Nov 2, 2017 in Philosophy


The modern world is technology-driven. Science is on top of the technology-driven development of the world. No one could argue with this statement. Technology is everywhere; it is in medicine, agriculture, industry, and everyday lives of people. The more people interact with technology, the more interconnected and interrelated they become to the point that they cannot imagine a single day without some piece of technology – a computer or a smartphone. Therefore, when engineers create the design of new systems, they should consider the human factor as well. One could say that such considerations have been made from the beginning of the technology era. However, now the conversation goes about the interconnection that affects people more than ever before.

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The conversation is about systems that are not just technical or not just social. Today, the convergence of these two issues has created the most precise definition of any system with technology and people involved. Any modern system where people and technology cross (practically, everywhere) can be called socio-technical, and each of such systems has its own, unique issues (Issues & Controversies, p. 1 (§8)). Therefore, religion plays a substantially smaller role than it used to before the great technological breakthrough. It should be noted that science, basically, refutes God as influential and mighty being. The social part of the socio-technical paradigm of the modern world can consider religion and God as power, however, it is not always so. The technology part refutes God at all. On the example of university, it is easy to evaluate the socio-technical system (Issues and Controversies, p. 1 (§9)).

Perhaps, the easiest way to imagine such a system is to think of any organization, company, or university. Companies and organizations are very similar in their structure and IT systems. University, on the contrary, is a very diverse system with numerous people involved into different activities, from students to teachers and top executives. University’s information system has to be utterly sophisticated and should consider many variables in order to be efficient. It is also tightly connected with day-to-day interaction with humans. In fact, it is the perfect system to be called a socio-technical one (Padgett, p.1 (§10)).

University System

Any university system is initially designed as socio-technical. It is necessary to understand this term better in order to operate it in full (Issues and Controversies, p1. (§26)). For more than fifty years, the sociotechnical paradigm has been used in the organizational design. The paradigm can be also traced back in works of some earlier philosophers, for example Edmund Burke, some authors on the Industrial Revolution, and theorists, for instance Mary Parker Follett. Thus, as one can see, this paradigm is not new and it supports the previously described idea that the interconnection between these two concepts appeared at the same moment, when the first primitive information technologies, predecessors of modern ones, were invented (Clarke, p1. (§7)).

As it was mentioned above, the information system of any university should be rather sophisticated and distributed in order to satisfy diverse needs, conditioned by very different social groups of people. Therefore, when designing such a system, one should consider the following issues: It must be convenient and suitable for needs of very distinguished social groups; the interface of the system should be user friendly and consider the peculiarity of the students’ environment so that people with different levels of computer literacy could use this system; it should be highly protected from intrusions because such a system operates with rather sensitive data that could be used and/or distorted in order to gain some advantage or cause harm to someone; it should be very reliable from a technical point of view because any downtime could create substantial problems for thousands of students and other users of the system; and so on.

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All these conditions require a special attitude to the process of system planning, realization, and implementation. It is not possible to avoid all bugs and errors in any software; however, with the right approach to creating a system as reliable as possible, this is rather achievable (Issues and Controversies, p1. (§18)). What obstacles could appear on the way to a successful evaluation of such a system in order to eliminate possible errors and bugs? The answer to this question is not that simple as it may seem at first sight.

People Depend on Technology Greatly

Students and teachers depend on technology even more. Analysis of every technological system aimed at understanding the social part of it should be started from this point – people depend on technology, but people create this technology (Clarke, p1. (§35)). It means that people usually do not realize that mistakes they made during the designing of the system affect the resulting functionality of it. People would rather blame weather conditions, technical failure, or other people than personal miscalculations and errors.

Among the major socio-technical issues, the following ones can be also named: Incompetence of people that are afraid to admit it and continue the development of a technical system; ambitions that could lead to an inappropriate or excessive functionality of the system that, however, would not work appropriately; subjectivity of engineers that would influence the development process at any chosen moment of time; and so on (Issues and Controversies, p1. (§23)). It is easy to notice that every aspect of a socio-technical system depends on human psychology more than on technical achievements of mankind.

All the above-said leads to the following conclusion: Technology influences people, while people influence technology. The interconnection between these influences is strong enough to draw the line and say that humankind, at least the majority of it, will not be able to live without technology in case of its failure. It is hard to imagine how a university could function without any computer system in the realities of the modern world. Moreover, the functioning of any other system in our society relies on technology, not on God (Issues and Controversies p1. (§54)). There are people who truly believe in the power of God in healing; however, thousands of healthcare institutions filled with technological solutions and achievements disprove the power of God to heal everything with a prayer. Therefore, science refutes God and religion as the power capable of solving people’s problems (Issues and Controversies, p1. (§15).  

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The only problem is that people still have not learned to think like machines, without any feelings or emotional influence (Price, p1. (§32)). Under the influence of emotions, people make mistakes. Therefore, any technological system has flaws conditioned by the creators’ emotions. These mistakes cause problems that other people have to eliminate. The circle closes. Technology influences people, but it is secondary. Only people make decisions that affect everything else. God can serve as the driving force for those who have faith and desire to live according to His will (Glazer, p1. (§44)).  

The humankind started to develop in many aspects after the major discoveries and inventions in the technological sphere. The invention of a wheel, electricity, and computers – all these breakthroughs in the history of the human race have provided people with numerous opportunities and possibilities to develop further. At the same time, technology has made people weak and lazy. They do not want to accept responsibility and blame everything and everybody around them in case of difficulties. Thus, does technology rule humans? Or are people still on top of the situation? Today, it is very hard to provide definite answers to these questions.

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