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The Moral Limits of Technology

I recently read (and reviewed for a magazine) a book by Michael Sandel, What Money Can't Buy, where he argues that the relentless march of prices in our lives has led to erosion of social assets / goods that money simply can't buy. The result is that as a society, we are all becoming poorer for it. We have shades of similar posturing in this observation by Robin Mansell on technological progress: 
In the Internet age the trend is to rely too much on technological progress and too little on social values. The consequence is that the monitoring of online behavior is being extended further and further into the private domain of citizens lives. Citizens are entitled to a world in which the benefits of digital media and information are not outweighed by the harm of increasingly intrusive incursions into their virtual and ‘real’ lives. The challenge is to imagine how governments can privilege democratic rights in the face of the seductive attraction of superfast computing and sentient software in their efforts to make citizens safer and encourage respect for copyright law.
The challenge of course can't be answered objectively in the absence of objective social values. If those values are being eroded, it is not obvious on what basis government is able to make trade-offs on the appropriate moral limits of technology. The other problem of course is that as technology becomes more dominant it comes to shape the very make-up of governments we have. One only has to only glance at the American presidential elections to see that as politicians come to shape technological policy, they are also simultaneously been shaped and defined by it. The government is very much a moral prisoner of technology as everyone else. It is not the Saviour we need.

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