Is Technology Good, Evil, or Neutral?


Technology is neither good nor evil, it’s the use that crosses the moral boundaries.

As technology is leaping forward an unprecedented pace, this old question is more pressing now than ever. (If you’re short on time skip to the last paragraph for my conclusions)

drevil.jpgIs the TechDoc  Evil?


A review of this debate can be found here including this question:

As we have seen, technology can be neutral, and … “can act as a catalyst to engender trust” … It is also clear that in many situations, technology is certainly not neutral; technology can marginalize people, incite divisiveness, block knowledge flow… Is technology a neutral “tool” that is designed to carry out the will of the user?

Ars technica in a post ipods at war related this debate to the Myth of Icarus.  Unfortunately, their conclusion is so far off the mark.  They claim we are victims of technology that we have become addicted to.  War ravages as the American Army is shaped by video games and movies to kill.  Sorry, folks, the Ozzy Osbourne made me kill myself lawsuit just didn’t hold up.


I really like the inference they make that the Icarus myth is really a story about technology; “when father Daedalus creates the artificial wings for himself and his son, he makes it possible for them to experience something new, but the technology also makes it easy for Icarus to destroy himself.”

ICtforpeace goes on to argue that technology is not morally neutral (and the military is inherently evil).

A Walther PPK would make, I am sure, a pretty good paper-weight, but it was made for a specific purpose and it is rather good when used for its intended purpose, and less elegant when used for others.

They mistakenly suggest

many technologies can be used for both good and bad purposes. But usually neutrality is taken to have a stronger meaning, such as that technologies are equally easy to use for different purposes, which is not helpful when comparing compact disks and cruise missiles.

Philosophical theories on this point can be found on this webpage

Those who believe that technology is neutral argue that “guns don’t kill people, people do”, or that a knife can be used to “cook, kill, or cure.” Those who believe the opposite counter with evidence that technology cannot be evaluated in a vacuum and that there are traits common to all technological developments: (1) technological objects are unique; they are designed to function in a particular and limited way, and (2) technological objects are intertwined with their environment; they interact in unique ways with the rest of reality.

More philosophical musings on the neutrality question can be found here.

I believe in technological neutrality.  While it seems that in some scenarios (such as weapons) technology is clearly more likely to be used in one way rather than another, it is just that particular application of the technology that sets off our reaction.  There is no better example than the work of DARPA which I have written about.  Nuclear technology did not just lead to the bomb it also can be used for medicine and energy.  The knowledge of the technology is not that is evil. 

While many lament the development of expensive military technology I see the beneficial medical applications inherent in these projects.  While one person might see evil and death I can see good and life come from the exact same technologies.  Read about the medical uses of military technology here, here, and here.

As my friend Dr. Rick Satava (surgeon, colonel, and Program Manager at DARPA) said:

Technology is Neutral – it is neither good or evil

It is up to us to breathe the moral and ethical life into these technologies

And then apply them with empathy and compassion for each and every patient

Army Axing High-Tech Soldier of Tomorrow- MedTech Losses Predicted


DefenceTech reports today that the US Army has decided to axe it’s $500 Million (so far) Land Warrior Soldier of the Future program.  If this goes through the fallout loss of future medical technology under development will be enormous. many do not realize the enormous amount of medical technology that trickles down from the military (such as the swallowable gut-cams in a pill) and the first functional robot surgical system.


Here’s the report and the facts:

According to Inside Defense, service financiers have decided to kill off Land Warrior in its 2008 budget. It’s one of a number of high-tech programs slated for big cuts by the Army.

The service got $17 billion less than what it wanted for its 2008 budget from the Pentagon and the White House. “Earlier in October… Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said if the service got less than what it needed in FY-08 it would be forced to slow the modernization of the force,” Inside Defense’s Dan Dupont notes. “In submitting its budget plan to Pentagon leaders last week, the Army contended that budget constraints have forced the service to take what it believes are imprudent risks in the readiness of today’s forces, as well as in its future plans.”

What is the Land Warrior Program? A nice review of the components of Land Warrior can be found here.

Land Warrior integrates small arms with high-tech equipment enabling ground forces to deploy, fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century. Land Warrior came about in 1991 when an Army study group recommended the service look at the soldier as a complete weapon system. The first priority in Land Warrior is lethality. The second is survivability and the third, command and control. The program will cost $2 billion when 45,000 sets of the equipment are fielded between 2001-2014. The Marine Corps, Air Force and many foreign countries are interested in the system.

Based on recent advances in communications, sensors, and materials, the Land Warrior System integrates commercial, off-the-shelf technologies into a complete soldier system. For the first time, the soldier’s equipment is being designed as if he is an individual, complete weapons platform. Each subsystem and component is designed to and for the soldier. The result: the first integrated soldier fighting system for the dismounted infantryman.

The Components of Land Warrior & The Medical Uses of Each: Land Warrior has several subsystems: the weapon, integrated helmet assembly, protective clothing and individual equipment, computer/radio, and software. Each has enormous medical potentials.

Weapons Subsystem is built around an M-16 but includes electronic opticals (video camera, and the laser rangefinder/digital compass, GPS, nightvision).  Medical use:  Alternative visualization (the use of non-white light) is a huge area in medical endoscopic surgery development.  Read here about the concept of future surgical vision and here and here about using this same exact infrared vision in surgery.  The technology to integrate tiny sensors for infrared (ie night vision) into the rifle is the same to integrate it into a surgical telescope.  Direct immediate medical application.

Integrated Helmet uses advanced lightweight protection with future materials but also couples the soldier to the digital  battlefield.  There is an advanced next-generation helmet mounted display (HMD) providing views of  computer-generated graphical data, digital maps, intelligence information, troop locations, and the ability to view and control weapons around a corner.  By looking with a thermal sight, the soldier will be able to see an area’s characteristics and can see through obscurants. The thermal images will appear on the HMD as can night vision images integrated with the soldier’s sight.  Medical Applications:  The concept of future vision in surgery and augmented visual system is discussed the paragraph above.  An equally important off-shoot of the helmet is a next generation HMD display.  HMD’s put tiny screens in your line of sight and add augmented information (beyond what the eye can see) or accessory info.  These are being used today in surgery for endoscopy.  The system I have used is a direct off-shoot of military HMD’s – except it’s military technology from the 80′s and 90′s.  The state of the art surgical system is made by Viking Systems and uses the Kaiser Electro-Optical Military HMD.  Today’s sytems suffer from lower resolution, no active head tracking, and weight.  The Land Warrior addresses all of these and could go directly into the OR. The ability to overlay additional information such as CT scans,tumor image guidance, vital signs, etc  directly uses the same military technology – and several surgical companies I know of are already trying to make this work.  Direct immediate medical application.

Protective Clothing – a revolutionary backpack design based on state-of-the-art automotive racing technology which bends with the soldier’s natural body movements. Integrates with new smart body armor.  Medical Uses: Again huge potential.  Intellegent garments can be used to monitor health conditions (heart patient wears a shirt with built in telemetry) of many body systems.  Light weight armor can be used as bmaterials for strong small surgical robots and for next generation prosthetics.  All of these are in development today.   Direct immediate medical application.

Computer/Radio Control is over a portable radio with miniature flat screen.  Allows soldiers to exchange information and videos in real time.  Menus are controlled with a remote input device attached to the soldier and activated with a finger touch. Medical Applications:  information exchange for alternate visualization and new surgical gesture controls.

Is it a bluff? Haninah commented at defense tech on the Washington Monument Drill

there’s at least a chance that this is what some folks call a Washington Monument Drill.  Say the National Parks Service is told they need to cut their budget. They huddle, and come out and announce with a straight face that in light of the cuts, they’ll have to shut down the Washington Monument. The Hill panics, and restores full funding.  That’s what the Pentagon did all of a year ago, when they announced that any budget cuts would have to come out of National Guard budget, and sure ’nuff, Congress backed right down. Now, it could be that Land Warrior is the Army’s Washington Monument. Any time there’s an announcement that budget cuts are going to be absorbed by the part of the budget that makes the least sense to cut

On the Flip Side- Does Anyone Know How Much This Thing Costs?:  Unfortunately, land Warrior is part of the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) Initiative.  This is the roadmap for an unprecedented hi-tech modernization of the Army.  What’s new?  How about an air force of completely unmanned remote controlled fighters– it’s in the budget! Unfortunately, the entire project is so far over budget it becomes a target for cuts.  Originally at $60 billion, then $127B, recent estimates have balooned to $300 billion total cost (yes that’s billion with a b) and some are calling it the biggest military boondoggle ever. Here is a link to the Army’s PR rich review of what the billions will get us complete with photos and videos of what it will look like in action.

Video Update:  Here is a link to one of the medtechs coming from FCS- “traumapod”

Update 2:  Many comments saying military funding is just wrong or wasteful for medical development.  Read here about why the military does what the medical industry won’t

New FDA 510(k) Approvals for March 2008-(pt.1) New Video Monitor Screens

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The FDA has published its 510(k) approval letters for March 2008. In terms of surgery, endoscopy, and imaging a few items caught my eye. The first is a…

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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Monday, April 7, 2008

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Monday, April 7, 2008

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

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Fertility Treatment is the Likely Cause of the Identical Triplets

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

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Google Finished With Cataloging the Internet Moving on to Your DNA

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

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New Visual Search Engine Debut-Works with a cell phone photo! Medical Uses Next?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

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Monday, March 3, 2008

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Monday, February 25, 2008

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Retraction From Pointe Conception Medical

Friday, February 15, 2008

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

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New HD Disk Format

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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New Generation of Performance Enhancing Drugs

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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Friday, February 8, 2008

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Friday, February 8, 2008

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Friday, February 8, 2008

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

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Monday, February 4, 2008

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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New 3D Display Technology

Thursday, September 6, 2007

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

I previously wrote about the upcoming National Geographic Special Inside the Living Body and my work featured in the special. I was delighted when the producers of 20/20…

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chalk up another innovation to Ray Kurzweil America’s leading inventor (and Lifeboat Foundation Advisor along with me).  This one is a simple and elegant solution to help the…

New Flexible Biodegradable Battery Invented

Monday, August 13, 2007

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HD in the OR: The AVCHD Video Recording Format

Monday, August 13, 2007

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New video Connector Solution for the OR? Displayport!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

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HD Endoscopy Series Coming

Thursday, August 9, 2007

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Army’s Robotic Prosthetic Arm Demo’d

Thursday, August 9, 2007

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DARPA’s Battlefield Robot Medic to Deploy in 2009

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

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Photographic Archiving – Insight for the OR From the Library of Congress

Monday, August 6, 2007

As part of my posts on my research on high definition surgery (and its recording) in the operating room, I posted on the limitations of still photo archiving in the…

New HD Photo Compression System Could Help Surgical Archiving

Friday, August 3, 2007

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How We Recorded the World’s Highest Resolution Surgical Footage

Thursday, August 2, 2007

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

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National Geographic’s The Living Body: DITM Featured in World’s First HDTV Broadcast of Surgical Procedure

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I’ve mentioned the National Geographic Special “The Living Body” and wanted to fill you in on why this is such an exciting project for me.  The show follows a…

National Geographic Update- HDTV Surgery: (United Airlines Sucks!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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Docinthemachine Goes to Hollywood With National Geographic in High Def!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Docinthemachine is off to Hollywood to speak about my research on HDTV  surgery as featured on an upcoming National Geographic show – “Inside the Living Body”. So much…

Microsoft Touch Screen – Surgery VR Potential

Monday, July 9, 2007

There has been a lot in the lay press about microsoft’s new touch tablet display.  As CNET writes (video link here): Microsoft has just announced its Surface Computing…

Docinthemachine Posts Return Next Week!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sorry to all my regular readers for the gap in posting.  Several exciting new projects have been in development and all come to a head at one time! …

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

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