Tech Policy Lab Distinguished Lecture: Langdon Winner
"Technology Innovation and the Malaise of Democracy"
Decades of enthusiasm for the magic of digital devices has generated a society largely passive as regards democratic participation in the shaping of new technologies that will affect how we live. We’ve learned to accept and celebrate whatever flows from the Silicon Valley pipeline, even when the results undermine personal privacy and concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a scant few. Initiatives in “technology assessment” from earlier times encouraged popular participation and careful reflection upon choices in this realm. Can this approach be revived?
Langdon Winner is a political theorist who focuses upon social and political issues that surround modern technological change. Among his writings are Autonomous Technology, a study of the idea of "technology-out-of-control" in modern social thought and The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Professor Winner is currently the Thomas Phelan Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. In 2020 he was awarded The J.D. Bernal Prize for lifetime achievement in science and technology studies by the Society for Social Studies of Science. His works of satire include “The Masked Marauders” (a send up of 1960s rock super-session albums) and “Introducing the Automatic Professor Machine” (a comic vision of educational technology). Langdon now lives on Maquoit Bay in Maine.