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The book expresses the conviction that the art of creating tools – Greek techne – changes its character together with the change of civilization epochs and co-determines such changes. This does not mean that tools typical for a civilization epoch determine it completely, but they change our way of perceiving and interpreting the world. There might have been many such epochs in the history of human civilization (much more than the three waves of agricultural, industrial and information civilization). This is expressed by the title Technen of the book, where n denotes a subsequent civilization epoch.

During last fifty years we observed a decomposition of the old episteme (understood as a way of creating and interpreting knowledge characteristic for a given civilization epoch) of modernism, which was an episteme typical for industrial civilization. Today, the world is differently understood by the representatives of three different cultural spheres: of strict and natural sciences; of human and social sciences (especially by their part inclined towards postmodernism) and technical sciences that have a different episteme than even that of strict and natural sciences. Thus, we observe today not two cultures, but three different episteme.

The book consists of four parts. First contains basic epistemological observations, second is devoted to selected elements of recent history of information technologies, third contains more detailed epistemological and general discussions, fourth specifies conclusions. The book is written from the cognitive perspective of technical sciences, with a full awareness – and discussion – of its differences from the cognitive perspective of strict sciences or human and social sciences. The main thesis of the book is that informational revolution will probably lead to a formation of a new episteme.

The book includes discussions of many issues related to such general perspective, such as what is technology proper; what is intuition from a perspective of technology and of evolutionary naturalism; what are the reasons for and how large are the delays between a fundamental invention and its broad social utilization; what is the fundamental logical error (using paradoxes that are not real, only apparent) of the tradition of sceptical philosophy; what are rational foundations and examples of emergence of order out of chaos; whether civilization development based on two positive feedbacks between science, technology and the market might lead inevitably to a self-destruction of human civilization; etc.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

This book expresses the conviction that the art of constructing tools, Greek techne, changes its character along with changes of civilization eras and co-determines such changes. This does not mean that tools typical of a civilization era fully determine it, but they change our way of perceiving and interpreting the world, and thus co-determine this era.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Epistemological Observations

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Preface: New Epoch, It’s Conceptual Platform and Episteme

The main goal of this book is to indicate how much our understanding of contemporary world has changed together with the development of information techniques (see also Lubacz 2008) and related fields, such as mathematical computational techniques. Therefore, I start with general epistemological observations related to this change, and only later I document this change in more detail through the analysis of selected elements of recent history of information technology. Through the latter I understand the history, with the epoch of industrial civilization included, from around 1760, although clearly light signalling was known already in ancient times. As I could not present a comprehensive history (it would require much more space and time), only “elements” are presented, and obviously treated selectively. The method of selection concentrates not on technical or instrumental importance of various inventions that contribute to this history, but on their social or even conceptual importance.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 3. What is “Technology”?

A technician, reading works on philosophy of technology, usually has the impression that the authors do not have any idea what technology is and write about an imaginary entity. There are many examples, starting with an evidently anti-technical book (Postman 1992) about technopoly, where the author does not explain in which sense he uses the word “technology” and actually writes about a socio-economic system of applications of contemporary technology, without clearly making this distinction. Another example might be a recent, excellent book of Darin Barney, Network Society (2002), correct in the conclusion that the thesis about a domination of network society might be premature. However, in these parts of Network Society where the author writes about his understanding of the essence of technology and the opinions of philosophy of technology about this essence, an absolute lack of understanding of the object of discussion is evident: whether he writes about technology as such, or about technological artefacts, or about a socio-economic system of production and utilization of technology products, or about fascination of people with the possibilities of technology. To express all these possible meanings, and there are more, a key-word “technology” is used.
Andrzej P. Wierzbicki

Chapter 4. Delays in Technology Development: Their Impact on the Issues of Determinism, Autonomy and Controllability of Technology

This chapter presents a discussion of diverse delays in the processes of technology development. The concept of delay has a technical meaning here, related to the theory of automatic control. A delay in a dynamic system is the interval of time between the start of an action and the observation of its effects (first or advanced effects, this distinguishes pure delay from inertial delay).
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 5. Rational and Evolutionary Technical Theory of Intuition

In this chapter, rationality of a theory is understood in a specific sense, not Platonian but close to the understanding by Popper (1934, 1972) and Quine (1964): a theory is rational if it can be deduced from abstract principles and reasonable assumptions, but is also empirically sound, according to Quine it touches the reality at its edges and according to Popper it can be falsified experimentally or, at least, allows to draw conclusions that can be checked in practice. This chapter shows that intuitive abilities of humans can be explained in terms of evolution, in particular—civilization evolution and the emergence of verbal communication.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 6. Problems of Metaphysics, Truth and Objectivity

Hermeneutic Horizon, Scepticism and Naturalism, Evolutionary Knowledge Creation
At the beginning I would like to explain my understanding of the word metaphysics . In the development of humanity, in all history of civilization, we observe both useful and inescapable tendency to disciplinary specialization, based on a closer contact with a selected fragment of reality, such as when carpenter specializes in wood processing and an astronomer in observations of stars and planets. This tendency, however, resulted in an opposite need for an interdisciplinary reflection that is fullfilled today by several disciplines, mainly by philosophy in its interdisciplinary general sense, and especially by metaphysics.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Elements of Recent History of Information Technologies

Frontmatter

Chapter 7. Telecommunication, Radio Broadcasting, Television

Beginnings of telecommunication relate to coding and telegraphy; the latter is becoming obsolete today, replaced by email. Codes, on the other hand, retain their fundamental importance because of the security demands related to network communication (see e.g. Lubacz 2001). Codes were of course used even in ancient times, but as the first practical code of the epoch of industrial civilization we can count the code of Luis Braille replacing print for blind persons. This code is not digital, but analog-digital: with the sense of touch, a blind person perceives the relative positions (analog information) of embossed points (digital information) on a page. In this sense, this code is closer to actual functioning of human brains than the cognitivist models of brain as a giant digital computer.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 8. Automatic Control, Analog Computers, Robotics: The Concept of Feedback

The possibility of automatic control was known and used even in ancient times, see e.g. (Bennet 1979). James Watt improved the already existing, but prone to exploding steam engine by using a prototype of an automatic control system. This chapter discusses recent history and conceptual importance of automatic control, analog computers and robotics.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 9. Digital Computers, Transistors and Integrated Circuits

Abacus, a mechanical appliance (e.g. beads on a rod or a wire) making counting easy, was known already in Babylonia around 3000 years ago, rediscovered or improved in China, and later in Europe in 12–13th century. Thus, counting devices have very long and diversified history. This chapter summarizes recent history and conceptual importance of digital computers, transistors and integrated circuits.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 10. Systems Theory, Theory of Chaos, Emergence

This chapter has a specific, dual character. Firstly, it presents only selected elements of the history of systems theory and systems technology, or more generally, systems research. Secondly, it focuses on one aspect of systems research, namely on chaos theory and the phenomenon of emergence.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 11. Informational Revolution: Personal Computers and the Internet

Three main megatrends of the informational revolution were discussed in Chap. 2. Since more specific aspects of this revolution are discussed in the followings sections, here I would like to concentrate on caesurae and important events. Later, the chapter discusses personal computers, computer networks, mobile telephony, Internet and network services, artificial intelligence and cognitivism, human centred computing and knoledge engineering, intellectual property rights and the tendency to privatize intellectual heritage of humanity, binary logics versus logical pluralism.
Andrzej P. Wierzbicki

Epistemological Conclusions

Frontmatter

Chapter 12. Creative Space and Micro-Models of Knowledge Creation

The epistemology of the 20th century concentrated mostly on problems of knowledge justification, verification or falsification, putting aside the issues of knowledge creation, even if at the end of the 20th century a few works emerged stressing the necessity of understanding issues related with the creation of knowledge, see e.g. Searle (1992), Motycka (1998). This problem area became more actual and urgent because of the growing civilization change, a turn from the industrial civilization to a new society and civilization based on information and knowledge. Therefore, other disciplines than philosophy (knowledge management and systems science) developed so called micro-models of knowledge creation processes for the needs of today and tomorrow. This chapter presents a review of such models.
Andrzej P. Wierzbicki

Chapter 13. Philosophy Versus History of Technology

If we select a typical monograph on the philosophy of technology from the turn of the 20th and 21st century, e.g. (Scharff and Dusek 2003), then its reading must fill a technologist with a tremendous worry. This anthology of philosophy of technology, edited in Oxford, very comprehensive and thus and appearing to be authoritative, contains 55 papers. Most of them are devoted to a criticism of a badly defined entity called ‘technology’ which, after a deeper analyais. turns out to be the criticism of the socio-economic system of using technology in industrial society. This chapter contains a critical discussion with several books of philosophy of technology that are more neutral towards ‘technology’
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Chapter 14. Threats and Challenges of the New Era

This chapter is an extended and strongly modified version of my texts (Wierzbicki 2010, 2011). I am addressing first the issue of impossibility and at the same time necessity of forecasting future, then the methodology of analyzing challenges and its relations to known methods of strategic analysis. I suggest that the analysis of challenges should start with the analysis of threats, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths, leading to suggested actions. It is illustrated by a short analysis of a list of global threats, resulting in an identification of four challenges: the challenge of sustainable development, the challenge of new global order, the challenge of informational revolution, and the challenge of biotechnical revolution. A shortened analysis of these challenges is also presented. Finally, challenges related to the development strategy of Poland in next decades are commented as an example.
Andrzej Piotr Wierzbicki

Closing

Frontmatter

Chapter 15. Final Conclusions

The essential title of this book, Techne n, refers to the conviction of the author that technology develops in a punctuated, evolutionary manner in subsequent civilization eras, as well as to the definition of technology proper as techne , the art of creating tools characteristic of a given civilization era.
Andrzej P. Wierzbicki

Backmatter

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