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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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. 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 | Chapter 222. 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 worlds 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
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