Title: Technology as system: towards an autopoietic theory of technology

Authors: André Reichel

Addresses: European Centre for Sustainability Research, Zeppelin University, 88045 Friedrichshafen, Germany

Abstract: This contribution develops a new notion of technology based on core ideas of Niklas Luhmann’s sociological system theory. Technology will be conceptualised as a self-making, self-referencing system, distinct from society and the human individual. Its basal operation is information in the medium of operativeness, processing along the binary code of work/fail. Through close coupling with social systems as well as with human developers and users of technology, technological evolution is ensured as a co-evolutive network of technology and society. Thereby technology irritates society in a way that social reality is created by technology and all progress in technology as well as in society is now decided through technological means. This has great effects when dealing with the ecological crisis and the need for sustainable development. This will be illustrated with the example of the automobile in past, present and possible futures.

Keywords: Luhmann; sociological system theory; technology; co-evolution; sustainability; technological evolution; sustainable development.

DOI: 10.1504/IJISD.2011.043070

International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 2011 Vol.5 No.2/3, pp.105 - 118

Received: 13 Nov 2010
Accepted: 05 Aug 2011

Published online: 13 Oct 2011 *

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