, Volume 13, Issue 1–2, pp 44–51 | Cite as

Technology and prognostic predicaments



As societies become increasingly technologised, the need for careful and critical assessment rises. However, attempts to assess or normatively evaluate technological development invariably meet with an antinomy: both structurally and historically, technologies display multistable possibilities regarding uses, effects, side effects and other outcomes. Philosophers, usually expected to play applied ethics roles, often come to the scene after these effects are known. But others who participate at the research and development stages find even more difficulties with prognosis. Recent work on ‘revenge’ effects (Tenner) and negative side effects (Kevles) are examined, as well as several cases of philosophers in ‘R&D’ roles. After sketching the antinomy,I outline a heuristic pragmatics of prognosis that addresses this quandary.

Key Words

Assessment Ethics Prognosis Research and development Side effects 


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  1. Dreyfus, H. (1993). What Computers Can't Do. Harper, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Kevles, B. (1997). Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  3. Kittler, F. (1989). The Mechanized Philosopher. In Rickels, L.A. (ed.)Looking After Nietzsche. SUNY Press, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  4. Tenner, E. (1996). Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySUNY at Stony BrookNew YorkUSA

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