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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 52

Technology and Power

DANIEL SAREWITZ

Power is the projection of human intent over other people, animals or things. Technology magnifies intent and makes it more reliable. If we say that an artist has power over his medium, we mean that the artist successfully translates creativity and virtuosity to the work of art via a technology such as brush, sculpting tool or camera. Yet the artifact of the camera clearly embodies more of the artist’s power than the brush or the tool. Michelangelo spoke metaphorically in saying that in producing his sculptures he was merely liberating the form that resided in the block of marble. For the photographer, however, the metaphor becomes reality; the image actually does reside in the camera. This increased taking on of the essence of power by the technology tells us less about the skill of the artist than about the capacity of the technology to translate the skill of a practitioner into something that could not exist without it – to expand the realm of plausible intent. Thus, a longbowman provides both skill and power in launching an arrow toward its intended mark perhaps – if the bowman has great skill – a hundred meters away. A technician on a missile cruiser presses a button and launches a computer-guided cruise missile that strikes a five-foot-wide target a hundred (or a thousand) miles away. In the case of the sculptor compared to the photographer, and the bowman compared to the sailor, more of the cause-and-effect connecting intent ...

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