PHILOSOPHY AND TECHNOLOGY II
BOSTON STUDIES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
EDITED BY ROBERT S. COHEN AND MARX W. WARTOFSKY
Information Technology and Computers
in Theory and Practice
Philosophy & Technology Studies Center, Polytechnic Institute of New York
University of Dusseldorf
D. REIDEL PUBLISHING COMPANY ~.
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Library of Congress Cataloging.in. Publication Data
Main entry under title:
Philosophy and technology II.
(Boston studies in the philosophy of science; 90) Selected proceedings of an international conference held in New York,
September 3-7, 1983, and organized by the Philosophy & Technology Studies Center of the Polytechnic Institute of New York in conjunction with the Society for Philosophy and Technology.
"A German-language version has appeared under the title: Technik-philosophie im Zeitalter der Informationstechnik (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1985)" - Pref.
Bibliography: p. Includes indexes. I. Electronic data processing-Congresses. 2. Computers-Con-
gresses. I. Mitcham, Carl J. II. Huning, Alois. III. Polytechnic Institute of New York. Philosophy & Technology Studies Center. IV. Society for Philosophy & Technology (U.S.) V. Title: Philosophy and technology 2. VI. Title: Philosophy and technology two. VII. Series. 0174.B67 vol. 90 001' .01 s 85-28345 [OA75.5]  ISBN-13: 978-94-010-8510-6 e-ISBN-13: 978-94-009-4512-8 DOl: 10.1007/978-94-009-4512-8
Published by D. Reidel Publishing Company, P.O. Box 17,3300 AA Dordrecht, Holland.
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Until recently, the philosophy and history of science proceeded in a separate way from the philosophy and history of technology, and indeed with respect to both science and technology, philosophical and historical inquiries were also following their separate ways. Now we see in the past quarter-century how the philosophy of science has been profoundly in-fluenced by historical studies of the sciences, and no longer concerned so single-mindedly with the analysis of theory and explanation, with the re-lation between hypotheses and experimental observation. Now also we see the traditional historical studies of technology supplemented by phi-losophical questions, and no longer so plainly focussed upon contexts of application, on invention and practical engineering, and on the mutually stimulating relations between technology and society. Further, alas, the neat division of intellectual labor, those clearly drawn distinctions be-tween science and technology, between the theoretical and the applied, between discovery and justification, between internalist and externalist approaches ... all, all have become muddled!
Partly, this is due to internal revolutions within the philosophy and his-tory of science (the first result being recognition of their mutual rele-vance). Partly, however, this state of 'muddle' is due to external factors: science, at the least in the last half-century, has become so intimately connected with technology, and technological developments have cre-ated so many new fields of scientific (and philosophical) inquiry that any critical reflection on scientific and technological endeavors must hence-forth take their interaction into account.
This has been especially and vividly true in the domain of the (so-cal-led)'information sciences and computer science. These are, to be sure, 'sciences' proper, in that there is a body of pure theory, largely mathe-matical (but also physical, e.g. electronics and solid state physics), which have developed as the foundation of information and control processing and of computer science. But what is perhaps more important than this striking and rapid interaction of science and technology, in these con-texts, is the fact that fundamental philosophical questions have arisen (or revived) which become of central importance for our time, momentous in their significance for our Western and 'third world' cultures alike, and for our self-understanding. This volume of the Boston Studies, consisting of selected papers from the 1983 International Conference on the Phi-losophy of Technology, held in New York, presents some leading con-tributions of contemporary thought on these questions. What, then, are they?
vi EDITORIAL PREFACE
At the inception of the contemporary information sciences, Shannon and Weaver (1948) developed their theory based on a mathematical characterization of 'information' in the transmission or communication of a 'message'. What exactly is 'information'? Does it have the character imputed to it, or defined, by the theory? Again, from the earliest de-velopments of automatic computational devices, they have been char-acterized as substituting for, or duplicating, what human beings do in the course of what appear as 'intelligent', i.e. 'mental', operations. Is such computational procedure therefore a sort of artificial intelligence? Is it thinking? Turing, one of the admirably creative founders of modern computer science. posed this question in terms of a test to mark the dis-tinction (if there is one) between 'artificial intelligence' and human thinking. between 'artificial' and 'natural' intelligence.
These two questions are at the heart of philosophical discussions of modern information technologies and computers: What is information? and. What is the relation between computer calculation and human reasoning? In a special sense these are basic: to answer them, we need not only consider the technologies (and their theorizations) but also what we take to be human reasoning, and the nature of meaning in com-munication ... in short the fundamental questions about ourselves and our language. But another issue is to be confronted. With the computer revolution and the proliferation of information and control technologies in nearly every aspect of our social. political. and economic lives. the question also arises as to how human beings interact with these informa-tion and computation systems, and what the social effects of the technol-ogy are. or will be, or might be.
These are the questions which the essays in this volume address. They do so from a number of standpoints, but all are critical, often strongly so. They present fresh analyses and sharp attacks on some favorite myths and dogmas of the new sciences of the artificial. and they often oppose each other. Professor Carl Mitcham introduces the essays with his cus-tomary enlightening overview of the issues and their history. As he also notes in the preface.this is a successor volume to Philosophy and Tech-nology, ed. P. T. Durbin and F. Rapp (Boston Studies 80,1984).
February 1986 ROBIRT S. COHEN Center for Philosophy and History of Science Boston University
MARX W. WARTOFSKY
Department of Philosophy Baruch College, CUNY
These papers constitute the selected proceedings of an international con-ference on the philosophy of technology held in New York, September 3-7, 1983. The conference was organized by the then nascent Philosophy & Technology Studies Center of the Polytechnic Institute of New York, in conjunction with the Society for Philosophy and Technology.
The idea for such a conference originated at the conclusion of a pre-vious West German-North American meeting on the philosophy of tech-nology held at the Werner-Reimers-Stiftung, Bad Homburg, in 1981. The proceedings of that conference have already appeared in Paul T. Durbin and Friedrich Rapp (eds.), Philosophy and Technology (~oston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 80, 1983), with a parallel Ger-man version, Technikphilosophie in der Diskussion (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1982). It thus seemed appropriate to entitle the present book Philosophy and Technology II to indicate continuity with that previous work. As with the first series of proceedings, a German-language version has appeared, under the title Technikphilosophie im Zeitalter der Infor-mationstechnik (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1985).
However, unlike in 1981, it was decided that this conference should take as a theme, information technology and computers in theory and practice - hence the descriptive subtitle. Yet papers on other topics were welcome, and sessions were organized on engineering ethics as well as on technology and democracy. Some papers originally planned to deal with the theme turned out to be more directly addressed to other aspects of technology or technology in general. To facilitate dissemination, it was decided to publish papers not primarily concerned with computer-re-lated issues independently in Research in Philosophy and Technology, vol. 8 (1985). Conference papers to be found there are as follows:
Michael Black (State Univ. of New York, Plattsburgh) and Richard Worthington (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), "Democracy and Reindustrialization: The Politics of Technolo-gy in New York State"
Stanley R. Carpenter (Georgia Tech), "Scale in Technology: A Critique of Design Assumptions"
Alois Huning (Dusseldorf Univ.), "Homo Mensura: Human Beings are Their Technology - Technology Is Human"
Don Ihde (State Univ. of New York, Stony Brook), "Technolo-gy and Cultural Variations"
C. Thomas Rogers (Montana Tech), "The Ethical End-Use Problem in Engineering Ethics"
Kristin Shrader-Frechette (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, and Univ. of Florida), "Technology Assessment, Expert Dis-agreement, and Democratic Procedures"
With this kind of diverse participation, the conference itself was a rich interaction between pro- and anti-technology partisans (e.g., P. Levin-son and W. Schirmacher vs. H. Dreyfus and W. Zimmerli, respectively), well-established (J. Margolis and H. Beck) and relatively younger schol-ars (S. Kramer-Friedrich and D. Cerezuelle), some persons long associ-ated with the field (c. Mitcham and F. Rapp) and some more newly en-gaged (P. Heelan and E. MacCormac), and some with backgrounds other than professional philosophy. In addition to the Germans and Americans, there were participants or participant observers from Switzerland, The Netherlands, France, Canada, and South Africa. For three days the conference was conducted at a resort hotel north of New York, then for two more days at the United Engineering Center in mid-town Manhattan, again to encourage different levels and a wide spec-trum of discussion and involvement.
The original conception of this conference was generously supported by the Franklin J. Matchette Foundation, by Goethe House New York, and by the Department of Humanities and Communications of the Polytechnic Institute of New York. Indeed, without the strong en-couragement and active involvement of Polytechnic President George Bugliarello, an engineer of exceptional philosophic interests; Arts and Sciences Dean Eli Pearce, a scientist of equally pronounced humanistic sympathies; and Donald Hockney, Head of the Department of Humani-ties and Communications, and a philosopher of science who recognizes the importance of the philosophy of technology, this conference would not have taken place.
It should also be acknowledged that editorial preparation of these pro-ceedings has been facilitated in part by an Exxon Education Foundation grant to the Philosophy & Technology Studies Center to support course
development in philosophy and technology studies. It is expected that this book will serve as a good text for advanced courses in this emerg-ing and important field.
Finally, persons who have contributed to proof reading and index preparation include Robert Mackey, Doahn Nguyen, and Yvonne Williams. Their work has been greatly appreciated.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COMPU-
TERS AS THEMES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY
PART I / THE METAPHYSICAL AND EPISTEMOLOGICAL CHARACTER OF INFORMATION
SYBILLE KRAMER-FRIEDRICH / Information Measurement and Information Technology: A Myth of the Twentieth Century 17
PAUL LEVINSON / Information Technologies as Vehicles of Evolution 29
FRIEDRICH RAPP / The Theory-ladenness of Information 49
GUNTER ROPOHL / Information Does Not Make Sense - Or: The Relevance Gap in Information Technology and Its Social Dangers 63
WERNER STROM BACH / "'Information" in Epistemological and Ontological Perspective 75
PART II / PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSES OF THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN HUMAN BEINGS AND
HEINRICH BECK / Bio-Social Cybernetic Determination - or Re-sponsible Freedom? 85
FRED DRETSKE / Minds, Machines and Meaning 97
xii TABLE OF CONTENTS
HUBERT L. DREYFUS and STUART E. DREYFUS I From Socrates to Expert Systems: The Limits of Calculative Rationality 111
PATRICKA. HEELAN/MachinePerception 131
EARL R. MACCORMAC I Men and Machines: The Computational Metaphor 157
JOSEPH MARGOLIS I Information. Artificial Intelligence. and the Praxical 171
PART III I ETHICAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTERS
ALBERT BORGMANN I Philosophical Reflections on the Micro-electronic Revolution 189
EDMUND F. BYRNE / Microelectronics and Workers' Rights 205
DANIEL CEREZUELLE I Information Technology and the Techno-logical System 217
NATHANIEL LAOR and JOSEPH AGASSI / The Computer as a Diagnostic Tool in Medicine 227
HANS LENK I Socio-Philosophical Notes on the Implications of the Computer Revolution 239
CARL MITCHAM I Information Technology and the Problem of In-continence 247
WOLFGANG SCHIRMACHERI Privacy as an Ethical Problem in the Computer Society 257
LANGDON WINNER I Myth Information: Romantic Politics in the Computer Revolution 269
WAL THER CH. ZIMMERLI I Who Is to Blame for Data Pollution? On Individual Moral Responsibility with Information Tech-nology 291
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SELECT ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ON PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES OF INFORMA nON
TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTERS
1. Bibliographies 2. Historical Studies 3. Technical Studies 4. General Bibliography 5. Author Index
307 309 311 313 338
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note: Divisions or titles not provided by an author are placed in brackets.
INTRODUCTION: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTERS
AS THEMES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY
(Carl Mitcham) 1
I. [Historical review of the computer-philosophy encounter] 1 II. [Survey of issues raised by the philosophic analysis of
information technology and computers] 5 A. Conceptual Issues 6 B. Ethical Issues 6 C. Socio-Political Issues 7
(a) Socio-economic questions 7 (b) Socio-political questions 8 (c) Socio-cultural questions 9
D. Metaphysical-Epistemological Issues 10 E. Religious Issues 10
III. [Sketch of the proceedings as an engagement with this spectrum of issues] 11
PART I / THE METAPHYSICAL AND EPISTEMOLOGICAL CHARACTER OF INFORMATION
INFORMATION MEASUREMENT AND INFORMATION TECHNOL-
OGY: A MYTH OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
(Sybille Kramer-Friedrich) 17
[Introduction] 17 I. [Classical information theory as an inadequate account
of information] 18 II. [How electronic data processing devices fail to process
information] 20 III. [The term "information" as more mythic than a scientific] 23
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS XV
IV. [Preliminary distinctions for further thinking about In-formation] 25 Concerning the a priori of Action 25 Concerning the a priori of a Common Set of Signs 26 Concerning the a priori of a Historical Process 27
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES AS VEHICLES OF EVOLUTION
(Paul Levinson) 29
[Introduction] 29 I. Technology and Evolutionary Epistemology 30 II. Technology as the Embodiment of Ideas 32
1. Telescopes, Microscopes, and Extenders of Experience 34 2. Computers and the Enhancement of Cognitive Pro-
cessIng 36 3. Speech, Writing, and Communication Through Ab-
straction 38 4. Photography, Electricity, and the Replication of Ex-
ternal Reality 40 III. Conclusion: Cognitive Evolution as Cosmic Evolution 42
THE THEORY - LADENNESS OF INFORMATION (Friedrich Rapp) 49
I. [The relation between philosophy and computer science] 49 II. [The need for a structural analysis of the conceptual
background of all types of information] 50 III. [Differences between artificial and natural languages
with regard to their conceptual background] 52 IV. [The broader conceptual framework of natural lan-
guages] 53 V. [The broader conceptual background illustrated with
three examples] 54 (a) [Interpreting scientific experiments] 54 (b) [Interpreting historical evidence] 55 (c) [Interpreting the news media] 56
VI. [The relation between factual description and value judgments 1 56
VII. [A schematic analysis of the different elements in the conceptual background of all information 1 57
VIII. [The problem of the computer simulation of the con-ceptualbackgroundl 58
xvi ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
INFORMATION DOES NOT MAKE SENSE - OR: TilE RELEVANCE
GAP IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND ITS SOCIAL DANGERS
(Gunter Ropohl) 63
I. [Different definitions of the human being] 63 II. [The human being as a socio-technical action system] 64 III. [The technical conception of information] 65 IV. [The distinction between sense or meaning (German Sinn)
and reference of nomination (Bedeutung)] 67 V. [The social component in the constitution of sense or
meaning] 71 VI. [The dangers of this social component becoming tech-
"INFORMATION" IN EPISTEMOLOGICAL AND ONTOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVE (Werner Strombach) 75
[Review of previous definitions of information] 75 [Information and Popper's world 3] 76 [Information and Aristotelian forma] 77 [A new definition of information I 78
PART II / PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSES OF THE INTERACTION BETWEEN HUMAN BEINGS AND
BIO-SOCIAL CYBERNETIC DETERMINATION - OR RESPONSI-
BLE FREEDOM? (Heinrich Beck) 85
[I ntroduction] 85 I. The Philosophical Problem: The World as a Closed Causal
System of Feedback Control Loops 85 II. Toward a Solution: The Special Cybernetic Structure of
Mind and Freedom 89
MINDS, MACHINES AND MEANING (Fred Dretske) 97
[Introducing the thesis: Computers do not think I 97 [On the relation between agents and instruments] 98 [That humans do arithmetic with computers, but computers do
not do arithmetic] 100
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS xvii
[because human beings assign meanings to computer symbols, computers do not assign them themselves] 101
[Symbols have no meaning for computers] 103 [The gap between information and machines] 105 [Concluding remarks: Information and needs] 107
FROM SOCRATES TO EXPERT SYSTEMS: THE LIMITS OF CAL-
CULATIVE RATIONALITY (Hubert L. Dreyfus and Stuart E. Dreyfus) 111
[The goal of "fifth generation" computers] III [is based in a conception of rationality as calculation which can
be traced back to Socrates] 113 [True expertise, however, is acquired in a five-stage process] 115
Stage 1: Novice 115 Stage 2: Advanced Beginner 116 Stage 3: Competence 117 Stage 4: Proficiency ll8 Stage 5: Expertise ll9
[Review of how various expert systems confirm this analysis] 122 [MACSYMA] 122 [Rl and DENDRALJ 123 [Chess playing and backgammon programs] 123 [PROSPECTOR] 125 [Medical diagnosis programs] 126
MACHINE PERCEPTION (Patrick A. Heelan) 131
I. The Computational Program and Machine Perception 131 II. Hermeneutical Phenomenology of Perception 132 III. Perceptual Contents of the World 134 IV. Perception as Hermeneutical 135 V. The Computational Program of the Neuropsychological
Sciences 137 Phase I 137 Phase 2 13H 1. Neurophysiological Methods 140 2. Psychological Methods 143 3. Computational Methods 144 Phase 3 146
VI. Machine Vision 149
xviii ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
MEN AND MACHINES: TIlE COMPUTATIONAL METAPHOR
(Earl R. MacCormac) 157
[Introduction] 157 [Brain as a computer: Z. Pylyshyn's metaphor] 158 [Why this is a metaphor and not an analogy] 159 [Historical background: La Mettrie's Man a Machine (1748) and
its multiple metaphors] 160 [Contemporary versions: Arbib's multiple metaphors in The
Metaphorical Brain (1972) versus Pylyshyn's literalism] 161 [Problems of distinguishing the metaphorical and the literal] 163 [The brain a computer as a basic metaphor] 167 [Conclusion] 168
INFORMATION, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, AND THE
PRAXICAL (Joseph Margolis) 171
[Introduction] 171 [Top-down versus bottom-up strategies] 172 [Critique of Dennett] 175 [Critique of Dretske] 176 [Conclusion] 183
PART III/ETHICAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE MICROELECTRONIC
REVOLUTION (Albert Borgmann) 189
[Introduction: The tendency of philosophy of overlook micro-electronic technology] 189
[The computer as a non-focal object in contemporary culture] 192 [a. The revolutionary character of technology as machinery
versus the non-revolutionary character of technology as commodity] 193
[b. Microelectronics as part of the inconspicuous fabric of every-day life] 194 [The historical promise of technology] 195 [How technology affects labor] 196 [The rhetoric of microelectronic leisure] 196
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS xix
[Summary and review] 199 [The reform of technology] 200
MICROELECTRONICS AND WORKERS' RIGHTS (Edmund F. Byrne) 205
[Introduction] 205 [The effect of microelectronics and robotics on various indus-
tries] 205 [Prospects for future unemployment] 208 [The question of whether robots are really less expensive than
workers] 209 [Western European social policy toward technological unem-
ployment] 210 [U.S. social policy toward technological unemployment] 211 [Comparisons] 212 [ Conclusion] 213
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE TECHNOLOGICAL
SYSTEM (Daniel Cerezuelle) 217
[Introduction] 217 I. Toward a Technological System
[How information technology contributed to the rise of the technological system] 218
II. The Vicious Circle [How the problems of technology escape full control by information technology] 221
THE COMPUTER AS A DIAGNOSTIC TOOL IN MEDICINE
(Nathaniel Laor and Joseph Agassi) 227
[Introduction] 227 [Computer diagnostics and the character of all diagnostic pro-
cedures] 228 [Computer-assisted diagnosis versus computer "smart system"
simulation of medical diagnosis] 230 [How to meet the dangers and realize the benefits of computer-
assisted diagnosis] 230
APPENDIX Diagnosis Computerized (summary of an unpub-lished book) 231
xx ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface 231 1. The Problem Situation 232 2. The System Approach to Medical Diagnosis 232
2.1 Introducing the System Approach 232 2.2 Application to Diagnostics 233
3. The Beneficiary of the System and His Problem 233 3.1 Individualistic Ethics 233 3.2 The Place of Informed Consent in Diagnostics 233 3.3 The Client of the Scientific Medical System 234
4. Subsystems of Medical Diagnosis 234 4.1 Diagnostic Theory 234 4.2 Rational Diagnostic Technology 234 4.3 Rational Diagnostic Method 234 4.4 Clinical Diagnostic Situations 235 4.5 Rational Diagnostic Control and Public Health 235 4.6 The Rational Control of Single Diagnostic Encoun-
ters 235 5. Surveying the Computer-Assisted Diagnostic Service 236
5.1 Rational Diagnostic Service Itemized 236 5.2 The Present State of the Computer in the Service of
Diagnosis 236 5.3 The Future of the Computer in the Diagnostic Ser-
vIce 237 Appendix A. The System Approach 237 Appendix B. Diagnosis 237 Appendix C. Treatment 237
SOCIO-PHILOSOPHICAL NOTES ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION (Hans Lenk) 239
[Introduction: Philosophers and automation, modern and an-cient] 239
[H. Schelsky's analysis of the social implications of automa-tion] 240
[Some mistakes to avoid in social analysis] 241 [Alienation and the computer] 242 [The question of "computerocracy"] 243 [The problem of work] 243
ANALYTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS xxi
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE PROBLEM
OF INCONTINENCE (Carl Mitcham) 247
[Introduction: Clarification of terms] 247 1. Responsibility and Incontinence 248 II. Akrasia and the Weak Version of Incontinence 249 III. Freedom of the Will and the Strong Version of Incontin-
ence [St. Augustine's theory] 252 IV. The Political Contradiction of Incontinence 254
PRIVACY AS AN ETHICAL PROBLEM IN THE COMPUTER
SOCIETY (Wolfgang Schirmacher)
I. Protection of Privacy - A Philosophical Critique Political II1usion
II. The Phenomenology of Privacy 1. Social Significance 2. The Ontological Phenomenon of Privacy 3. The Relation to Government and Public Man
III. Public Privacy as a Perspective in Political Ethics IV. Conclusion: The Ethics of a Computer Society
MYTH INFORMATION: ROMANTIC POLITICS IN THE
COMPUTER REVOLUTION (Langdon Winner)
[Introduction] I. A Metaphor Explored II. Good Console, Good Network, Good Computer Ill. The Great Equalizer IV. Information and Ideology V. Conclusion
WHO IS TO BLAME FOR DATA POLLUTION? ON INDIVIDUAL
MORAL RESPONSIBILITY WITH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
257 260 260 261 262 264 266
269 270 273 276 282 284
(Walther Ch. Zimmerli) 291
1. [The realms of data pollution] 291 (1) [At the level of data acquisition] 292 (2) [At the level of data processing, because of poor
xxii ANAL YTIC TABLE OF CONTENTS
[Transition] 293 (3) [At the level of data processing, because of inherent
incomprehensibility] 294 (4) [At the level of data application] 294
II. [The paradox of information technology and the inherent limitations of computer control] 295
III. [The problem of moral responsibility] 300 [Introduction: Moral versus legal responsibility] 300 [Deontological analysis] 301 [Teleological analysis] 302 [Casuistic analysis] 302 [Conclusion] 303