The Post-Dystopian Technorealism of Ted Chiang
Keywords:science fiction, technorealism, utopia, Luddism
In this article, we argue that Ted Chiang’s short stories offer a realist philosophy of technology, one that charts a third course between the techno-pessimism and techno-optimism that characterize the history of philosophizing about technology and much of the speculative fiction about it. We begin by surveying the history of utopian and skeptical approaches to technology in philosophy and speculative fiction. We then move to discuss two of Chiang’s recent stories and use them to articulate the author’s techno-realism. Chiang’s view, as it is developed in these stories, has three features: First, technology is not merely an agent of de-skilling, it can also promote self-knowledge and insight. Second, technology is not only an agent of alienation it can also provide succor and psychological relief. Finally, technology does not necessarily remake us into new beings with new capacities and needs. In many cases, it just gives us further avenues to be what we already were - to act on the tendencies and pursue the needs we always had.
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