The Role of Science in Technological Utopianism

While many definitions of technological Utopianism have been proposed they mainly hue closely to the one found at the beginning of Wikipedia’s entry on the subject.

“Technological utopianism (often called techno-utopianism or technoutopianism) is any ideology based on the premise that advances in science and technology will eventually bring about a utopia, or at least help to fulfil one or another utopian ideal. A techno-utopia is therefore a hypothetical ideal society, in which laws, government, and social conditions are solely operating for the benefit and well-being of all its citizens, set in the near- or far-future, when advanced science and technology will allow these ideal living standards to exist; for example, post-scarcity, transformations in human nature, the abolition of suffering and even the end of death.” (Bolded italics added by me)

It is clear that if one is to accept this definition as valid then (advanced) science is inextricably linked with the techno-Utopianist project. I intend to argue that this is not the case. Further I hope to illustrate why science, specifically its methods, are in direct opposition to the core of technoutopianist ideology. Lastly I will detail why I believe it is so critical that science and scientists fight the urge to ally with the technologists (of the utopian variety) and to shun their motives and objectives.

It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that the technology industry has become a leading force for societal change globally. Only national governments have more power over their populace in their everyday lives. Techno-utopianist ideology is common among the political class in most of the world. It is the one trait shared by elites across the political spectrum from capitalist to communist, left to right, authoritarian to democratic. Even theocratic and fascist states are populated at the highest levels by techno utopians though the often hide their lust for all things tech, with its built in materialist/capitalist underpinnings beneath a veneer of piety.

I can already here the screams of the TUs, “but wait, how can you say that, did you not read the very definition you quoted at the beginning of your own piece? We believe in the power of technology to create an ideal society, one which works toward the common good for all its citizens. Authoritarian or despotic regimes would never survive the arrival of technoutopia. Only the most perfect, fair, and just political system would be left.” That is certainly what they might say but it is not consistent with activities, nor is it achievable by their methods. Ultimately the TUs see no need for government at all. When mankind is totally dependent tech to supply all of their needs and satisfy all their desires what need is there for government, for political structure of any kind. All of the functions once provided by governments will be rendered unnecessary (defense, law and order,

Is science inexorably linked with technology and therefore ultimately the techno utopian project?

I will argue it is not. I need to first concede an obvious point that might argue for an affirmative answer. First, it is quite clear and virtually undeniable that without the discoveries of science, technology could never have “gotten off the ground,” at least not in the form we see it today. Running at the core of every smartphone, powering every computer, enabling every smart device, are sets of fundamental forces and energies. These needed to be at least partially described and understood before they could be manipulated and used to do the things that we desired. Magic and miracles had fallen before the might of scientific understanding but early technologists recognized the desire in people for the magical, the wondrous. Technology became the go to catch all phrase for things that operate on scientific (not magical) properties but often posses what look and feel to many like magical capabilities. In a sense you could say that while science destroyed magic it also laid the groundwork for its return in a different form, i.e. the form of technology.

Science was and still is fundamentally connected to and woven within and throughout technology so how can they not be inextricably linked? Ultimately it boils down to the the major differences that exist between the scientific method and the scientist and the technological method and the technologist.

Of course an exact definition of “the scientific method” is debatable and still is to this day a major point of discussion and contention among philosophers of science and others. It is way beyond the scope of this piece to dive into that fray but for purposes of my argument some basic principles/characteristics of the scientific method must be agreed upon in advance. By scientific method I am referring to it in a very broad sense, not the more narrow sense which classically describes the approach taken and methods used by scientists in formulating and testing hypotheses. I generally fall into the Popperian school in this regard (with some major exceptions) viewing the scientific method as essentially an exercise in testing the falsifiability of claims about the natural world. Therefore with sincere apologies to those who have thought about this topic way more than I have I propose the following. The scientific method (broad definition) has the following traits:

  1. Completely objective

……of this discussion anything pre Internet will be classified as pseudo technology. Technology was born when humans first learned how to manipulate the universe to pescientists had learned to describe and then manipulate

Tbd…..

Written by

Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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