mercoledì 11 giugno 2008

Modernity with Fewer Technologies?

It’s a commonly shared the idea that without technologies there is no modernity or that development can be achieved only if adequately supported by technologies or that traditional societies are underdeveloped by definition because not backed by technologies. This cliché frequently results from a scarce or contradictory definition of the involved terms: modernization, growth, progress, development are used in a changeable way usually in opposition to an idea of tradition considered as a the framework for underdevelopment, poverty and cultural oppression and conservatism. The so-called experts and many voices from academic, political and scientific research world, (almost) always agree in considering technology as the essential element capable to make a society or a social group modern and, on the contrary, its lack or limited diffusion causes the social backward-looking. In particular technical and scientific world and, maybe in a more worrying way, the management world, are deeply committed in demonstrating that technology doesn’t limit its influence in the practical implementation of technical and scientific acquisitions, but they tend to widespread a techno-scientific rationale at the base of these acquisitions and a really independent culture. How many times one can see, above all in commercials, the imagine of successful managers with the newest cellular phone or notebook computer in their hands or driving the latest SUV, spreading efficiency everywhere and stimulating imitation pushes? These are the best models of more advanced way of life! Dust and slowness are banned from this fast, clean and aseptic world… It is necessary to examine very carefully and with critical consciousness the cultural models commercials transmit because, even very irresponsibly, they tend to build, in a very powerful way, a culture in which technological values completely overcome non technological ones: techno culture finally becomes pervasive and ubiquitous. The idea TV is trying to pursue, mainly through commercials, consists in demonstrating that something which wants to be really advanced has to be “technologically” advanced. In this way technology assumes the characteristics of a real cultural system invading any aspect of life both at individual and at social level through a process that, directing any development strategy, tends to manipulate individuals, social groups and entire societies. This culture finds prominent expressions also at local, national and international political level: if you don’t build high tech firms, you will have no development, without hyper-management there is no development, if you don’t create a Sylicon Valley in your territory you cannot foster any local development, etc. Is it really true? Here I don’t want to criticize the relevant role of technology as support and tool to sustain development: what I really want to emphasize first of all is that technology is only a “tool”. Secondly I criticize its postulation to be the “unique tool” excluding any alternative even in case of development processes showing huge human and environmental costs measured in terms of high mobilization of human and material resources in the name of a presumed efficiency not rarely incompatible to traditional cultural models and societies. The problematic character of the present development models relies in the continuing use of technologies, even when not necessary or in presence of alternatives, rather than in technologies “per sè”. When we want to define and implement in practice development strategies, above all at local level with the related public administrators, it is thus necessary to make alternative actions emerge. Many local public administrators have a doubtless blind faith in technologies as “miracle medicine” to quickly achieve development in particular in marginal areas: in this case public administrators should have the awareness about the presence of “uncertainty” generated by environmental and context uncertainty (presence of conflicting goals) and uncertainty caused by incomplete information or by inaccurate imagine of the starting conditions and potential results. Within this framework the definition of an evaluation system plays a fundamental role. If local administrators have no sensibility about these issue, it is better to change them. This is to show that local development requires often non-technological knowledge linked to human capital rather than sophisticated and advanced technologies: in brief less machinery and more relations, less artificial intelligence and more human intelligence (above all in politics).

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