Technology and human reproduction

Technology and Human Reproduction FAQ’s

Andrew Feenberg[30] argues that explanations about technology fall into one of two major categories; instrumental and substantive. Instrumental theories are the most widely accepted view of technology based on the idea that technologies are tools for human purposes, neutral in value, and universally applicable, with their only problem being the use to which it they are put. In this view, the only price for resistance to technology on environmental, religious or cultural grounds, is reduced efficiency.

The instrumental definition makes the problem of technology seem only a problem of mastering it. A focus limited to the instrumental difference makes technology seem neutral, suggesting that there is neither good nor bad technology, only ends. According to Heidegger this view of technology is a sinister phenomenon of modern life because whether we passionately affirm or deny it we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology[31].

In contrast to instrumental theories, substantive theories argue that technology constitutes a new type of cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control; it has a substantive impact. Unlike the instrumental view, technology seen in the substantive mode is part of life that subjugates humanity to itself. Heidegger’s work The Question Concerning Technology explains the dehumanisation of modern society which he called the ‘darkening of the world’ where technology enters into the inmost reaches of human existence, transforming the way we know, live and will. As the development of electronic technology continues it will become a mode of human existence.

It has even been said that technology has reduced us to the ‘sex organs of the machine world’. [32] If this construction of existence is a regular effect across cultures the cultural variety in the reception and appropriation of technology will not matter. Accordingly, technology will continue to affect more and more social life, and less and less will remain free to constitute a cultural difference. Heidegger’s substantive analysis shows modern technology with a determinate existence of its own a notion of a ‘will to will’[33] beyond what Friedrich Nietzsche called the ‘will to power’[34].

In Heidegger’s theory of modern technology human agency is irrelevant, and the new technological developments can be seen as providing merely an illusion of freedom under a neoliberal rhetoric of utopian global economics that promises a new technological mode of being. Although we cannot live without technology (and nor would we want to) we are vulnerable when it becomes our primary means of communication and in the absence of agency transforms us.