Ch.22 -Technology-Notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

SOCA02 - CHAPTER 22: TECHNOLOGY TECHNOLOGY: SAVIOUR OR FRANKENSTEIN? - Technology was widely defined as the application of scientific principles to the improvement of human life - The most infamous technological disasters of the 1970s and 1980s include the following: An outbreak of Legionnaires disease in a Philadelphia hotel in 1976 killed 34 people. It alerted the public to the possibility that the very buildings they live and work in can harbour toxic chemicals, lethal moulds, and dangerous germs. In 1977, dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals were discovered leaking into the basements and drinking water of the residents of Love Canal, near Niagara Falls, New York. This led to the immediate shutdown of an elementary school and the evacuation of residents from their homes. - German sociologist Ulrich Beck also coined a term that stuck when he said we live in a risk society. A risk society is a society in which technology distributes danger among all categories of the population. Some categories, however, are more exposed to technological danger than others are. Moreover, in a risk society, danger does not result from technological accidents alone. In addition, increased risk is due to mounting environmental threats. Environmental threats are more widespread, chronic, and ambiguous than technological accidents. - Neil Postman (1992) refers to the United States as a technopoly. He argues that the United States is the first country in which technology has taken control of culture. Technology, he says, compels people to try to solve all problems using technical rather than moral criteria, although technology is often the source of the problems. Technology and People Make History: - Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev was the first social scientist to notice that technologies are invented in clusters. As Table 22.1 shows, a new group of major inventions has cropped up every 40 to 60 years since the Industrial evolution. Kondratiev argued that these flurries of creativity cause major economic growth spurts beginning 10 to 20 years later and lasting 25 to 35 years each. Thus, Kondratiev subscribed to a form of technological determinism, the belief that technology is the major force shaping human society and history. - They did not become engines of economic growth until social conditions allowed them to do so. The original steam engine, for instance, was - So we seeit would be wrong to say, along with strict technological determinists, that Daimlers internal combustion engine caused the growth of the car industry and petroleum industries. The car and petroleum industries grew out of the internal combustion engine only because an ingenious entrepreneur efficiently organized work in a new way and because a chance event undermined accessto a key element required by his competitors product. Environmental Degradation: - The side effect of technology that has given people the most serious cause for concern is environmental degradation. It has four main aspects: global warming, industrial pollution, the decline in biodiversity, and genetic pollution
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