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Technological Determinism and the Social Construction of Technology

Debates around technology have become prominent in academia as artifacts acquire more and more refinement. Following the logic, studies on Artificial Intelligence are taking spaces that transcend the areas of engineering and computer science. Due to its ethical, moral, philosophical and anthropological implications, scholars are looking to understand how this technology is affecting and will affect the lives of human beings.

Among the different ways of understanding the role that technology plays – and in it, AI is contained – there is the dualism of social determinism and technological determinism. The first one is associated with a transformed and redeemed perspective of technology where technology, at the service of man, will be able to contribute as a tool that serves all people. On the opposite of this perspective is the technological determinism that considers technologies as the main cause of changes in society. In this sense, technologies start to constitute a new type of cultural system that completely restructures the social world as an object of control (ELLUL, 1967).

According to Neil Postman, we see a society in which the old world, symbols, myths and other non-technological icons have surrendered to the oppressive power and force of the vision of a technological world, a society surrendered to the primacy of development and innovation. technologies (POSTMAN, 1992). The author follows the reasoning stating that humanity currently faces the so-called “Frankenstein Syndrome”, where man creates a machine for a particular and limited purpose, however, as soon as it is built, it is discovered – always to the surprise of human beings. – that such a creation is not only capable of changing habits, but of changing mental habits.

In May 2014, cosmologist Stephen Hawking, computer scientist Stuart Russell and physicists Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek published an open letter in the British newspaper The Independent, sounding alarm bells about the serious risks that emerging Artificial Intelligence technologies pose to the humanity. They invited readers to imagine these technologies outperforming financial markets, outperforming researchers, manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons that man is incapable of devising. Following the same direction, about two months ago, in a famous podcast, Elon Musk stated that in a future scenario, the fusion of man with AI is the best alternative for the human being, as he himself stated “if you can’t defeat her, join her”, still declaring that creation will be able to overcome its creator and, in the worst case, subjugate him. Such perspectives represent some of the views on the fear of the impact of AI on the future life of human beings. About this, it is possible to perceive a latent fear. However, when understanding in greater depth what actually makes up AI, and to this view linking ethical, philosophical and anthropological elements, it is understood that much of what is said about AI is nothing more than gullible naivety in science fiction films. of Hollywood (BARTNECK, et al. 2021) and the incessant desire of man to create something in his own image and likeness. It is necessary to enrich the debate with doses of reality and rationality. Fear not, your robot vacuum is not planning to attack you in the dead of night.


BARTNECK C, LÜTGE C, WAGNER A, WELSH S. An Introduction to Ethics in Robotics and AI. Springer, 2020.

ELLUL, J. The technological society. New York: Knopf. 1967.

POSTMAN, N. Technopoly : the Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York :Knopf, 1992.

Image. Link: https://mediamasas.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/el-determinismo-tecnologico/.  Acesso (21/05/2022).

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