I recently came across the subject of Technoethics and feel that it defines much of what I’ve been exploring and writing about this last year, with regards to more intelligent and holistic design practice and technology applications such as: Additive Fabrication, Designing for Disassembly, Rebuilding, The Environmental Design Offset Theory, Buckminster Fuller, or Upcycling.
The subject of environmental design awareness is a very sensitive and at times volatile one, especially amongst designers, who often feel caught off-guard. Probably because as designers we know a lot about ‘Cool’ and little about environmentally friendly design. Add that to all our daily pressures both personal, or professional and solving an already difficult environmental problem becomes doubly hard and frustrating.
However given the obvious acceleration of technological innovation, it’s increasing affordability and consumption, never has the topic of environmental design awareness been so important as it is today. Ideally eco-friendly design innovation should develop on par with every other technology, but there currently seems to be an imbalance.
“the basic variable which determines the contemporary historic process is provided by technological development” – Celso Furtado
As technology plays a greater role in our human existence, so it requires an equally important ethical model. Not only to protect the environment, but ultimately also our own health, both physical and mental.
Photo Via THE WILLIAMBANZAI7 BLOG
We are all very aware of how technology is benefiting our lives, but few understand the consequences and changes that it will bring to our society and our environment.
Photo Via DIGITAL TRENDS
Technology always has and will continue to impact nature and society, but today with an increasing world population and globalization, the spread of technology and it’s effects and side-effects are no longer just limited to a few pockets in the world.
For better or for worse, as our “Spaceship Earth” becomes increasingly affected and filled by the surge of commercial technological products which are increasingly complex, there is an increasing need for a deeper understanding and an ethical analysis of technology, especially if we are to avoid and reduce the negative consequences that technology can have.
Critical thinking of new technologies can be traced back to Ancient Greece and to the Industrial Revolution. But the specific trans-disciplinary and convergent field of Technoethics is a much newer combination of multiple ethical fields such as Geoethics and Machine ethics. Fields which are becoming increasingly relevant and interconnected in a natural world that is becoming more contaminated by machine technology and its products.
Utopian and Dystopian technological futures have been explored in countless science fiction books and movies, but today as we slowly near a point where they are becoming realities, so the importance of Technoethical analysis is becoming critical for guidance.
Otherwise what will determine whether we create a future which is healthier,
Photo Via vegetal city
or unhealthier for humankind?
Image Via SEATTLE WEEKLY
Because although technology has helped humanity through its thousands of years of evolution, it now also increasingly threatens our health and lifestyle. How many technological innovations haven’t contaminated the environment, or our health?
At this critical time do collective, cultural long term goals exist for a healthy future? Are humans aspiring to reach a sustainable technological future in sync. with the natural order to which we are biologically reliant on? Or is humanity just living by the day, working, consuming and assuming that our technological future will simply work out for the best? Leaving the destiny of our well being to chance.
Essentially all consumption creates bi-product and above all human technological consumption is also creating a multitude of negative bi-products.
From floating ocean trash dumps, also known as plastic soup which are larger than the state of Texas, to dangerous climate change, which is often ignored are our oceans continue heating up and become less able to absorb as much of the heat in the atmosphere.
Image Via PacMARA
Infographic Via INTERNATIONAL BIRD RESCUE
Natural environments are being increasingly contaminated with synthetic consumer waste, which replaces, outnumbers and suffocates nature. A systematic technological contamination of the environment which starts with organisms at the bottom of the food chain and ends works its way up to the top, eventually also to us Human beings.
Image Via threeninetyeight
Human technological products are causing rising water levels and tropical storms which are threatening coastal areas and Cities that have existed for hundreds of years.
Photo Via Water is Life
Yet despite all the negative environmental impacts of technology manifested before our very eyes, we mine and exploiting the earth of it’s finite natural resources more than ever, just so that we can create more unsustainable consumer technology and waste.
Whilst leaving polluted, barren and scared landscapes in our wake.
Photo Via EARTH ACTION
Photo by Jurnasyanto Sukarno
With our increased use and dependence of technology we risk further distancing ourselves from nature, desensitizing us from it’s exploitation and neglect, to develop new technology with less environmental awareness. Forgetting that nature sustains us, we risk that the fish will be replaced by plastic and the forest by wasteland.
Today’s globalization, provides design with the potential to be distributed across the globe and in greater quantities than ever before. Therefor as footwear designers it’s imperative that we think critically about the social and environmental consequences of our designs. How can they be most useful to humanity, and how can we design them to contaminate less?
Of course footwear design won’t have the same environmental impact as plastic food and drink packaging, but what about the production side, how much waste and pollution does that create? And to what point should aesthetic design take priority over environmental design?
Ultimately everyone who lives in this increasingly interconnected world, manufacturers, retailers and consumers, we all need to become more aware of our actions and their consequences to the environment if we are to create a sustainable future.
But this can only happen with an increasingly critical Technoethical cultural perspective. A holistic perspective which applies to not just product/technology development, but also manufacture and consumption.
Because with great technology, also comes greater responsibility.
There is still time to find sustainable solutions, but there also remains a lot to be learned about technology and its consequences and that’s where I believe a Technoethical perspective can help. So as to avoid the pitfalls of iatrogenic innovation.
For more on Technoethics please visit the Wikipedia entry on Technoethics and UBC Blog
For more on the Natural World, take a minute to watch the video below on Full Screen. Consider the beauty of uncontaminated nature and its contrast with our increasingly technological environment.
Because designers are problem solvers, not problem makers.
For further reading on moral reasoning in design, check out The 6 Stages of Moral Development by Lawrence Kohlberg Applied to Design