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SOCA02H3 Chapter Notes -Port Radium, Bioprospecting, Major Force


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCA02H3
Professor
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

Page:
of 6
Malak Patel | Chapter 22
1
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
Technopoly [U.S.A.]: U.S. is the 1st 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
Malak Patel | Chapter 22
2
“Kondratiev
Waves” of Modern
Technological
Innovation &
Economic Growth
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
Technological determinism: belief that technology is the main factor shaping human society&history
John Atanasoff→ 1st to invent the computer in 1939
o Atanasoff stopped work on it soon after the outbreak of World War II
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
3
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
o Imp factor in Edison’s success → organization he had set up
o Founded 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
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 requirementswhere 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 surface temperature
i. Graph → warming trend intensified sharply in the last 3rd of the 20th 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 risemore 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
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