5 Defining benefits and costs
Technology evaluation, as with the evaluation of any type of entity or activity, is ultimately about making judgements about merit, value and worth. The reasons for undertaking such a task may be many, varied and complexly interrelated, as should be obvious by now. In one way or another they all boil down to attempting to answer a pretty straightforward question: does a technology do what is expected of it? (Or will it or did it? - depending on the context.)
This judgement can be based on anything from hard scientific data to personal assumptions and opinions, or a combination of both. From this a formula or criterion is constructed against which the performance or impact of technology can be compared. In short, we are trying to establish whether an existing or planned investment in technology, in whatever form (e.g. time, money and thought) has value and/or worth and/or merit. However, we do not usually undertake these activities in a contextual ‘vacuum’. If we do, for example when testing components in a laboratory, this is only a stage in a much wider process that cannot and should not be divorced from the context in which a technology is designed and used. Consequently, when we define value, or benefit, or cost, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to avoid this becoming a value-laden judgement.
Briefly explain how the opposing views in the following quotation might impact on evaluation.
Evaluation, as the word itself suggests, is essentially concerned with value. If you support the view expressed in the first part of the quotation and you undertook an evaluation that showed that technological progress was indeed happening at a faster rate than previously, then clearly you would attach a high value to this because of assumed benefit, and you would believe it to be a good and beneficial way forward for society.
Evaluators who subscribe to the alternative view that slow is better, would downgrade the value of speedy developments – arguing that it was an assumed cost – and instead attach a higher value to slower progress.
There are those who genuinely believe that more and faster technological progress is good and beneficial; and there are those who think that humankind needs to slow down, to think where the journey leads us, and to apply technology in more thoughtful and discerning ways.