My first use of the term Social Technology came about from a project of mine which I called Social Network Optimization. I was advised that “nobody wants to be optimized”.
That is only more or less true. Some people want something which is a bit like having their social environments optimized. Or improved, at least. I thought I had tools which people would like to use to gain some control over their place in the social network. Tools. I was repeatedly told that Social Network Optimization sounded a lot like ‘social engineering‘. That’s a particularly nasty expression, with fascist associations.
Instead of social engineering, what I had in mind was social technology. By technology, I meant the collection of tools and techniques which could be used by people for social purposes. Yes, it could be used by authoritarians of the left or right for evil social engineering, but I hoped that our society had gotten beyond that. If not, then new social technology could be used to take us forward until we were.
At the time, I used the very first search engines to look up ‘social technology’. What I found was a university department in Thailand which studied hi-tech wheelchairs and other things for the handicapped. I should have been able to find the 1966 book, Social Technology, by Olaf Helmer, Bernice Brown, Theodore Gordon. This is something quite different from what I had been thinking about. It was about using social entities i.e. small groups of people, as part of decision making and estimation technology.
For some years I thought this just a different use of the the term ‘social technology’, and perhaps it is, but the two versions have become interwoven in my mind, leading to a theory of the way society works and could work much better. Much more about that on other websites, which I will summarize elsewhere.
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