Though rules and regulations that the modern society is driven by should be viewed as the methods of making everyday life safer and more comfortable, on a range of occasions, some of these rules appear to be even more binding than straightforward restrictions. In his article “Where are the missing masses? The sociology of a few mundane artefacts,” Bruno Latour analyzes the implications of certain social rules that people’s mundane life is guided by to discover that mechanisms and machines, in fact, can be ascribed action and morality too.
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Latour makes it obvious that the era of technology presupposes the integration of machine mediated morality into the set of ethical principles that people are guided by. In other words, technology, which is the manifestation of human progress, has recently started defining the latter, therefore, becoming a thing in itself. As a result of incorporating the postulates of machine mediated morality into the everyday life, the necessity to investigate the process of replacing the human factor with technology, which has proven to be much more efficient for carrying out specific tasks.
Exploring the above-mentioned phenomenon of replacement, the author makes it obvious that excessive use of machines in everyday life sets the premises for the so-called “missing masses” problem to emerge. Defined as the process of ousting people from the positions demanding the actions that machines can carry out (Latour 1992, p. 233), the issue is obviously a major concern for the 21st century.
Despite the fact that moral dimensions are seemingly inapplicable to technology, Latour manages to intertwine the concepts of technology and ethics into a single entity. Thought-provoking and original, the article tests the readers’ concept of morality and addresses the problem of humanity vs technology, which has been brewing for quite a while in the contemporary world.
Latour, B 1992, ‘Where are the missing masses? The sociology of a few mundane artifacts,’ in W. E. Bijker (ed.), Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 225–258.