Technology and Society, the Manhattan Project.docx

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Manhattan Project 2/15/2012 7:57:00 AM
Technology and Society
We have drawn an artificial boundary between the technological
and social and have found a sense of false infallibility
Have accepted a temporarily stable working relationship among
machines seeing people and their environment as the only state of
Technical and social elements are in a fragile equilibrium
By putting technological artifacts back into their social contexts, we
cover patterns that hold the clues to both past and future disasters
Critique of Technological Determinism
Developments in society are never passively trained by the
uncontrollable necessities of technology
Technologies look the way they do because of their historical and
cultural moorings and their connections with macro-features of
economic and social organization
Organizational sociologists have argued that high risk and complex
technology are characterized by tight coupling and complex
interactions among components
o Instead of recovering from mistakes, such systems slide
irresistibly into catastrophe
Social Perspectives on Technology
Large scale technologies can be resistant to democratic control
Important to the political roots of all technological artifacts
Technical devices are systems that can acquire politics either
because they represent a solution to a particular political problem
or because they are inherently political in the sense of being
Manhattan Project
Manhattan project, 1942-46
Development of a nuclear device by creating new technology
Project was located in New Mexico
o Led by Leslie Groves of the US Army
o Oppenheimer was the chief scientist
US, Canada and the United Kingdom were all involved in this secret
project during WW2, US played a leading role
The top US and European scientists involved
A number of European scientists were of Jewish origin and former
2/15/2012 7:57:00 AM
Look for the role of the following scientists and their initial
promotion of the building of the device and later reservations &
concerns about its future potential in starting an arms race.
Leo Szilard
o Has the idea to split an atom, to cause a chain reaction and
release mass amounts of energy
o Wants to inform the president Roosevelt of the discoveries
Enrico Fermi
o Agrees to the experiments so him and Szilard can prove there
is a uranium chain reaction
o In charge of the experiments/building of the bomb
o Said that he will let the reaction grow very slowly, Groves was
wary of this
Robert Oppenheimer
o Put in charge of the project for the science portion
o Many communist friends
o At first he said the bomb would set fire to the earth’s
o Later said the chances of that catastrophe was 1 in 3 million
o Said the bomb could be made in two years
o Suggested grouping everyone who would be building the
bomb to a remote location
o Went against the rules and talked to people outside of the
project to find out about the plutonium
o When he saw the power of the bomb, he was worried about
the use of it
After the bomb was used on Japan, he became a
promoter of nuclear technology for good
Said that all countries preparing for war should have
atomic bombs ready
Albert Einstein
o Willing to sign Szilard’s letter to the president, to stand
behind him
The interface of politics and technology when a decision is made to
use the nuclear device on Japan