Do wait (Douthwaite) and see what happens: Consequences of technological development

Douthwaite states that much of techmology advances with the concern of addressing a social issue or want; (i.e, nuclear weapons as a deterrent against large scale warfare and other nuclear weapons, automobile manufacturing technology advancing because of a social impetus for all people to drive cars) (Douthwaite, 31). He also states that technological fixes are temporary measures, not solutions. (Douthwaite, 32).

Huesemann would agree that Humans will attempt to ‘improve’ their status quo and living conditions, but note that in some cases there are no improvements to be had, and human changes are in fact dangerous and deleterious, with even ‘good’ changes inevitably leading to consequences. Technology will also create both positive and negative effects that are unavoidable, (Huesemann, 7-8) solving one problem at the cost of creating another. There is no ‘free lunch’.

Johnston addresses the conundrum by commenting that the advancement of technology is often believed as a cure-all; there will be no fighting over food because technology gives everyone enough food with surplus (Johnston, 47). However, he notes that the term ‘technological fix’ exists because it only fixes the problem in a scientific approach, and does not address the underlying social or environmental issues causing it. He would likely comment that Douthwaite does not address the complex social causes behind development that could potentially make the difference between a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ impact, such as whether or not the fix was appropriate or needed (Johnston 53) or how politics influenced technological decisions, such as whether democratic consensus was reached or if agendas played a role in decisions (Johnston 54).

 

Technological fixes have repercussions because of a domino effect; there are so many variables in a system that can be affected by a single variable changing that it is impossible if not extremely difficult to account for them all, and often times we are limited by the knowledge we have at the time. I do not believe we should let this deter us from advancing: as a species we take risks and we experiment, and it is our natural curiosity and constant desire for self-improvement that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We should be absolutely morally, ethically and environmentally responsible to be sure, but if we are too afraid of making changes, we will stagnate and no longer progress. We should evaluate whether or not we should proceed with researching a technology, and then either do so or stop.

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