Technological Progress as a Culturological Problem

  • Juri Lotman


Abrupt changes in a society’s system of scientific and technological concepts occur often in the history of human culture. There are moments, however, when these changes become so far-reaching that they result in the total transformation of peoples’ way of life and of their cultural understandings. Such periods are typically referred to as scientific or technological revolutions. In the early 1960s Thomas Kuhn wrote in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: “Examining the record of past research from the vantage of contemporary historiography, the historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them.” He then concludes: “Of course, nothing of quite that sort does occur; […] outside the laboratory everyday affairs usually continue as before” (Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, p. 111). Only 20 years have passed since then, but today, there are few who would subscribe to this good-natured view. There are, of course, constant changes in science and technology that contribute to the slow accumulation of materials for explosions, the echoes of which are heard far outside the walls of laboratories and scientists’ offices. Can we say that after the invention of paper or gunpowder or after the scientific mastering of electricity, life “outside the walls of the laboratory” continued along its usual course? Nevertheless, even those changes, the consequences of which have been so great, are only intermediary stages when we look at such vast epochs as the Neolithic revolution, the invention of writing, the invention of printing, and the revolution in science and technology we are experiencing today.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juri Lotman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TartuTartuEstonia

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