No doubt, everyone will remember 2020. It is not just the pandemic having attacked the world. Piloted flight of Crew Dragon, investigation into the extinction of dinosaurs, 5G communication, x-ray map of the Universe, decoding protein structure with the help of artificial intelligence, and omnipresent digitization. However, is this technology kaleidoscope as clear as it seems? 

The animals have got accustomed to adjusting to new reality conditions, while the man changes them all the time. It happens thanks to new technologies. They appear so unexpectedly that one may often get lost in their opportunities: the technological advance turns out to be both fascinating and scaring. That is why the scientists use several terms: technical optimism, technical pessimism, and even technical realism. 

The technical evolution processes are going on along the way of progress: from the worst to the best. The present state of technologies is determined by the one of yesterday, while the state of tomorrow – by the present one.

The technologies influence both the industry and society in general, while scientific achievements inevitably lead to changes in social and cultural life. 

There is a term, technological determinism, which says that the field of technologies is not only an independent world with its own rules, but the one that allegedly dominates over human one determining prospects.

In the latter case, it can be compared to a railway switch that chooses the moving direction of train steered by the man. However, there is still choice: one may follow this way to the new era or avoid technical progress like a plague expecting inevitable collapse of the world under the oppression of machine civilization. 

In western literature, one can find two main approaches to assessing technologies: technological alarmism (derived from “rupultion, fear, alarm” in French) and technological eudemonism (derived from the Greek word meaning delight, enjoyment). They are linked to scientism and anti-scientism. The former one (derived from the Latin word scientia) suggests science being capable of solving social problems on its own, while the latter one, though not denying the impact of science on public life and mankind, points to its destructive nature and demands limiting the social expansion of science, balancing it against other forms of public conscience and taking its discoveries under control. 

The first side of the coin 

Technical optimism was born in 1960s. In this postwar period, national and global tasks were to be accomplished: restoration of public order, aspiration to development and flourishing, etc. In this respect, scientific discoveries and technological inventions seemed to pave the only way to the road of development. People living at that time believed that the rationality of technologies would take the upper hand over social and economic problems.

Every new technological and scientific discovery made the faith in a positive scenario of technical progress increasingly stronger. The process of development was quick as a wink: nuclear power engineering, the first space flight, microelectronics, etc. – the doors to new dimensions were opened. 

The other side is different 

However, there is an opposite point of view – technical pessimism. It says that the majority of modern technologies are capable of doing harm to and even destroying everything around them. There is no faith in the good. The people’s attitude toward technologies is different: from distrust and criticism to the deliberate and purposeful elimination of technologies. 

This approach takes root back in the periods of industrial revolution taking place in 18th and 19th centuries. At that time, new opportunities for economic growth, development of transport and infrastructure appeared. The invention of steam engine transformed the industrial processes fundamentally. The life of thousands of workers was reduced to operating the production lines. This state of things was severely criticized by famous philosophers of that time: M. Heidegger, K. Jaspers, T. Adorno, M. Horkheimer, and W. Benjamin. For instance, Heidegger called technologies the means for the objectification of the world and man. He quoted the river of Rhine as an example: it was praised in verses by poets for centuries and finally turned out to be a servant of a hydroelectric power plant. 


In his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin ponders over the works of art having lost their integrity and interactivity. According to him, cinema creates a clear and pure image, which loses its charm, authenticity and ingenuousness while passing through a lot of filters. Thus, what we see is different from what takes place in the theater.

Вальтер Беньямин

Walter Benjamin

Source: Twitter

Now, when the remote format of work has become common, online lectures, exhibitions of paintings, and room tours enjoy great popularity. No one can give a precise answer to the question as to whether it is good or bad. One thing is clear – it is a new reality that has come to our life.

The Third Solution

The third approach different from both firmly negative and positive attitude toward technologies is technological realism. This point of view says that technologies form a part of our life that impacts decision making processes and modes of action.

The main idea lies in the fact that a person or society inevitably comes across the decisions from the past while taking their decisions. It is very hard to bypass them on a new round of decision making. There are very many examples of such dependence. 

QWERTY is the most popular keyboard layout that was invented back in 1973. Initially, it was designed for Scholes and Glidden typewriters. This model of typewriter was the only one in the market for a long time, so the users got accustomed to its keyboard layout. At present, the major part of mankind continues to use this very layout following the way of dependence, and it is hard to get out of this road. 

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