• 11 de June de 2024
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The Absurdity of Technological Humanism

The Absurdity of Technological Humanism

The Absurdity of Technological Humanism

We are undoubtedly a symbolic species, to the very end

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Antoni Hernández-Fernández


Technology makes us human, and the teaching of technique is rooted in our ancestral origins. it is absurd to propose techno-humanism, as if technology were something alien to humanity.

One of the primary goals I have in mind for the training of technology teachers is to make future educators aware of the significance of their mission. Despite the sidelining of technology subjects in legislation and curricula—a contradictory fact given the media and social pressure for the improvement of technological education—teachers often are not aware that, even though technology might have entered secondary education by accident (as a way to incorporate the defunct FP1), it is one of the fundamental knowledge bases and traits of our species.

We now encounter lomloist absurdities like renaming the secondary school subject of technology as “Technology and Digitalisation”. Would anyone think of renaming mathematics as “Mathematics and Arithmetic,” or chemistry as “Chemistry and Formulation”? There is a blatant whitewashing and a general reduction of the technological knowledge required in compulsory education (see Hernández-Fernández, 2022 for a review).

Except in cases of illness or genetic or accidental dysfunction, we all have a brain prepared for language and for dealing with the world through technique (Bruner et al., 2023). Clearly, there is a fundamental learning process, both in the family context during our early childhood and later in formal and non-formal education. Nevertheless, evolution has brought us to where we are, and our genetic endowment—with exceptions, as mentioned—facilitates the acquisition of linguistic, cognitive, and technical manipulation skills. Our ancestors, such as Homo habilis, developed technique more than three million years ago. Along with language and other anatomical traits, technique is considered a crucial, defining element of our species. Technique makes us human. We call our evolutionary ancestors who possessed technology “Homo”.

However, it may be that other hominins, predating Homo habilis, also created tools more than three million years ago. If it were Australopithecus afarensis, should we rename this species “Homo afarensis“? (Hernández-Fernández, 2024).

The teaching of technique, and thus the didactics of technology, dates back to our ancestral origins. In fact, the material cultural transmission, with elements foreign to our body, began with the didactics of technique! The chain of teaching technique is thus deeply rooted in the oral tradition of our humanity, in the biface, in the hearth. We must fight against the false and unfortunately widespread notion in society that technology dehumanizes us, or that we need to humanize technology (Diéguez, 2020; Hernández-Fernández, 2024).

It is at this point that teachers may find themselves submerged in an Orwellian newspeak world, when society demands “technological humanism,” or asks us to make technology “more human”. Beware, teachers. As has been said elsewhere about the idea that “technology dehumanizes us” (Carbonell and Sala, 2002; Hernández-Fernández, 2024), if the cliché refers to technological uses that alienate us, harm us, or distance us from others, it is again human behaviours that are responsible. Language or education could also dehumanize us in this sense, but no one proposes absurdities such as we need to “humanize language” or “humanize education”. But everything has its day. If they refer to objects or artifacts, the product of technology, these are fully human, or of human origin, whether we like the consequences of their uses (good or bad) or not. The same can be said for language or education.

And beyond the functional tools, the numerous prehistoric lithic tools (Calvo Trías, 2002), it should be remembered that in a more recent period of our evolution, Homo sapiens made the leap to creating “useless” objects. The useless, the technically functionless, the merely aesthetic artifact, perhaps mystical, creative, loaded with meaning and symbolism but distant from the immediate problem-solving such as obtaining food or shelter, probably emerged more than 250,000 years ago, as evidenced by anthropomorphic figurines like the Venus of Tan-Tan or Berekhat Ram, precursors of the origin of art and symbolism (Balter, 2009).

Although some researchers propose controversies about these pieces, later discoveries such as the development and use of ochre pigments around 100,000 years ago in the South African Blombos caves (Henshilwood et al., 2011), or the manufacture of shell necklaces at the same site (d’Errico et al., 2005), are undeniable evidence of the development of an aesthetic culture based on technique: humans paint and adorn themselves. The ancestral emergence of clothing intertwined technique with human societies, with the culture of image and perhaps generated social hierarchy: did the skins of hunters or the vast quantities of shells of gatherers stand out on the clothes of those ancestors? Did they influence sexual selection? Probably yes. Did music, when the first musical instruments appeared, objects that externalized our melodic capabilities (Wallin et al., 2001)?

We are undoubtedly a symbolic species, to the very end (Deacon, 1997). And also technological, let’s not forget. All education involves technology as an intermediary, except if we limit ourselves to orality or merely biological bodily expression (without clothes in class?), and abandon writing, books, computers, the internet, and all the technologies that, perhaps because they are omnipresent, often seem invisible to us. Like technological education?


Balter, M. (2009). On the origin of art and symbolism. Science, 323(5915), 709-711.

Bruner, E., Battaglia-Mayer, A., & Caminiti, R. (2023). The parietal lobe evolution and the emergence of material culture in the human genus. Brain Structure and Function, 228(1), 145-167.

Calvo Trías, M. (2002). Útiles líticos prehistóricos. Forma, función y uso. Barcelona: Ariel.

Carbonell, E. i Sala, R. (2002). Encara no som humans. Barcelona: Empúries.

d’Errico, F., Henshilwood, C., Vanhaeren, M., & Van Niekerk, K. (2005). Nassarius kraussianus shell beads from Blombos Cave: evidence for symbolic behaviour in the Middle Stone Age. Journal of Human Evolution, 48(1), 3-24.

Deacon, T. W. (1997). The symbolic species: The co-evolution of language and the brain. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Diéguez, A. (2020). Tres tópicos sobre la tecnología  que conviene revisar. The Conversation, 10 de juny de 2020. Disponible [darrera consulta 29-10-2023]: https://theconversation.com/tres-topicos-sobre-la-tecnologia-que-conviene-revisar-140368

Henshilwood, C.S. et al. (2011). A 100,000-year-old ochre-processing workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Science, 334(6053), 219-222.

Hernández-Fernández, A. (2022). La ignorancia tecnológica. En Navarra, A. y Rabadà, D.(eds) (2022): La educación cancelada. Palma de Mallorca: Editorial Sloper. pp. 59-81.

Hernández-Fernández, A. (2024). Didàctica de la tecnologia. Barcelona: Edicions UOC.

Wallin, N. L., Merker, B., & Brown, S. (Eds.). (2001). The origins of music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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