In the context of this week’s reading, air pumps and electrical machines represent progress and change. Governments and religious entities, in my opinion, can also be characterized as institutions. From another class I am taking, we have been talking about how the primary goal of an institution is for it to continue survive to exist. New developments, progress and a change in status quo tend to challenge the authority of such an institution. It all comes down to power and how those who have it, rarely like to give it up. “The fact that the coal measures were centered in northern England shifted the nation’s economic balance of power away from the prosperous rural estates of Sussex, Essex, and Kent.” [Steven Johnson]
I find it interesting that the prompt of “fearing air pumps and electrical machines” was assigned as the topic for this blog because I personally find the shift we saw in the type of people pursuing scientific knowledge far more interesting. As Steven Johnson says, “They [the scientists of old] were statesmen and political visionaries who just happened to be hobbyists in science, albeit amazingly successful ones.” Today, anyone pursuing a career in the sciences must be incredibly specialized and focused on only one specific discipline. So much so that it is almost unbelievable to me that a man such a Joseph Priestley was able to have such a profound effect on the development of modern science. The way in which I believe Johnson’s work speaks about the future of modern science is this lesson of Joseph Priestley’s method of anti specialization. I think we must be very aware of this going forward and interdisciplinary study is going to prove highly important in the coming future. While it is important to know things on a very deep and specialized level, I see an increase in holistic view-points on our horizon. This applies especially to the field of environmental research.