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Philosophy’s influence on technology design – and why it needs to change

Philosophy often appears abstract and other-worldly, particularly when compared to the practical technology in our everyday lives. But there is much that technology can learn from philosophy, and vice versa.

Software is typically designed with the efficiency of communicating in mind – whether communication within the software, or software that allows communication between people. But communication is much more than the mere exchange of information. Humans talk or write for a variety of reasons, often simply to stay in touch or just because they are friends.

The history of philosophy and psychology is full of attempts to reduce all human motivation to one ultimate principle or drive – be it survival, sex, power, or desire or satisfaction. Similar approaches are taken to communication: the 16th century English philosopher John Locke suggested we communicate in order to obtain information about each other, which in turn helps us to satisfy our desires.

Locke’s view remains prevalent in the way information communication technology is designed today. But we would do better to replace this and other reductivist accounts with a more pluralistic view of why we do the things we do. Perhaps philosophers would do well to pay greater attention to human behaviour.


This is an excerpt from an article by Professor Constantine Sandis.

Source: The Conversation

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