Ok Google…

In opposition to Douthwaite’s opinion,  Johnston’s states that “technological fixes… both underestimate and inadequately solve complex problems” (Johnston 53). Douthwaite obviously favors the physical sciences to the ‘grey’ social sciences, but somewhat proves the point of Johnston and the Huesemanns by saying “a technological fix is an attempt to answer a social or human problem using technological devices or systems without any attempt to modify or alter the underlying social or human problem” (Douthwaite 31). Without addressing the underlying social or human problem, are you actually solving the problem? Johnston and the Huesemanns think not, and acknowledge the complex, ever-changing nature of humanity where Douthwaite fails to do so. We cannot reduce the problems of humanity to simple mechanics. By doing so, we arrogantly assume we have mastered nature as well as carelessly belittle the consequences of it. It’s just a band-aid on a bullet wound. Granted, one could argue that by leaving social problems to social entities, we would create more social problems. However, by replacing the role of leadership and policy with technology, we resign our most human qualities to it. Besides, since people are biased and flawed, their technological creations have also proven to be so. In the end, our technological fixes could just be an illusion of the greater social problem they attempted to resolve.

Technological fixes to social and environmental systems have negative repercussions because of the interconnections of our environment and the short-sighted solutions technological fixes present. Make no mistake, technological solutions have immensely benefited humanity and they can be used to improve many of the issues today. Consequences should not prevent us from finding technological solutions, however they also should not be left out when considering and developing these solutions. By examining foreseeable consequences, or even hypothetical ones, we, as a society, can better evaluate costs and benefits of these technological solutions before we employ them.

4 thoughts on “Ok Google…”

  1. Current technology has limitation when dealing with the complexity of human nature, but it is worth wondering if we will ever reach a point where this will no longer true. When computers were first invented they were slow, clunky, and served one purpose. But today the majority of us have our own computers that fit in the palm of our hand and can “learn” from our usage and make suggestions. WIth technological advancement happening at an exponential rate, it can be extrapolated that at some point we will become less capable of reading the complexity of humans than our inventions. True we need to establish some means for self policing so as to lessen the unintended consequences, but with the ever growing complexity of the world, it is possible one day someone will invent something that has a greater capacity to handle issues than the average human.

  2. Hi Hannah! How’s it going? I totally agree with your statements and the way you point out the main elements of the texts. It is curious and interesting how the Douthwaite’s opponents declare that are against what seems to be a very useful tool for us, according to the former author: technological fixes. We tend to use this kind of solution as we could know that it is going to work, but it might have a contrary effect, something dangerous.

    According to the second paragraph, it is true that we as people should consider the benefits and costs of every technological fix we want to make use. However, I do not think that many companies, or even people who are in charge of doing so, are environmentally conscious with their actions.

  3. Nice post Hannah, I agree with your analysis of the differences in the authors’ perspectives and arguments. In regards to your second paragraph, I am curious about your thoughts on a situation in which a technological fix is applied to a grave situation. At any point, is it acceptable to implore a fix and disregard the unintended consequences to divert from a destructive path with no outlet? In example, have the ramifications of the Manhattan Project surpassed the importance of ending a war with Japan? Similarly, are there any technological innovations that have been implemented as fixes that have worked well? There is a possibility that some unintended consequences are unavoidable. Thus, some technological fixes may have already met their maximum potential.

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