When means become ends: technology producing values


  • Bjørn Hofmann Adjunct Professor Section for Medical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine University of Oslo Institute for Health Technology University College of Gjøvik, Norway




Technology has become the symbol of our culture.  The claim that we are subject to a technological imperative is therefore a fundamental cultural critique: we do not control technology, rather technology controls us. An alternative way to formulate this is to claim that technology cannot be “made down” when it is made up; we just have to make the best of it. Accordingly, it has been argued that technology has evolved from being merely a means to becoming an end in itself. This article investigates this claim by analyzing the relationship between technology and values. The examples stem from the technologies of medicine and weapons because they clarify this relationship. It is argued that technology relates to values in two ways. Technology both raises general questions about values and it is value-laden due to its very function. However, although technology is value-laden, it does not necessarily give an imperative mandate. One reason for this lies in our responsibility. We are inevitably responsible for all aspects of technology, i.e. development, construction, production, commercialization, implementation, and use. Referring to a technological imperative to explain and defend our decisions with respect to technology constitutes an unjustified renunciation of our own responsibility. Hence, the article tries to underscore our responsibility by developing a technological axiology.




How to Cite

Hofmann, B. (2006). When means become ends: technology producing values. Seminar.net, 2(2). https://doi.org/10.7577/seminar.2516