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Chapter 22

Chapter 22 Textbook Notes

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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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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: 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 human life.  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 modern technologies 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 & drinkable water st  Technopoly [U.S.A.]: U.S. is the 1 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 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 Malak Patel | Chapter 22 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 st  Nikolai Kondratiev→ 1 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  Technological determinism: belief that technology is the main factor shaping human society&history “Kondratiev Waves” of Modern Technological Innovation & Economic Growth  John Atanasoff→ 1 to invent the computer in 1939 o Atanasoff stopped work on it soon after the outbreak of World War II 2 o Once the military potential of the computer became evident, development resumed o 1 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 Malak Patel | Chapter 22 How High Tech Became Big Tech th st  20 & 21 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 o Imp factor in Edison’s success → organization he had set up o Founded GE  By mid 20 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 20 cent, the # of research scientists in North America ↑ a hundredfold o R & D spending tripled, taking inflation into account o Industry’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 o Greenhouse effect: [Indu Revo on] humans are burning ↑ quantities of fossil fuels i. Burning these fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere ii. Accumulation of CD allows solar radiation to enter the atmos & less heat to escape iii. Contributes to global warming iv. Ex) driving cars, furnaces, factories o Global warming: a gradual increase in the world’s average surrdce temperthure i. Graph → warming trend intensified sharply in the last 3 of the 20 cent ii. From 1966- 2004, avg surface air temp↑ at a rate of 1.76 per century iii. Global warming producing climate change iv. As temp↑, more water evaporates → causes↑ rainfall and bigger storms → lead to ↑ flooding and soil erosion → lead to less cultivable land v. Melting of glaciers, water levels rise—more flooding vi. People suffer and die all along the causal chain 2) Industrial Pollution o emission of various impurities into the air, water, and soil through industrial processes o ex) household trash, scrap automobiles, agricultural runoff containing dangerous chemicals o In can, most pollutants esp from Southern Ontario & Southern Quebec o petrochemical, mining, and pulp-and-paper industries→responsible for high levels of 3 industrial pollution in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories o Canada’s biggest toxic dump is in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where waste from 100 years of nearly unregulated steel production has created the infamous Sydney “tar ponds” Malak Patel | Chapter 22 o Pollutants affect us directly → seep into our drinking water & the air we breathe, causing a variety of ailments [asthma, cancer, etc]; esp among young & seniors o Indirectly → acid rain: form of precipitation whose acidity eats away at, and eventually destroys, forests and the ecosystems of lakes o CFCs used to be used in industry & by consumers, notably in refrigeration equipment
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