Using Technology with Wisdom
© Francois Victor Tochon
The following remarks are rooted in a long tradition of philosophers who warned us about the perverse impacts of developing technologies for technology’s sake, when they should derive from philosophy and wisdom. Take the term ‘technology’ broadly as any way to facilitate practice; for example, a lever is a technology, it is a strategic tool to enhance efficiency. Some technologies are mind tools. Computers involve applications that are technological mind tools.
What Aristotle taught us was that any concrete or abstract tools, any ‘techne’ (the Greek name for technology) should be associated with prudence or reflective practice, what in Ancient Greek was named ‘phronesis’. Do not use technologies without prudence and reflective practice—which involve feedback—advised Aristotle. Well, do we disseminate technologies with prudence? Think about cell phones: the New York Times published on November 10 an article by Stross (2010, p. 7) that “holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body. The legal departments of cellphone manufacturers slip a warning about holding the phone against your head or body in the fine print of the little slip that you toss aside when unpacking your phone. Apple, for example, doesn't want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry's manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch.” Among numerous other studies, Lai & Singh (1996) found that rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation had damaged brain DNA. More than 400 scientific papers enumerate biological effects of radiation from wireless communication, including Bluetooth and WiFi (Abdel-Rassoul et al. 2006; Schulz et al. 2006). “Bluetooth devices are not any safer than non-wireless devices and, in fact, can be more dangerous due to the continual exposure of radiation to the head” (Quiring, 2008, p.17). “Evidence in medical science continues to mount that radiation from devices such as cell phones, cordless phones, and WiFi produces dangerous and damaging health effects” (ibid, p. 24). This is a strong call for technology with prudence along the lines described by Aristotle.
Aristotle at his time went so far as to say that technology and reflective practice should besubservient to theoretical wisdom (in Ancient Greek, ‘sophia’). His point was that when the link between wisdom, reflective practice and technology is broken, there is a great danger that the higher values and virtues will be lost; humanity—humaneness—will be lost. A civilization developing and using technologies without wisdom would be doomed. I believe we should pay attention to this serious warning. New technologies must be subservient to prudence and wisdom. Techne per se is valueless. It’s value is to increase efficiency, but efficiency should always be defined by prudent reflective practice and wisdom.
As Fuenmayor and López-Garay (1991) demonstrated, this logic was reinvested by Immanual Kant in 1784. The crisis of modernity can be explained by the limited and restricted interpretation being done in the concept of reason during the Enlightenment. Reason had been reduced to instrumental reason, which ‘forclosed’ two major dimensions that were present within Kantian philosophy: Practical Reason (how we should act) and Theoretical Reason (how we should appreciate the world). Education would have no meaning unless all three dimensions were integrated. This distinction was mentioned by Jürgen Habermas (1992) when he argued in favor of reinstating the Kantian dimensions of Reason: neglecting the critical examination of the impact of technologies when Instrumental Reason prevails is a highly risky endeavor. Education should by definition be dialogical and would entail some freedom of choice. Implementation of technology should be negotiated with the users, as well as the educative processes involved when they are being instrumentalized. Otherwise, instruments can be integrated in a monological, bureaucratic way without caution and might become a tool for control. Ramsès Fuenmayor (1991)—a systemology researcher—indicated that organizing control through prior well-specified goals creates coercive environments that trap individual and civil liberties in the prison of Instrumental Thought.
Here is a website on Educational Technologies for deep learning:
This text is an excerpt from:
Tochon, F. V. (2010). A Deep Approach to Language Multimedia and Evaluation: For a more Colorful Future. Invited Keynote Speech. Proceedings of the Fourteenth international conference of APAMALL and ROCMELIA(pp.73-92). Kaohsiung, Taiwan: National Kaohsiung Normal University.
 In Psychology, ‘forclosure’ is the denial of existence.