How to Fix Anything, Probably

Douthwaite’s views on technological fixes are far more optimistic than the other authors we read. Johnston spends much of his article simply discussing the history of technological fixes, but eventually leads into a discussion on how risky they are. The largest point he makes is that technological fixes aim for the greatest good while ignoring anything that isn’t the target of the fix. This type of fix can solve one problem, but it often creates many more in its place. The Heusemanns focus more on the natural side of things. They talk extensively about how natural selection has solved nearly every problem on this planet for the last 3 billion years and that even though it takes time, it doesn’t have rapid consequences. Technological fixes are the embodiment of our impatience and are compared to a bandaid rather than an actual solution. Douthwaite is the only author we read that seems to be fully in support of technological fixes for non-engineering related problems.

Technological fixes can be incredibly effective at fixing exactly one specific problem. This is perfect for many scientific fields because they advance one problem at a time. Environmental systems are enormous and far too complex to “solve” one problem at a time. The environment shifts rapidly and if left alone, does its own thing. Social systems can be even more complex because of humans. Humans are fickle and unpredictable and cause an absurd amount of problems for every other living thing on the planet. Human problems are hardly easy to “fix” with technology, especially with issues like war, where technology tends to only escalate the problems at hand.

One thought on “How to Fix Anything, Probably”

  1. Your point about Johnston’s point- that technological fixes are aimed for the greatest good- is important, but it is missing a critical piece, which is that what constitutes “the greatest good” depends on who is doing the determining. This utilitarian logic is often used to serve and maintain the existing power structures and, as you pointed out, it negates the importance of peripheral concerns.

    I enjoyed your statement “technological fixes are the embodiment of our impatience”. I think it begs the question of are we inherently or naturally ‘impatient’? Why? And if so, how can we become patient in regards to solving problems? I’m not sure what you meant by “the environment shifts rapidly”- did you mean within the context of human influence, or in a natural way, regardless of humans? In either case, I think your general analysis on target. And I enjoyed your title. 🙂

Leave a Reply