Integral Technology

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by Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater:

" it is self-evident that humanity needs a better approach to technology. How might we frame that approach? Concepts of ethics, responsibility and sustainability have all been widely discussed in relation to technology. Given our systems view of technology, we find Integral Theory to provide a simple prompt for considering its implications for society. It invites us to question internal and external impacts of any system and its embeddedness in wider systems. We are going to propose that humanity needs to develop a more consciously integral approach to the development and implementation of technology. Key to this concept is that technologies need to be more internally and externally coherent. Internal coherence describes how their design does not undermine the intention for their creation. External coherence describes how their design does not undermine the social and political system that they depend upon and which holds technologies and their protagonists to account, as well as the wider environment upon which we all depend. As that social and political system would be undermined by increasing inequality, so the effects of technology on equality are important to its integral character." (


by Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater:

"To aid future discussion, here we outline six initial characteristics of such integral technologies.

1) Meaningful Purpose: The technology system is the result of people seeking to provide solutions to significant human needs and desires, rather than exploit people for personal gain. A positive example is the development of technologies for cataract operations that can be offered affordably for the poor. A negative example is the development of financial algorithms to front run stock market trading.

2) Stakeholder Accountability: A diversity of stakeholder opinions are solicited and used during technological development and implementation in an effort to avoid unexpected and negative externalities. A positive example is the cryptocurrency Faircoin for which everything is decided through an assembly; a negative example is bitcoin, in which computer mining stakeholders approve or veto new features based on their interests in maintaining power and profit.

3) Intended Safety: A technology does not cause harm when used in the intended ways, and those using it in unintended ways are made aware of known risks. A positive example is the indications and contra-indications on pharmaceutical labels; a negative example is when pesticides are marketed to be used just before the rice or grain harvesting to increase the yield, when that increases likelihood of toxic residues.

4) Optimal Availability: As much of the knowledge about the technology as safely possible is kept in the public domain, in order to reduce power differentials and maximise the benefits of the technology when other uses for the technology are found. A positive example is open source software which allows anyone with the right skills to deploy it for any purpose they choose; a negative example is the ingredients of cigarettes which are not published and make it harder for affected parties to build a case against the manufacturers.

5) Avoiding Externalities: The way in which the artefacts of the technology affect the world around them are considered at an early stage and actively addressed. A positive example is the design of products to use a circular flow of materials from the Earth and back to the Earth. A negative example is how addiction to computer games may be contributing to obesity in the young while the games companies continue to pursue similar goals.

6) Managing Externalities: Subsystems for mitigating known negative externalities are developed at the same time as the technology and launched alongside it. A positive example is the system of regulations that mandate regular physical inspections of aircraft. A negative example is government migrating social service administration to the internet and not ensuring the poorest have the computer access, skills and support they need to use the new system."