Matej Bel University
INTRODUCTION TO THE TOPIC
Technique, science and technology have become an everyday part of our lives. However, their transformative impact and potential remains largely unrecognised by us. This is a consequence of the fact that traditional educational strategies tend to lead to the
acquisition of certain digital and technical skills in the sense of a predominantly computational mindset. However, a systemic view leading to an understanding of the matter is absent. The aim of this lesson will be to focus on that systemic view, which
should lead students to an understanding of how technique and technology interfere in our everyday lives. It is with this foundation that we can build a conscious and “healthier” relationship to technique and technology. Philosophy of technology as a type of specific
philosophical research aimed at analysing technology both through the micro level of the individual to the macro level of the globalised community and the environment, as well as in a historical and comparative perspective, will be helpful in this ambition. In a first step,
we will focus on the analysis of the concepts of technique and technology, then we will trace the development of humanity in relation to technological progress, in order to move on to problematise our everyday use of technique and technology. We will also focus on
the ethical issues that technique and technology entail both in the context of the present and in the perspective of the future. The teachers’s role is to moderate the discussion and provide feedback. The expected duration of the workshop is 120 minutes.
The learning activities in this lesson are designed to cover the basic issues in the philosophy of technology as a specific philosophical sub-discipline exploring technique and technology as such. The question “How does technology affect our everyday lives”,
foreshadowed in the title, is intended to lead students to problematize the seemingly obvious. The lesson will begin with an overview of different ways to “define” what technology is and to draw attention to the human/human relationship with technology. We
will then take a historical perspective and focus on the possibility of seeing the development of humanity in the context of technical or technological progress. In this context, we will clarify the notion of singularity, focus on the key technical breakthroughs
of the past, and attempt to comprehensively process their transformative impact on contemporary societies. On this basis, we will then attempt to articulate the fundamental ethical aspects of technology in terms of the opportunities and risks it entails. In order to
better perform this task, we will try to move on to an analysis of specific ‘risky’ technologies of the near future (nanotechnologies, cloning, genetically modified food and animals, autonomous vehicles, etc.). Finally, we will narrow our view a little in an attempt to reflect
on how technique and technology are concretely interfering in our lives and how knowledge of and access to them is becoming an often hidden prerequisite for the realisation of our rights.
Since the workshop is a composite of a number of activities, several materials and tools are needed to complete all of them. If you have a trouble securing all the needed equipment, you can easily improvise (e.g. use a laptop instead of a smartphone etc.)
Materials that should be issued include: several sheets of white paper (A3 or A4), pens, smartphones or computers, resources on selected topics (see section 3.2. below), data projector and projection screen.
Learning outcomes that will be attained through workshop:
● Students gain better understanding of the concepts of technology
● students gain awereness about the relevance, importance and also risks of technology in the contemporary world;
● students gain awereness about the importance of technology for societies and our rights;
● student gain insight into the social changes that technologies cause;
● students become aware of the responsibility we have as users of technologies.
LESSON BREAKDOWN – WORKSHOP ACTIVITIES
The lesson consists of four learning activities that are related to each other. Each of them is described in a separate subsection.
Technologies and evolution of humanity
Technology can be thought of as a dynamic, open system of improved and continuously specialised human skills, technologies, tools, through which man ad 1 adapts to his environment and ad 2 changes the environment to his needs. Originally, the ancient Greek term technikós referred to an artificial, hand-made product. The nature of technology has, of course, changed over the course of human evolution, and today’s technologies are far more sophisticated than those of the old world.
Divide students into five groups. Each group will attempt to identify a key technological innovation of a particular historical period (prehistoric, ancient, medieval, Renaissance and modern, Industrial Revolution) and first discuss in the group what changes that
innovation caused in society.
After all groups have presented their conclusions, ask students the following questions:
- Can we trace some similarities in tracing the consequences of technological
innovations across history?
- Has technology changed our perception of humans and human life?
- Which technological invention from the past do you consider “harmful” from
today’s perspective and why?
- Which technological invention, on the other hand, do you consider crucial
for the development of humanity and why?
Technology as a source of benefits but also risks?
This activity is linked to the previous activity and moves the issue to the level of ethical reflexive technique. Keep students in groups and ask them to think about and identify one technological innovation that they think would fundamentally change contemporary
society (You can help them and give them a choice of the following options: nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cloning, genetically modified food and animals, autonomous vehicles). In a first step, ask them to formulate five benefits that the
technology would bring to humanity. Then ask them to formulate five risks in a similar way. Then ask them to explicitly state whether they consider the technology to be ethically acceptable or unacceptable based on a comparison of its benefits and risks.
After all groups have presented their positions, ask students the following question:
- Do the technologies have any boundaries that should remain uncrossed? If so, what are they and why? If no, why?
This activity focuses on individual students and consists of calculating an individual “technology quotient” as a numerical indicator of how much technology interferes with our daily activities. The technology quotient expresses the ratio between the total number of
activities of fundamental importance that we carry out during the day and the number of activities that we carry out with significant or absolute involvement of technology. Ask students to each calculate their technology quotient independently.
After everyone has presented their quotients, ask students the following question:
- What technology quotient would you expect your grandparents to have at the same age as you are now?
- In what ways does technology help you and what specifically does it enable you to do?
- In what ways, on the other hand, does technology “hinder” you or make it impossible or difficult for you?
Knowledge of and access to technology as a prerequisite for our full participation in society
When students calculated their technology quotients they discovered how significantly they use technology on a daily basis. In this activity, we will focus on reflecting on what all our knowledge of and access to technology empowers us to do.
Divide students into three groups and ask them to create a mind map capturing what all we use technology for. The first group will focus on mapping individual lives. The second group will focus on mapping school life. The third group will focus on mapping social and
civic life. After everyone has presented their mind maps, ask all students to work together to create an idea of a mode of the day without the use of any modern technology.
Then ask students the following question:
- Are there groups of people in our society disadvantaged by their ignorance of technology or lack of access to it? If so, which ones?
- Can this be considered fair or, on the contrary, does this only compound their disadvantage? If you consider it fair, why? If it multiplies their disadvantage, could this situation be addressed in some way?
The following questions can be used to expand on the topics explored through the course of workshop:
- Can we be a human being without any technology or is technology part of our “nature”?
- Can technology be a threat to us?
- What do you see as the major upcoming technological innovation of the 21st century and why?