Racist Bridges

Here’s a short piece for the Huffington Post, kind of about the moral use of technology.  There’s a well-worn example of some bridges, built low over the roads to a nice beach. The thought is that cars can slip underneath, but buses can’t — so rich, mostly white car owners can enjoy the beach, and the poor, mostly black users of public transport cannot.  The moral of the story, drawn by the social theorist Langdon Winner, is that some objects literally have politics.  The bridges are not used for racist ends, but are themselves imbued with racist values.  I have no idea what to think about this, but the possibility is at least intriguing.  Maybe technology is not a neutral tool.  Maybe it does what it does, to some extent, whether we like it or not.

I’ll be talking about this at the philosophy festival HowTheLightGetsIn on 2 June, in a session called ‘Luddites and Fools‘.


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