The scientific and technological revolution deepens the discrepancy between the increasing volume of information and the individual’s capacity of mastering it. This fact calls for modernising not only the content, but also the methods of instruction and learning. The introduction of programmed instruction and its technical devices is one of the important spheres of modernising trends, even though this does not naturally exhaust the whole problem in all its complexity. However, programmed instruction is now frequently looked upon with lack of confidence and even scepticism. Its cornerstone is the fact that some questions are controversial, and some philosophical, sociological and psychological aspects have not been completely solved. The author of this article is trying to answer the question as to whether programmed instruction and the introduction of its technical devices can result in deepening the technical alienation, this time in the field of the pedagogical process itself. He goes on to consider the question as to whether programmed instruction can fulfil the social function of education and discusses the position of the method of dialogue in programmed instruction. He also pays attention to the question of manipulation possibilities and conscious regulation in programmed learning, as well as to the form and manner of engagement of its living factor, the subjective factors of the process of instruction. A philosophical analysis, which shows, above all, the advantages and potentialities of programmed instruction, results in a fundamental humanist judgement that the basic factor determining the usefulness of a teaching machine is not its technical structure, but the logic of its social function.