# thinking-together

Alex McLean

10/09/2023, 8:19 PM
@Kartik Agaram's draft programmer's pledge reminded me of Ursula Franklin's checklist for technology projects, which is a bit hidden in one of her really excellent 1986 lectures on the "real world of technology"
“… whether it:
(1) promotes justice;
(2) restores reciprocity;
(3) confers divisible or indivisible benefits;
(4) favours people over machines;
(5) whether its strategy maximizes gain or minimizes disaster;
(6) whether conservation is favoured over waste; and
(7), whether the reversible is favoured over the irreversible?”
I tried to summarise these points in a blog post here or you can listen to the lectures directly, or read it in book form. I'll pull out a couple of quotes, first on 3) divisible/indivisible benefits:
“If you have a garden and your friends help you to grow a tremendous tomato crop, you can share it out among those who helped. What you have obtained is a divisible benefit and the right to distribute it. Whoever didn’t help you, may not get anything. On the other hand, if you work hard to fight pollution and you and your friends succeed in changing the practices of the battery-recycling plant down the street, those who helped you get the benefits, but those who didn’t get them too. What you and your friends have obtained are indivisible benefits.”
and on 7) reversible vs irreversible:
“The last item is obviously important. Considering that most projects do not work out as planned, it would be helpful if they proceeded in a way that allowed revision and learning, that is, in small reversible steps.”
5) on maximising gain vs minimising disaster is also a really interesting point, where she argues against planning, and for finding the right conditions for something to grow, at its own rate.

Kartik Agaram

10/10/2023, 3:04 PM
I thought I'd watched real world of technology, but looking again I think I only watched the first episode. That might be why I was utterly ignorant of this list. Goes on top of Todo stack.

Alex McLean

10/10/2023, 3:09 PM
Note that the second lecture seems to be missing from the audio recordings on

Daniel Buckmaster

10/10/2023, 3:38 PM
In a similar vein, Jacques Ellul's 76 questions there are 76 of them because Ellul has issues with concision