, problems of technology have been largely ignored by philosophers. Although a few specialized books on philosophy of technology were published in the nineteenth century (for example, by Beckmann in 1806 and Kapp in 1877), they were largely ignored by mainstream philosophers. Only relatively recently have philosophers with international reputations begun to emphasize the importanceвЂ"indeed, the central roleвЂ"of technology in the history of humankind, and notably in the modern era.

Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger have stressed technology as the fate of humankind. Jaspers called technology "the main problem" (Hauptproblem) of our modern situation. And Heidegger (in VortrÐ"¤ge und AufsÐ"¤tze, 1967, p. 72) called "technique," or technology, our "perfected metaphysics" (vollendete Metaphysik). According to Heidegger, technology is "essentially" identical with modern metaphysics, providing for us a kind of metaphysical constitution of the world that is presupposed as the fundamental core of any human possibility or opportunity of action or potentiality of world-making. In technology, humans confront nature, they corner it like game brought to bayвЂ"and they do so according to a fundamental necessity of anticipatory confrontation, where instrumentation offers the conditions or requirements for human action, even survival. Thus, technology, with its ever-increasing growth and acceleration, seems not to remain a mere universe of instruments. Instead, it seems to impose itself as a fundamental trait or factor of modern world-makingвЂ"at least if we are thinking about changing the world or reshaping its character.

In this sense, technology seems to have become the total fate of humankind. Is it a good fate or a bad fate? That is a question that is gaining ever more prominence, especially as all of us, because of overpopulation problems on a planetary scale, become quite literally dependent on improvements in technologyвЂ"which then requires the controlling of its rampant proliferation or acceleration.

In contradistinction to Heidegger's diagnosis, that technology has become the metaphysical fate of Being today, independent of human life and action, we believe that technology and the technological world are human- made; if technology has any "ontological" or "metaphysical" character, it is only because humans have granted it such, based on human or anthropological (not metaphysical) considerations. Humans today are, indeed, dependent on technology; however, on the other hand, humankind has never had greater scope for action, greater energy, or greater potential than is the case today. And this is precisely (for good or ill) because of the increase of technological power, as technology gets ever more systematized and takes over more and more realms.

What all of this means is that, even if technology is the fate of humankind, the fateful aspect is of secondary importance: our world is human-made, and we must shoulder our responsibilities. Humankind cannot avoid or evade its responsibility precisely for the technological world, for all the features of technology. Neither can the human race overlook its duties toward the environmentвЂ"at the global, regional, or national levelвЂ"while attributing technological development to some non-personal, non-human factor (like Heidegger's fate of Being). It is not Being but humans who have expanded their powers at an exponentially accelerating rate; and it is this technological growth, with its drastic encroachments on nature and the global ecosystem, that we have to fear. In proportion to the growth of the power of technology, humanвЂ"yes, humankind'sвЂ"responsibility must grow at the same pace.

On the other hand, problems of the responsibility for large-scale technological development and environmental degradationвЂ"problems of maintaining the biosphere as "humanity's living room" (along with all the plant and animal species with which we must coexist)вЂ"seem to fade away, to escape being assigned to any individual bearers. Technological power seems to run rampant, to escape domestication or taming or getting worn down by any responsible human action.

This leads to a further development. A worldwide "technopolitics" seems to be called for in order to avoid the traps that nature and society lay before us in the form of human disillusions, pollution, and the exhaustion of systems and natural resources. World-scale technology assessments, and social and environmental impact assessments have become a matter of necessity. In particular, preventive measures to avoid imminent problems of climate and the environment are urgent issues now. Traditional social and political structures, including nation states and loose confederations, do not seem adequate to deal with the dramatic, ever-accelerating problems of the contemporary world on planet Earth.

To that extent, Jaspers and Heidegger were right on at least one point: a philosophy adequate to deal with technological problems cannot any longer rely, for ethical responses, on the practical reason of individual persons' insights. Politically pressing problems of major importвЂ"planning, just distribution, public participation, effective social organizationвЂ"all of these are now urgent on a world scale. But large-scale problems of this nature have scarcely been mentioned in traditional philosophy of technology of the Jaspers/Heidegger sort. Meanwhile, they have taken center stage in the

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