What does it mean to be a Technological Citizen?
The Technological Citizen is a blog to promote reflection and dialogue about ethical issues in modern technology. It was inspired by a class I took called “Science, Technology, and Society”, which encouraged me to take a step back from all the technologies that both directly and indirectly affect our lives and examine with a critical eye how they were influencing us. How do the technological gadgets we use each day affect the way we communicate with each other, and the way we engage with the world around us? How will advancements in medical, environmental, and biotechnology shape our future, and what ethical questions do they raise? The questions were far-reaching and complex, but felt vitally important to address.
An essay we read called “Children of Invention Revisited” by Morton Winston stood out to me in particular. In it, Winston writes that as people living in the 21st century who are touched by technology in all aspects of our lives, we must become “technological citizens” who are actively engaged in shaping the course technology takes, instead of passively watching technology develop.
“If we fail as individuals to exercise these rights,” he writes, “that is, if we shirk our responsibilities as technological citizens—it is likely that others will end up making these decisions for us. (But) if we accept the responsibility to educate ourselves about the issues and to participate in the public conversations about them, then we will have some voice in how things will be decided and some control over the future directions that our technological society will take.”
I found Winston’s point compelling, because technologies are often developed and disseminated into society at a rate that exceeds our ability -or at times, our willingness- to engage in reflective conversations about them. I think a key aspect of technological citizenship is to thus step back and thoughtfully examine the ethical uses and implications of the technologies we employ. My goal with The Technological Citizen is to provide a forum to do just this, by creating a place to explore and reflect on ethical issues in technology. A guiding theme unifying the blog topics is one that Winston raises in his essay: “Questions about whether to use products of technology or how such products should be used are ethical questions; that is, they are questions concerning what we ought to do rather than about what we can do.” In other words, we must ask, Just because we can do something with technology, does it mean we should?
Ethical discussions on these topics will fall under five basic categories:
- Technology and Society
- Technology and The Environment
- Ethical Issues in Health and Biotechnology
- The Future of Technology
Each post will feature a comments section in order to promote thoughtful and reflective dialogue.
Thanks for stopping by! If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see featured on the blog, please e-mail TheTechnologicalCitizen@gmail.com.
-Courtney, Hackworth Fellow ’09-’10
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