The Delightful Danger of the Technological Fix

Douthwaite states that “Whatever the moral, ethical, or legal implications of a technological fix, if it works even temporarily to solve an important social problem, then it is an important contribution.” (Douthwaite, 32) What he fails to consider, is how these fixes disrupt the system they are attempting to repair. Huesemann would likely say that Douthwaite’s viewpoint overlooks how unintended side effects of technological fixes often create more problems than we started with. Douthwaite also says that we can continuously employ temporary technological fixes over and over again while we attempt to understand societies problems and ourselves. Huesemann may argue that we cannot fully understand the complex social system we have today and that believing otherwise is ignorant and potentially dangerous. As Huesemann says, “Ignorance of ignorance and lack of wisdom is the state of affairs in most science and technology today, resulting in so-called ‘myopic engineering’.” (Huesemann, 14) Johnston would also likely fault this way of thinking, as he cites many opposers to technological fixes called them “band-aid” fixes and the fixes “underestimate and inadequately solve complex problems.” (Johnston, 53)

 

Technological fixes to social and environmental systems often have negative repercussions because we don’t fully understand how the fix will affect these systems. As stated in Techno-Fix, the Earth and its environmental systems we see today have been subject to nearly 3 billion years of evolution and adaptation, and social systems have been evolving for nearly 100 million years. (Huesemann, 10) When we introduce technological fixes, we introduce rapid changes to systems that are used to slow changes. As a result, the systems sometimes react violently with unexpected consequences. I don’t think that unintended consequences should prevent us from developing technological solutions. Technology has allowed our world to develop rapidly, and I don’t believe our society could handle a sudden stop or even reduction in new tech. We have created environmental and social problems with many of our technological fixes, but we have also helped better mankind. I do believe we should focus more on how tech we create will impact our world as it’s the only one we’ve got. If we destroy it, we destroy ourselves. However, I don’t think we should stop “fixing” altogether, as our innate desire to perfect our world will continue to drive us to change it.

2 thoughts on “The Delightful Danger of the Technological Fix”

  1. I agree that the answer doesn’t appear to be to stop using all technological fixes but simply to be more selective and critical of the ones we do employ, with a lot of thought put into the potential future consequences.
    One of the things you didn’t really cover, however, is just how immediate some of these consequences can be. The point of the other articles wasn’t just to mention how it could affect the evolution of the natural ecosystem, but also how it could affect current societies and cultures. I don’t recall which piece I read it in, but one mentioned how a fix may help group “A” but may have a negative effect on all groups surrounding that group.
    The argument all seems to connect back to the social aspect. Likely, due to the fact that the “science” has strict rules, and people really seem to not.
    I’m also curious to know your thoughts on the ethical and moral questions around this topic that were brought up in the reading. It seems like a very important element of this conversation.

  2. The point I take away from your post is that we shouldn’t stop what we do, as far as technological fixes, but we need to be at least a little wary of their unintended consequences. I like the way you phrased it though because you made sure to point out that we should be more careful because this is the only world we have. However, consider this…MARS. Though I appreciate the care you take in pointing out that we should be more careful with what we currently have, I think you should also consider that sometimes the technological fix might just be the right path to take. Such as in the creation of roadways and safe ways to travel large distances, aka, planes. Though in reality I do believe the same as you, that we should be more careful and take further steps to think through our possible negative impacts of our technological fixes, I am simply playing the devil’s advocate and saying that sometimes, technological fixes just might be the way to go for the problems we as a society face.

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