Can ‘Human Values’ be taught in a ‘Technical Institute’?

The act of putting together words like ‘technology’ and ‘human values’ would seem quite paradoxical at first glance. But if you dwell on these two words, you will realise that the two go hand-in-hand. So, why are  ‘human values’ not part of learning at technical institutes in India? Lucas Introna, a philosopher, backed up this approach adopted by these institutes (of not teaching human values) by arguing that educators thought that ‘the traditional sources of moral knowledge such as religion, community and family’ should be the agencies to impart human values. But as time progressed, Introna pointed that the credibility of these traditional sources began to get challenged. As a result, a need was felt to reconsider the way technical education was being imparted in the institutes.

To cater to this, courses on ‘engineering ethics’ as a subject started getting offered. But it was soon realized that these courses on ‘preventive ethics’ were not effective. 

Knowledge in technical education sans human values is very well exemplified by what happened with Japan during World War II. So it seems like it is necessary to build moral values in our future engineers in order to keep a check on inhuman use of technology. But how can this be achieved? Can a subject so subjective and subtle such as ‘human values’ be taught in the institute? Or should we go back to our traditional sources to take care of this? The answers to these questions are definitely not easy to arrive at. 

In an unique attempt, IIT Gandhinagar is trying to approach this problem. Prof. Raghubir Sharan, Professor at IIT Gandhinagar, offers a course titled, “Technological Progress and Human Values”. Prof. Sharan says that the debate between ‘technology’ and ‘human values’ is quite akin to that between ‘science’ and ‘philosophy. He further adds that the gap between the two can be bridged only if we try and reflect upon where in our endeavor of technological progress, we digressed and went on to create an ‘unsustainable’ form of development.