Inevitability thesis

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The inevitability thesis is an idea in the philosophy of technology stating that once a technology is introduced into a culture that what follows is inevitable development of that technology. 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 (Chandler).

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."[1]

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.”[2]

Noel Perrin's 1979 book Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 explores the period of limited contact with the west in Japan and its apparent abandonment of matchlock weapons for several centuries, contrary to the inevitability thesis.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chandler, Daniel. ‘’Technological or Media Determinism’’. 1995. 18 September 1995,,
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Perrin, Noel (1988). ‘’Giving Up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword’’, 1543-1879’’, David R. Godine, 1st edition, ISBN 0879237732.