Malak Patel | Chapter 22
Online Chapter 22: Technology & the
Technology: Saviour or Frankenstein?
Bombing of Hiroshima divided the twentieth century into two distinct periods:
o period before Hiroshima the era of naive optimism
During that time, technology could do no wrong
Technology: practical application of scientific principles to the improvement of
J. Robert Oppenheimer → “father” of the atomic bomb
o After the bomb was dropped, people are beginning to think of technology as a monster,
a Frankenstein rather than a saviour
The most infamous technological disasters of the 1970s and 1980s include:
o Outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease--Buildings can harbour toxic chemicals & dangerous germs.
o Dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals were discovered leaking into the basements
and drinking water of the residents of Love Canal, near Niagara Falls, NewYork
o Partial meltdown of the reactor core at nuclear facility in Pennsylvania caused lethal
radioactive water and gas to pour into the environment.
o gas leak at a poorly maintained pesticide plant in Bhopal, India killed 4 000 people
o No. 4 reactor at Ukraine, exploded, releasing 30-40 X the radioactivity of the blast at Hiroshima
o Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska, spilling crude oil, producing a dangerous slick
Normal accident: accidents that occur inevitably & unpredictably b/c of the complexity of
o usually when rare combinations of conditions occur in the computer program
o ex) when your home computer crashes
Risk society: way in which risk [& danger] is distributed as a side effect of society
o Danger does not result from technological accidents alone.
o Increased risk is due to mounting environmental threats--more widespread, chronic, and
ambiguous than technological accidents
o greenhouse effect, global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion, endangered species
o Tech enables the production of ever-more g/s but @ the cost of breathable air &
Technopoly [U.S.A.]: U.S. is the 1st country in which technology has taken control of culture.
o Technology compels ppl to try to solve all problems using technical rather than moral
criteria, although technology is often the source of the problems
Latest concern of technological skeptics is biotechnology
o Biologists can splice genes together, creating plants & animals with entirely new characteristics
o Advocates of this speak of a “second genesis” and “the perfection of the human species.”
o Cons: w/o moral & political decisions based on a sociological understanding of who
benefits and suffers from these new techniques, biotech can be a threat
These considerations suggest 5 tough questions:
1. Is technology the great driving force of historical and social change?
opinion of both cheerleaders and naysayers--who view technology as our
saviour and those who fear it as a Frankenstein