Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that was originally introduced by Thorstein Veblen, which aims to find a causal relationship between technology and the nature of society. It questions the degree in which technological factors control human affairs through changes in the way individuals in a society think or act. Veblen believed that technology was the driving force behind cultural change which could therefore determine the historical course of a society. Langdon Winner hypothesizes that technology is the primary and most important source that leads to change in society. Similarly, Karl Marx viewed technological progress as the means in which new ways of production were introduced into a society which consequently had far reaching and irreversable impacts on its culture, politics and economy. In order for this to be four basic assumptions must be met. Technology is a tool that is able to enhance communication by allowing an individual to surpass their limitations in order to extend through space and time. In that sense, it is designed to mirror some function of the human body such as a vehicle that acts as an extension of our feet, machines which extend our hands or radios that enable us to extend our voices. A temperature based metaphor, “hot” or “cool,” is used to demonstrate the level of audience and/or user interactivity with a particular medium. Media characterized as “hot” such as television or film make the individual a more passive audience member while “cold” media (video games) tend to encourage more interactivity with the user. Finally, the overarching effects and patterns attributed by the most current version of a medium cannot be fully understood until it has been completely usurped by the new dominant media. In any case, the influence of technology is realized through a sequence of consecutive phases which begin with the introduction of newer technologies that overtime introduce various changes which may lead to the loss of knowledge.
There of course exists differences among the philosophical perspectives regarding the degree in which technology acts a force of change on the cultural norms of a society. Hard determinists believe that technology develops independent of social concerns, a theme that has been addressed by Noam Chomsky. On this end, technology generates a powerful and inescapable presence that consequently forces society to reorganize itself in a manner that meet its needs, thereby eliminating certain freedoms of choice regarding outcome. Chomsky encourages society to remain highly critical as to the supposed benefits of new technologies as described by the institutions that created them. He argues that while some technological innovations could have been developed in a manner that placed the decision making power in the hands of skilled mechanics more times than not, new innovations were designed to deskill workers and therefore put control into the hands of managerial positions. On the other hand, soft determinists take a more passive view as the manner in which technology influences society. While they do not argue that technological innovation is the driving force behind our evolution as a species, people matin a level a control that allow them to determine the outcome of the situation.
This being said, some concrete examples may demonstrate the potential influence, no matter the degree, technology has had on society. The gun for instance changed the face of combat and the way in which disputes are carried out today. This device requires almost minimal effort and skill to be an effective weapon and can be used from a distance, consequently decreasing the risk of injury to the carrier. Compared to the historical use of swords and archery in times of wars, the gun has radically changed the way in which disputes are resolved today. Before the development of the television and eventually the internet, the radio was the decorative centerpiece in which families would gather around for news and entertainment. The impacts of the Information Age to our current cultural norms have yet to be fully realized or understood.