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Introduction: On the Nature of Technology

  • Denton, Peter H. (The Royal Military College of Canada And Red River College, Winnipeg, Manitoba)
1 January 2005


There is nothing so difficult to understand as the obvious, because the assumptions underlying it are rarely examined or challenged. Technology has become just such an obvious facet of our existence at the start of the twenty-first century. Our daily lives are shaped and directed by technology; it dominates our work and our leisure, constructs our home and work and our means of traveling between them, in ways so obvious it remains, for the most part, unexamined.

Technology has the Janus-like character of being both benefactor and threat. Unfortunately, neither aspect of technology is well understood by most of the participants in our current global culture. Until we understand the nature of technology, however, we will not recognize the assumptions and choices inherent in the technology that, at the moment, holds as much peril as promise for our future. Without that critical understanding, we will accept as inescapable what is in fact open to choice. We may make poor choices without recognizing that we are even choosing, and we may miss the opportunities to choose wisely for ourselves and for future generations.

To better understand technology, therefore, we need to unpack the obvious and examine technology more closely, both to identify some prevalent assumptions about it, and to provide the conceptual tools we need to make wise choices about the technology we develop and use.

These twelve statements about the nature of technology are a starting point for such an examination, a framework for conversation among the choosers and users of technology.


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