Landmark Books in Science, Tech, and Society

Landmark Books in Science, Tech, and Society

We Have Never Been Modern
Bruno Latour

Bruno Latour is also the author of Science in Action, a significant book on science, technology and how they intertwine out of the 1980’s. The basic premise was when you follow scientists and engineers you could see how science, technology, and society produce each other in a continuing process of refining facts, theories, human actors, and social relations.

This is the actor-network theory, which challenged the established technological and social determinist perspectives (technological advances is responsible for social change, or vice versa). Furthermore, it blurs the dualist separation between human and non-human experience of the world. For example, natural sciences seeks to understand the world independent of human perception of it.

The question being if nature and society are coproduced, who was there first the world or humans? In We Have Never Been Modern, Latour introduce some intriguing concepts about time, imagination, and society.

The Social Construction of What?
Ian Hacking

A brilliant book about the philosophy and history of science. Hacking discuss and dismantle the Science Wars, or the so-called Culture Wars. The book is a serious read that challenge the reader to think about controversial topics. It summarizes the meaning of social construction in a series of questions that attacks the nature of scientific facts:

    • How nominalism change our perspective on science, technology and society?
    • Are scientific facts a creation of language? Does words determine scientific facts?
    • Has historical contingency anything to do with science?
    • What is the relation between scientific facts and history? If history was different, would the scientific facts change with it?
    • Does stability has hand in it?
  • Are scientific facts reflective of reality or what political\social powers want them to be?

The answers to these questions can’t be ignored, and that’s the core of The Social Construction of What?

Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life
Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer

In this book, the authors dare to break out of the conventional confinement of the history of science. It is a book that represent an “exercise in the sociology of scientific knowledge.” Shapin and Schaffer craftily discuss the implications of the history of science debate between Hobbes and Boyle. They use their results to provide a sensible explanation of the experimental enterprise. They find that despite not being philosophical by nature, philosophy is a substantial part of it.

Without a doubt, it’s one of the most important books ever written about the subject of the history of science. Furthermore, the book assert that you can’t simply cut out science of its societal context.

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