Is Technology Neutral?

The word “technology” refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. Examples are all around us. Whether you’re reading this question on a desktop, laptop, or a smartphone you are, of course, using technology.

Cameras are an example, from the early devices called daguerreotypes to today’s digital cameras. Are each of these devices neutral, their value only determined by their use? For example, cameras can be used positively or negatively.  You might capture a loved family portrait or stalk celebrities as an over-zealous paparazzi.

In addition, what about technology being used on a grander scale? For instance, the science of splitting the atom is used to produce electricity from nuclear reactors as well as to build potentially population-erasing bombs. Are these technologies neutral or do they have inherent value?

Simply asking if nuclear energy is “clean,” or do its waste stockpiles serve as a danger for current and countless future generations implies value, doesn’t it?

Do nuclear bombs make us less safe due to their destructive capacity? Or alternately, do they make us safer because of the deterrence their existence creates?

This debate is a long-standing one. Critics claim that technology is used/built for a reason — reasons that carry inherent positive or negative values — while the other side posits that it is simply a process or tool that derives value solely from its use by the user.

Where do you stand on this issue? Is technology neutral?

Related questions: Are science and religion compatible? What role does technology play in your life? What do you get out of social media?

What Makes You Curious?

Maintaining a sense of curiosity can make your life more interesting. Being curious can help you maintain wonder. It can help you appreciate life. It can help you learn more.

In addition, there is a lot to learn. The world is a wonderfully complicated place. From human behavior to the natural world, from the microscopic to the cosmic. There is more in this world to be curious about than there are people to wonder about it.

However, what topics pique your interest can vary wildly. What you were exposed to at a young age may have helped determine your interest. Or perhaps your family’s interests may be yours as well. Thought leaders, like teachers or politicians, can help set a life course. For example, after President Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put a man on the moon, children all across the country went into science programs.

Thinking about and expressing those things that make you curious can help you to lead a more fulfilled life. In other words, choosing a career or even a hobby based on what fascinates you can make your life better.

There are seven to eight billion people on this planet, and each one has a unique set of interests.

What are yours? What makes you curious?

Related questions: Why are we fascinated with the unknown? How do you learn? What makes you the happiest? What is your favorite Intellectual Roundtable question?

What Is Truth?

We live in turbulent times. Politically, accusations of lies are thrown in both directions. A new term has entered our lexicon to capture this idea: Fake News. Everyone seems to bemoan the lack of truth in our conversation.

We want truth, from our politicians, from corporations, from family members. But can we recognize truth when we are exposed to it?

It has gotten to the point that two different people can observe the same event, and have different beliefs about what occurred. How can these two viewpoints be reconciled? Is one “true” and the other “false”? Or are they both some combination of true and false? And if so, how can you hope to convince each that the other is right, at least a little bit?

We live in a complicated world, and making sense of it with information coming from a variety of different sources is a new challenge, unique to this era. Before we are able to separate out a factual statement from a lie, we have to know what “truth” is, how to recognize and evaluate it, and how to store and share it with others.

Does truth depend on what you already believe? Is it relative, or absolute? What is truth?

Related questions: How do you know who to trust? When is a lie justified? How much of our thoughts are our own? What is necessary to change your mind? When is doubt helpful? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?

How Do You Learn?

Learning is something we do throughout our lives. We learn to walk, to talk, to play, to interact with others. Sometimes we have formal education, from elementary school to high school, to college, graduate school, perhaps even adult education. We learn on the job, how to be a good spouse and then a parent.

With all this learning happening, knowing how you learn can have a big impact on your life. Understanding what works for you to remember, recall, and utilize information is paramount.

Some people get the most out of education by seeing. Others might internalize best through hearing. Perhaps you learn best by writing. Or doing.

With the important role learning plays in our lives, it is a little surprising schools don’t offer formal education in how to study. Students are usually expected to just figure out what works best for themselves.

If you were to take such a class, or perhaps even to teach it, what would it show? How do you learn?

Related questions: How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What are the benefits of fiction? How do you define success? How do we know what we don’t know? What makes something memorable? How important is the repetition in our lives?