Inevitability thesis

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The inevitability thesis is Daniel Chandler's[1][2] philosophy of technology proposition stating that once a technology is introduced into a culture, what follows is the inevitable development of that technology.[3] This development occurs not because it is of determinism but because we are able to pursue it and it seems like the right thing to do. This idea is often referred to as the technological imperative, and may be simply stated as "what can be done, will be done". This development can occur with little thought or input from society. This idea is often used in the conversation about technological determinism but these two concepts are different. Determinism is a much broader and stricter way of looking at causes of social, cultural and political development.

The following passage from Daniel Chandler's "Technological or Media Determinism", is a good example of the thinking behind the inevitability thesis:

"Arnold Pacey suggests that the technological imperative is commonly taken to be 'the lure of always pushing toward the greatest feat of technical performance or complexity which is currently available' (Pacey 1983, p. 79). The mathematician John von Neumann wrote with some alarm that 'technological possibilities are irresistible to man.' (in Mumford 1971, p. 186). Jacques Soustelle declared of the atomic bomb that 'Since it was possible, it was necessary' (in Ellul 1964, p. 99). And fatalists might add that since we can now destroy the planet, in time we will. The technological imperative is a common assumption amongst commentators on 'new technologies'. They tell us, for instance, that the 'information technology revolution' is inevitably on its way and our task as users is to learn to cope with it."[4]

Being guided by the technological imperative is problematic since any potential ethical implications of the new technology are ignored (see also technoethics). As Michael and Joyce Huesemann point out in Technofix:

“Anyone who allows the technological imperative to guide his actions has, in fact, given up any consideration of ethics in his decision making. Instead of carefully considering whether a new technology, if fully developed and deployed on a large scale, is useful or useless, constructive or destructive, harmless or harmful, humane or inhumane, right or wrong, good or evil, the person who believes in the technological imperative will endorse and promote new technologies simply because they are new. Being able to accomplish something is never a good reason for doing it.”[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, Keith M. (2009). "While We Weren't Paying Attention". IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 28 (1): 4. doi:10.1109/MTS.2009.931861. ISSN 0278-0097. "Either consciously or unconsciously, we may start to accept some degree of technological determinism or Chandler’s inevitability thesis. The idea that technology is going to happen no matter what we do..." 
  2. ^ Shurville, Simon; Greener, Sue; Rospigliosi, Asher. "Educational Technology: An Ecumenical Stance" (PDF). Readings in Education and Technology: Proceedings of ICICTE 2008: 82–92. "Hard-line technological and media determinists could be said to believe in an inevitability thesis (see Chandler, 199[5]). This maintains that technologies, mass-media and choice of delivery medium exert forces [that] are as irresistible as hard-line capitalists believe market forces to be." 
  3. ^ Udechukwu, Isika G.; Enahoro, Assay B. (2010). "Chapter 12: Concepts, Dimensions in New Media Technology: Reinforcing the Contest Against Financial Crimes in Nigeria". In Nwokeafor, Cosmas Uchenna; Langmia, Kehbuma. Media and Technology in Emerging African Democracies. University Press of America. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-7618-5200-1. "However, this is not to be confused with the inevitability thesis (Chandler, 1995), which states that once a technology is introduced into a culture, what follows is the inevitable development of that technology." 
  4. ^ Chandler, Daniel (1995, last modified 2000-04-11). "Technological Determinism: The Technological Imperative". Technological or Media Determinism. ("Lecture notes"). Self-published. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  5. ^ Huesemann, Michael H., and Joyce A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment, “The Technological Imperative”, pp. 243, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044.