Is Technology Value-Neutral?

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According to the Value-Neutrality Thesis, technology is morally and politically neutral, neither good nor bad. A knife may be put to bad use to murder an innocent person or to good use to peel an apple for a starving person, but the knife itself is a mere instrument, not a proper subject for moral or political evaluation. While contemporary philosophers of technology widely reject the VNT, it remains unclear whether claims about values in technology are just a figure of speech or nontrivial empirical claims with genuine factual content and real-world implications. This paper provides the missing argument. I argue that by virtue of their material properties, technological artifacts are part of the normative order rather than external to it. I illustrate how values can be empirically identified in technology. The reason why value-talk is not trivial or metaphorical is that due to the endurance and longevity of technological artifacts, values embedded in them have long-term implications that surpass their designers and builders. I further argue that taking sides in this debate has real-world implications in the form of moral constraints on the development of technology.
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Archival date: 2019-12-21
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