Epistemic Opacity

Topics: Technology, Slide rule, Computer Pages: 4 (1407 words) Published: April 16, 2013
Michelle Freeman
English 101
Epistemic Opacity

Computers, tablets, I-phones, I-pads, cellular phones, e-readers and more are now considered daily necessities as well as pleasure apparatus’ that society relies on exponentially to get through each day. From the time we wake until we lie our heads down at night, society is constantly “plugged in” to some sort of technological advance. Due to this dependency on these electronic devices, society has succumb to a world of bits and bytes with no real consideration to how these tools work or provide the connection(s) we have come to count on. Sherry Turkle, an Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology states in her essay How Computers Change the Way We Think, “Some thinkers argue that the new opacity is empowering, enabling anyone to use the most sophisticated technological tools and to experiment with in complex and creative ways. But it is also true that our tools carry the message that they are beyond our understanding. It is possible that in daily life, epistemic opacity can lead to passivity” (568). Epistemic opacity is a fancy way of saying that the understanding of how something actually works does not mean that you don’t know how to use or work that same something. Take a lawnmower for example; a person of general intelligence understands that gasoline needs to be put into the engine in order for it to run. That same person understands that depositing of oil is equally important for the engine to maintain lubrication and cooling. A turning of a sharp blade that is powered by the engine is what cuts the grass. Intellectually we understand not only how to use the lawnmower but how the lawnmower actually works. Typically we are not passive in our acceptance of such general day to day use items, such as said lawnmower. Technology however, is different. The intellectual understanding of technology and how it...
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