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PHYD72H3 Study Guide - Final Guide: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ozone Depletion, Nikolai Kondratiev


Department
Physics and Astrophysics
Course Code
PHYD72H3
Professor
Sheldon Ungar
Study Guide
Final

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Online Chapter 22: Technology & the
Global Environment
Technology: Saviour or Frankenstein?
Bombing of Hiroshima divided the twentieth century into two distinct periods:
operiod 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 human life.
J. Robert Oppenheimer → “father” of the atomic bomb
oAfter 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:
oOutbreak of Legionnaires’ disease--Buildings can harbour toxic chemicals & dangerous
germs.
oDangerously high levels of toxic chemicals were discovered leaking into the
basements and drinking water of the residents of Love Canal, near Niagara Falls,
NewYork
oPartial meltdown of the reactor core at nuclear facility in Pennsylvania caused
lethal radioactive water and gas to pour into the environment.
ogas leak at a poorly maintained pesticide plant in Bhopal, India killed 4 000
people
oNo. 4 reactor at Ukraine, exploded, releasing 30-40 X the radioactivity of the blast at
Hiroshima
oExxon 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 modern technologies
ousually when rare combinations of conditions occur in the computer program
oex) when your home computer crashes
Risk society: way in which risk [& danger] is distributed as a side effect of society
oDanger does not result from technological accidents alone.
oIncreased risk is due to mounting environmental threats--more widespread,
chronic, and ambiguous than technological accidents
ogreenhouse effect, global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion, endangered
species
oTech enables the production of ever-more g/s but @ the cost of breathable air &
drinkable water
Technopoly [U.S.A.]: U.S. is the 1st country in which technology has taken control of
culture.
oTechnology 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
oBiologists can splice genes together, creating plants & animals with entirely new
characteristics
Malak Patel1
| Chapter 22

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oAdvocates of this speak of a “second genesis” and “the perfection of the human
species.”
oCons: 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
2. If some people do control technology, then exactly who are they?
military & big corp decide the direction of technological research & its
application
3. What are the most dangerous spinoffs of technology and how is risk distributed?
Focus on global warming, industrial pollution, and ↓ of biodiversity
We show that although these dangers put all of humanity at risk, the
degree of danger varies by class, race, and country
the socially and economically disadvantaged are most at risk
4. How can we overcome the dangers of environmental degradation?
market & technological solutions are insufficient, cooperation required
5. Of what use is socio in helping us solve world’s technological & environmental
problems?
Socio @ the Movies: The Matrix & The Terminator
Matrix: gigantic computer that makes imagination possible
Terminator: killing machine
Theme of the Terminator → The imminent destruction of humanity by machines
Idea of ppl inventing machines that try to destroy their creators [theme in novel
Frankenstein]
Technology is not always a means of improving human life--it is antagonistic to human
values and unless we are careful, it can destroy us
Nanobots: microscopic robots
A programming error or a genetic mutation could result in the copying process getting out of
control-
Technology AND People Make History
Nikolai Kondratiev→ 1st social scientist to notice that technologies are invented in
clusters
New group of major inventions has cropped up every 40 to 60 yrs since the Industrial
Revolution
These cause major economic growth spurts beginning 10 -20 yrs later and lasting 25 -35
yrs each
Malak Patel2
| Chapter 22
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Technological determinism: belief that technology is the main factor shaping human
society&history
John
Atanasoff→ 1st to invent the computer in 1939
oAtanasoff stopped work on it soon after the outbreak of World War II
oOnce the military potential of the computer became evident, development
resumed
o1 of the earliest computers: ORDVAC
Technologies did not become engines of economic growth until social conditions allowed
them
Technology becomes a major force in society only after it is coupled with an urgent
social need How High Tech Became Big Tech
20th & 21st cent technology require enormous capital investment, detailed attention to the
way work is organized & legions of technical experts
technological innovations require substantial resources, esp money & organization [not
genius]
Thomas Edison→ established the 1st “invention factory” at Menlo Park, New Jersey
oImp factor in Edison’s success → organization he had set up
oFounded GE
By mid 20th cent, most techno innovation was organized along industrial lines
Prototype of today’s invention factory was the Manhattan Project, which built nuclear
bomb
In the course of the 20th cent, the # of research scientists in North America ↑ a
hundredfold
oR & D spending tripled, taking inflation into account
oIndustry’s spending share ↑, government share ↓
B/c multinationals invest large $ in R&D, time lag b/w new scientific discoveries and their
technological application is continually shrinking
Military & profitmaking considerations now govern the direction of most R & D
Connection b/w practicality & research
Majority of leading biotechnology scientists have industry affiliations
Adhering to military and industrial requirements—where the MONEY is!
Environmental Degradation
Side effect of technology → environmental degradation
degree to which they are perceived as threatening depends on certain social conditions
4 main aspects:
1) Global Warming
Malak Patel3
| Chapter 22
“Kondratiev
Waves” of Modern
Technological
Innovation &
Economic Growth
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