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Knowledge As Commons Towards Inclusive Science and Technology

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Item Code: HAK924
Author: Prabir Purkayastha
Publisher: Left Word Books, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9789392018077
Pages: 258
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description

How do we look at science and technology? What role do they play in society and, equally important, what is society's role in developing science and technology? These are questions that have engaged me as a social/political activist; but also, and perhaps primarily, because of my love for science and technology. It is this love that led me to be part of the people's science movement and the free software movement. This set of essays, several of them written over the decades, in earlier versions with different purposes, brings together all three interests-science, technology, and the society in which they are located. The earlier essays have, of course, been substantially revised or rewritten for the present times, keeping in mind new technologies and approaches, improved understanding, as well as fresh problems.

There is an older problem I must mention here. Unlike scientists, very few engineers or technologists write about the nature of their discipline. The scientists of an earlier era had an advantage: they came from a university background and were also taught philosophy. At least Einstein's generation of scientists were. Engineers, particularly in the British tradition, came from what we might essentially consider trade schools. In Victorian England, since engineers worked with their hands, they were not 'gentlemen'; they belonged to the lower orders and so very few practitioners wrote about the nature of their discipline. In 1959, when C.P. Snow spoke of the Two Cultures, the two different worlds of humanities and the sciences, technology remained excluded from these worlds and was not considered part of culture. The only exception here were the anthropologists, who had a broader definition of culture than the narrow gentlemanly one, as I discovered researching in JNU/INSDOC libraries, particularly the journal Technology and Culture.

In this book, I explore the complex relationship between science and technology. It is a given that both fields interact and that both are determined by society, but my focus is on what technology is. A part of this exercise is reactive: I react as an engineer, against treating technology as a sideshow of science. This was a common view at one time and remains current with a number of philosophers and historians of science. Vincenti, a technologist turned philosopher, suggests that this is because most philosophers who analyse technology have a background in sciences. If they were technologists, would they not be arguing whether science is not, at least in part, theoretical technology?

A short essay I wrote more than four decades ago reflects my position on the relationship between science and technology even today, though I may not state it in the same words. The essay appeared in a journal called Water World, published from Delhi, and is included in this volume for its historical interest-how the philosophy of technology was viewed then, and how the trend continues even today.²

The objective of science is to know nature. Technology, however, starts with the objective of building an artefact; in other words, of changing nature. To build something in the real world, technologists need to bridge the gap between what is known and what is not.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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