The Politics of Criticism of Technology

Criticism of technology can take many forms. It could be political, philosophical, or simply the observation of how certain technologies are altering society. It could also be a matter of lamenting the loss of meaningful social interactions as they become less tangible and more virtual; or being concerned about possible abuse by technology companies and governments alike.

Critics of technology often remain opaque and unexamined, preferring status quo rather than change, and can become increasingly agnostic about its logic – as philosopher Don Ihde recently put it in his essay.

Contemporary American critics of technology, from Jaron Lanier to Andrew Keen and Sherry Turkle, tend to fall into either the cultural-romantic or conservative camp. They express concern about how technological thinking will shape human traditions and what a permanent disruption means for institutions like universities or newspapers.

Politicians can vary in their approach depending on their agenda. Nicholas Carr, for instance, has taken an approach independent of “technoscience,” thus disliking the traditional left/right distinction.

Conversely, some critical thinkers like Dan Schiller and Vincent Mosco have employed Marxist perspectives and asserted that technology should be seen as a site of political struggle. They have challenged the neoliberal technodeterminism which has dominated Silicon Valley since the 1980s, calling for a more just, egalitarian world order (Mosco 2006).

However, even those working within a political framework can overlook the actual social impacts of technology. When considering automated trading risks on financial markets, technology critics like Carr are more focused on how algorithms affect traders than on how they may lead to financial ruin for those who trade.

It’s essential to take into account how technology affects society and its users when making judgments about its effects. As Madrigal observes, “we should be talking to people about their experiences with the things we use,” so the best criticism will take into account how people actually utilize technology.

Contrary to the neoliberal, technologically deterministic view of technology that most modern tech critics take, this type of critique can be more successful at identifying problems and finding solutions. By highlighting social impacts caused by technology and offering alternative solutions, this kind of critique has the potential to radically change how people view it.

Mikhail Morozov’s form of critique, however, goes further than just highlighting the negative repercussions of technology. He questions what needs to be changed in order for our society to better weather these storms. While this type of critique may be harder to implement, its potential social and economic repercussions are immense.

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