Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



1980. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, VIII:225-236. Copyright © 1980 Selk


Recently the problem of scientific progress has been one of the most widely discussed topics among historians and philosophers of science. But little has been said on the problem of technological progress. I suggest that theories of technological progress can be divided, first, into cognitive and non-cognitive; then cognitive can be subdivided into cumulative and problem-solving; non-cognitive can be divided into material well-being and moral and spiritual well-being. After examining different versions of the cumulative theory, I conclude that technology is not intrinsically cumulative; whether technology is cumulatively progressive is a matter of goals extrinsic to technology. I argue that Laudan's recent problem-solving theory of scientific progress seems to fIt technology exceptionally well; but this notion of progress turns out to be rather emaciated. The material well-being model of technological progress is the position that technology can endow human life with "new inventions and riches." This model raises many thorny problems concerning what constitutes man's material well-being. Finally, the moral and spiritual well-being model states that technology can improve man's ability to achieve moral and spiritual goals; but what these goals are varies widely from position to position. My general conclusion is that technology does not, with two exceptions which are minimal, contain any intrinsic direction toward betterment. I then briefly note some implications of this conclusion.

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