Ethical Dimension of Know-how




The historical derivation of the term technological innovation arrives from the Greek term technikos, indicating “of art, skilful, realistic” and the portion of the term ology implies “awareness of” or a “systematic cure of.”

Therefore the derivation of the term technological innovation is practically “awareness of the skilful and realistic.”

Nonetheless, this definition is as well standard to indicate how a person may perhaps predict awareness of the useful ahead of it exists.

For this reason, permit us use a somewhat different definition of technology.

We will define technological innovation as the awareness of the manipulation of mother nature for human reasons.

This definition retains the notions both of those of awareness and practicality (human reasons) but adds the new idea of manipulation of mother nature.

This implies that all realistic or specialized expertise eventually derive kind alterations of mother nature.

Know-how is dependent on a base in the organic earth but extends the organic earth through the phenomenon of manipulation.

Considering the fact that we want to manipulate mother nature, the capacity to predict what mother nature will do when manipulated is most useful, in fact very important.


By very definition, technological innovation manipulates mother nature for human reasons.

Therefore, technology intervenes in the life of human beings, instantly or indirectly, seeking to change behaviours.

Know-how, therefore, has an ethical dimension.

The very raison d’etre of technology is human function.

What is the elementary function of human life?

Is it to maximize common of residing?

Or is to make improvements to quality of life?

Or is it to boost satisfaction in life?

All these several aspects can be distilled into a solitary holistic idea: Value OF HUMAN Life.

Value OF HUMAN Life

The worth of human life may perhaps be defined as the equilibrium or ratio in between satisfaction or happiness and pain or suffering.

Value OF HUMAN Life = Happiness / Suffering

In the context of this definition, the ultimate function of technology is to boost the worth of human life, with a extended-term point of view, by maximization of happiness and satisfaction and a concomitant reduction or minimization of pain and suffering (physical, psychological and psychological).

As a generalization, people today want a far better life. A far better life can usually be transcribed as freedom from want, entry to and possession of at least some of the nonessentials or luxuries, very good well being, a acceptable life expectancy, the absence of psychological stress, fulfilling human relations (resulting from gratifying operate encounter), intellectual stimulation, and personally fulfilling leisure things to do.


Human requires and values modify through time as technology innovations.

Man tends to accept the fruits of new technology more easily (satisfaction/happiness/ease and comfort) while he is reluctant to accept alterations in his own life.

Therefore social and cultural alterations usually lag driving technology creating a mismatch which consequently sales opportunities to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, pain and suffering (psychological) and consequent decreasing of the worth of human life.

A crude but realistic way of classifying human values is to divide requires into all those that are essentially physiological and all those that are psychological. Most new systems cater to physiological requires by accomplishing risky, soiled, or challenging tasks (the three D’s) thus boosting the worth of human life.

As regards psychological requires, an case in point pertaining to Info Technology (IT) may perhaps be in buy.

IT caters to two unique types of psychological requires of humans: Cognitive Requires which refer to the human require for information and facts so as to be ready to act or make selections that may perhaps be required, and Affective Requires which refer to the psychological prerequisites of human, this sort of as their require to do complicated operate, to know their operate has worth, to experience personally secure, and to be in command.

Undue emphasis on cognitive requires and the neglect of affective requires may perhaps trigger psychological pain which counterbalances the gains to cognitive requires which may perhaps be detrimental to the worth of human life as a full.


In our haste to milk technology for immediate financial advantage we usually drop sight of the extended-term repercussions: the larger buy and oblique consequences, in particular the delayed and unintended consequences of technology.

The Sorenson a number of influence community methodology is a useful strategy for an examining the effects and repercussions of technology.

The term malefit is launched to symbolize destructive consequences and repercussions of a technology in contrast with reward as a useful output.

The repercussions of a technology [Outcomes vs Repercussions] may perhaps be categorized as:

Outcomes Repercussions

(i)      First Order           :         Positive aspects

(ii)     Second Order        :         Immediate Malefits

(iii)    3rd Order          :         Indirect Malefits

(iv)     Fourth Order        :         Unintended Malefits

(v)      Fifth Order          :         Delayed Malefits

Such analyses definitely enable in examining the effects of several repercussions of a technology on the worth of human life in the extended-term point of view in holistic fashion.

Early identification of things detrimental to the worth of human life may perhaps show useful in technology assessment to decrease mismatches.

We will have to not drop sight of our basic premise that the cardinal intention of technology is to maximize the worth of human life by maximising happiness and minimising suffering.


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his appropriate beneath the Copyright, Layouts and Patents Act 1988 to be discovered as the creator of this operate.