Experiments on Socio-Technical Systems: The Problem of Control

TitleExperiments on Socio-Technical Systems: The Problem of Control
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKroes, P
JournalScience & Engineering Ethics
Date Published2016
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number13533452
KeywordsControl , experiments , NATURAL , SOCIAL , Socio-technical , Sociotechnical , Technological , technology
AbstractMy aim is to question whether the introduction of new technologies in society may be considered to be genuine experiments. I will argue that they are not, at least not in the sense in which the notion of experiment is being used in the natural and social sciences. If the introduction of a new technology in society is interpreted as an experiment, then we are dealing with a notion of experiment that differs in an important respect from the notion of experiment as used in the natural and social sciences. This difference shows itself most prominently when the functioning of the new technological system is not only dependent on technological hardware but also on social 'software', that is, on social institutions such as appropriate laws, and actions of operators of the new technological system. In those cases we are not dealing with 'simply' the introduction of a new technology, but with the introduction of a new socio-technical system. I will argue that if the introduction of a new socio-technical system is considered to be an experiment, then the relation between the experimenter and the system on which the experiment is performed differs significantly from the relation in traditional experiments in the natural and social sciences. In the latter experiments it is assumed that the experimenter is not part of the experimental system and is able to intervene in and control the experimental system from the outside. With regard to the introduction of new socio-technical systems the idea that there is an experimenter outside the socio-technical system who intervenes in and controls that system becomes problematic. From that perspective we are dealing with a different kind of experiment.
NotesKroes, Peter 1; Email Address: p.a.kroes@tudelft.nl; Affiliation: 1: Department of Philosophy/TPM, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5 2628 BX Delft The Netherlands; Source Info: Jun2016, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p633; Subject Term: TECHNOLOGY; Subject Term: SOCIAL sciences; Subject Term: SOCIAL institutions; Subject Term: SOCIOTECHNICAL systems; Subject Term: TECHNOLOGICAL revolution; Author-Supplied Keyword: Control; Author-Supplied Keyword: Experiments; Author-Supplied Keyword: Natural sciences; Author-Supplied Keyword: Social sciences; Author-Supplied Keyword: Socio-technical systems; Author-Supplied Keyword: Technological innovations; NAICS/Industry Codes: 541720 Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities; Number of Pages: 13p; Document Type: Article