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APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY – Interdisciplinary Course

Technology, Engineering, and Society: Towards Sustainable Wellbeing and Technology Justice

INTD 5095, TuTh, 2:00-3:15pm, S-207

SPRING 2013: Course for Graduate Students and Advanced Undergraduate Students

Need to Register at your department to ensure students are from 3rd year or more (Approval of Department Director)

Contact Course Coordinator: Marcel J. Castro Sitiriche, marcel.castro@upr.edu  EECE Dept.


General Course Objectives - Upon successful completion of this course the student shall be able to:

  • Develop a broad awareness of technology and its relationship to human progress.
  • Understand the notion of a socio-technical system
  • Understand the process of choice that is inherent to technological development and progress
  • Develop an understanding of appropriate technology and its relation to ethics and sustainability
  • Cite and critique traditional and modern examples of appropriate technology
  • Understand the importance of listening to and cooperatively working with members of a community in which a technological solution is proposed
  • Be able to competently undertake employment or research in appropriate technology

Specific Course Outcomes: The course provides students with the background that enables them to understand, critically assess, and internalize the following twenty seven statements grouped in nine spheres.


Sphere One - Technology and Society

1.a) Technology is more than artifacts, tools, and processes; technology is our culture.

1.b) Technology is not neutral, technology is value laden.

1.c) We live in socio-technical systems.

Sphere Two - Technology Choice

2.a) The choices in technology design, production and use are deeply related to the kind of world we are building and the ways of life that are facilitated.

2.b) The engineering profession has the responsibility to make appropriate use of the technology choices to optimize a flourishing way of life.

2.c) The potential social implications of technology depend on the diversity of choices considered.

Sphere Three - Technology and Justice

3.a) Technology does not improve wellbeing equally, neither are its negative impacts evenly distributed. 

3.b) Technology could serve as an agent of justice and equity.

3.c) Technology needs to justly serve the needs of humanity today and enable future generations to do the same.

Sphere Four - Technology and the Environment

4.a) All technology depends upon natural resources, most of which are not renewable.

4.b) All human activity takes place within a broad natural ecosystem.

4.c) Natural resources and waste storage are confined within a finite planet.

Sphere Five - Technology and Economy

5.a) Real cost of environmental impact and externalities of technologies need to be included in a market driven approach.

5.b) The relationship between consumption and wellbeing is not linear (unlimited economic growth is NOT desirable).

5.c) Material wealth indicators such as GDB do not measure appropriately what technology should achieve.

Sphere Six - Measure of Progress

6.a) Centered around the idea of a flourishing life and measured with the concept of sustainable wellbeing.

6.b) Subjective wellbeing measures such as life satisfaction most appropriately represent the idea of human flourishing and ecological constraints and life expectancy (health) are also important aspects of sustainable wellbeing.

6.c) Community participation and autonomy are crucial aspects of human flourishing that deserve special attention.

Sphere Seven - Technology Assessment

7.a) Need for general guiding principles that can be adapted to fit the local context.

7.b) Assessment criteria that address diverse issues such as: 1) social value, 2) cost, 3) socio-economic and political bias, 4) cultural compatibility, 5) environmental impact, 6) durability, 7) ownership potential, 8) employment increase, 9) empowerment, 10) scale, 11) efficiency, 12) technical sophistication, etc... 

7.c) Include broad measures and relate them to the specific technology: Social Return on Investment (SROI), Happy Planet Index (HPI), percentage of population that is flourishing.

Sphere Eight - Ethics and Technology Choice

8.a) Ethics analysis is needed to consider trade-off among conflicting goals related to wellbeing (For example: maximizing wellbeing vs. evenly distributing it)

8.b) A need for a technology ethics based on sustainable wellbeing.

8.c) A broad ethics approach that includes micro-macro ethic, philosophy of technology, socio-technical systems, and other ethical frameworks such as survival ethics is desirable.

Sphere Nine- Appropriate Technology: Towards Sustainable Wellbeing

9.a) Appropriate Technology is defined as the technology that most appropriately facilitates a flourishing life for the individual, community and society at large.

9.b) Appropriate Technology Framework has a humanitarian emphasis but it needs to be applied to technology choice in general, with wellbeing as the guiding principle.

9.c) To meaningfully assess the direction of technology and apply the Appropriate Technology Framework, an interdisciplinary team effort is required.

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Appropriate Technology Course Objectives by marcel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.