Article ID: CBB234510402

Is Technology Value-Neutral? (January 2021)


According to the Value-Neutrality Thesis (VNT), technology is morally and politically neutral, neither good nor bad. A knife may be put to bad use to murder an innocent person or to good use to peel an apple for a starving person, but the knife itself is a mere instrument, not a proper subject for moral or political evaluation. While contemporary philosophers of technology widely reject the VNT, it remains unclear whether claims about values in technology are just a figure of speech or nontrivial empirical claims with genuine factual content and real-world implications. This paper provides the missing argument. I argue that by virtue of their material properties, technological artifacts are part of the normative order rather than external to it. I illustrate how values can be empirically identified in technology. The reason why value-talk is not trivial or metaphorical is that due to the endurance and longevity of technological artifacts, values embedded in them have long-term implications that surpass their designers and builders. I further argue that taking sides in this debate has real-world implications in the form of moral constraints on the development of technology.

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Authors & Contributors
Mitcham, Carl
Brey, Phillip
Kroes, P.
Zandvoort, Henk
Vlot, A.
Taebi, Behnam
Science, Technology and Human Values
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
History of Psychiatry
Acta Baltica historiae et philosophiae scientiarum
TG Technikgeschichte
JAI Press/Elsevier
Rice University
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
John Wiley & Sons
Technology and ethics
Philosophy of technology
Values (philosophy)
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Computers and computing
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
Bakhtin, Mikhail Ivanovich
Heidegger, Martin
Wittgenstein, Ludwig
Jonas, Hans
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
Colorado (U.S.)
United States
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory

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