The Technological Band-aid

Douthwaite’s sees technological fixes as a short term “time-out” for social issues. Ideally, scientific innovation allows society to put drunk driving or economical hardships on hold while the fundamental failures of society are addressed at a political and moral level. While Douthwaite agrees that the temptation of technological fixes as a long term solution is dangerous, he fails to recognize that using science as a short term patch kit can also have unwelcome ramifications. Sean Johnston explains that the diverse and everchanging nature of human progress does not allow for the oversimplification of social issues. Externalities can be affected by even the shortest implementation of a technological fix.

Technological fixes tend to carry unintended consequences due to their reduction and oversimplification of the problem. Scientists and engineers may find a very specific solution to an issue, but they may fail to see the large picture. This narrow perspective does not allow the inclusion of small externalities into the engineering of a fix. Extreme confidence in the ability of science to address social issues often results in the failure to create long term solutions. The presence of a technological fix also allows society to take their attention off of the problem. The underlying issues causing the societal issue in the first place may not change. Because of this, groups can be marginalized and even more problems may rise to the surface in the future. Eventually, the blessing of a technological fix slowly becomes a curse; and there may be more problems created than solved. However, we should not allow a fear of unintended consequences stunt the progress and usage of science in the social theater. Instead, the exercise of applying to technology to problems must be implemented in a rigorous manner. Although this approach may result in a slower progression of science, the long term results are worth the wait.