Prometheus' Legacy: Responsibility and Technology

In Birgit Recki (ed.), Welche Technik? Dresden: Text & Dialog. pp. 23-40 (2020)
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A prominent view in contemporary philosophy of technology suggests that more technology implies more possibilities and, therefore, more responsibilities. Consequently, the question ‘What technology?’ is discussed primarily on the backdrop of assessing, assigning, and avoiding technology-borne culpability. The view is reminiscent of the Olympian gods’ vengeful and harsh reaction to Prometheus’ play with fire. However, the Olympian view leaves unexplained how technologies increase possibilities. Also, if Olympians are right, endorsing their view will at some point demand putting a halt to technological development, which is absurd. Hence, we defend an alternative perspective on the relationship between responsibility and technology: Our Promethean view recognises technology as the result of collective, forward-looking responsibility and not only as a cause thereof. Several examples illustrate that technologies are not always the right means to tackle human vulnerabilities. Together, these arguments prompt a change in focus from the question ‘What technology?’ to ‘Why technology?’

Author Profiles

Martin Sand
Delft University of Technology
Michael Klenk
Delft University of Technology


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