Technology Be Seen As Anti-Progressive Essay, Research Paper
Should a group resisting the introduction of a specific technology be seen as anti-progress? Why? Support your argument with one or more examples of disputes about technological developments.
Technology has been defined as the application of science to production , by Webster s Third New International Dictionary, this definition for the sake of this argument is too narrow. The writers on technology in its social context Emmanual G. Mesthene and John Kenneth Galbraith have formulated their definition Technology then, is the product of interaction between man and the environment, based on a wide range of real or imagined needs and desires which guided man in his conquest of Nature. p25 A group that may resist the introduction of a new technology for reasons other than the wish that progress in that area of technology is not made. The motives behind the wish to halt the progress of a technology are diverse and incorporate all manner of causes that include politics, human and environmental welfare, economics and the social consequences of implementing new technologies.
The technological advancement in the science of weaponry and warfare is an area that has always brought forward groups in society that do not wish to see this area progress. The progress in the area of weaponry and warfare is seen by many as an increase in the capabilities for humans to destroy one another and the environment. The dropping of the first atomic bomb in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, truly demonstrated for the first time the extent to which technology had advanced our defensive capabilities. From the end of World War II it was now safe to say that the human race possessed the capability to destroy all life on the planet, whereas before technology had allowed us only the capability to destroy large amounts of it. With the advent of the development of nuclear and later biological weapons many people had begun to question whether technological advancements in this area were justified or even whether these advancements were moral. Should the capacity to destroy life on a scale never seen before be seen as advancement for science? Some would say that this is not true, for the original intent of science was to aid humankind in understanding their world, and the application of science to create new technologies was to take away some of the burden of everyday existence. Science that develops a vaccine against small pox and polio or automates labour intensive processes in a factory can be seen as advancements in technology. Science that takes the labour intensity out of killing one another or provides the government s of the world a means to cripple the citizens of neighbouring countries with disease is not making advancements in the eyes of many.
It can be said in defence of the development of nuclear capabilities that it did lead to the development of nuclear power for civilian use, however its safety has never been successfully proven. According to environmentalist Denis Hayes The increased deployment of nuclear power facilities must lead society toward authoritarianism . Indeed safe relance on nuclear power as the principle source of energy may be possible only in a totalitarian state . This statement against the use of technology to harness nuclear power, not only has its environmental concerns, but a political element is applied. Hayes then states that dispersed solar sources are more compatible than centralised technologies with social equity, freedom and cultural pluralism . Hayes and many others view nuclear power as not only environmentally unsound but as a symbol for an authoritative political agenda.
Many in society do not wish to see technological progress because of its social consequences. Many critics of capitalism fear that the type of industrial innovations promoted by capitalism would resulting in the domination of many by the few . Jacques Ellul a rather pessimistic writer on technology in society says: But a principle characteristic of technique.. is its refusal to tolerate moral judgements . It is absolutely independent of them and eliminates them from its domain .
There main argument is that modern technology brings about a society that is moulded by the technologies that are of the current flavour. Technology in short, has come of age , not merely as a technical capability , but as a social phenomena .
Opponents to new technologies can readily be found when the new technology is self interested or benefits a few at the detriment of others. In the 1940 s the University of California, developed a device that enabled farmers to harvest tomatoes and sort tomatoes in a way that reduced costs by five to seven dollars per ton compared to hand harvesting.However, the process of harvasting by machines was rough and argricultural researchers had to develop new varities of tomato that were hardier than those previously grown.As the tomato harvester s were very large and cost more than fifty thousand dollars they were only really useful (and affordable) to growers with large tomato farms. As a result of this mechanisation an estimated number of jobs lost in the tomato industry reached 32,000 by the late 1970 s, however there was a substantial increase in the amount of tomatoes produced. It became clear to many in rural communities that only the large growers were benefiting from this invention at the expense of the smaller growers and workers. A group against this new technology comprising of farm workers and other interested parties sought legal action against the University of California s officials for spending tax payers money on projects that benefited a small group with private interests of profit to the detriment of farm workers, small farmers, consumers and rural California in general.27 Winner The University argued that it did not have any intention of creating the great economical disparities the tomato harvester produced nor did would it accept the charges on the grounds that it would require them to eliminate all research with any potential practicable application . Opponents of such agricultural technologies have been labelled anti-progress or anti-technology , by those whose chief aim is to nurture cooperate profit. The tomato harvester is not simply a symbol of a social order that rewards the already relatively well off , and punishes those who compete with them, but in reality an embodiment of that order. The new order created by the new technology, redistributes wealth, power, authority and privilege in a community that consequently creates opponents of progress in a new technological area. These opponents of progress in technology should not be seen as anti-technology or anti-progress , because in essence they are not opposing progress or the technology but the political, social, economic, environmental and moral consequences of implementing a new technology.
Opponents of progress in the area of nuclear power argue that if you accept the new technology you also have to accept as a consequence a techno-scientific -industrial-military elite .
Opponents of ERT or estragon replacement therapy and the birth control pill, began with arguments of the social and moral consequences the technology had to offer. Feminist groups, consumer advocates and some scientists claimed that the new drugs marketed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and to avoid unwanted menopause, were in fact endangering their health. The controversy over the new technology began when Robert A. Wilson, a Brooklyn gynaecologist wrote in his book, Feminine Forever, that menopause was deficiency disease that resulted from the lack of estragon. Wilson referred to menopause as a living decay , and even went as far as saying that to women menopause was the death of their womanhood . Wilson claimed that ERT could be considered a youth pill , and even went as far as saying that it could avert such conditions as frigidity, depression and alcoholism. This angered feminist groups and scientists who believed that menopause was a normal and natural part of every woman s life. Eventually ERT was to linked to cancer scares in women, however before this controversy ERT technology encountered opposition by U.S. feminist groups who claimed that menopause was a normal and natural part of every woman s life and the idea to keep women feminine forever was seen as an attempt by men to exploit women s sexuality. After the development of cancer was linked to use ERT the opposition to this new technology increased, it no longer remained an issue of exploitation, it now took the form of a stance against potential death sentences for women who naively trusted this new technology. Many feminists published articles attacking ERT and its believed cancer links with titles like Promise Her Anything But Give Her Cancer and Feminine Straight to the Grave , summing up their anger at this new potentially fatal and seemingly unnecessary technology. In the present there appears to be no conclusive evidence that suggests that ERT causes or increases the risk of cancer in women. However, this episode does demonstrate the point that opponents of progress in technologies are not simply anti-progress , these groups wish to know the whole picture , so they can make a rational decision concerning their use of the new technology. These groups wish that all possible consequences are understood by everybody that may be effected by the technology. This episode is also a powerful demonstration to us all not to blindly trust in the safety and reliability of progressive technological developments. The arguments of the opposition groups must be listened to carefully before any technological progress that may detrimentally effect our lives takes place.
Opposition to progress in technology often comes from informed sources like those who are working with the new technology. Roger Boisjoly was a rocket-engineer who was working with NASA designing solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle program. While working on this project Boisjoly became aware that the joints holding the segments of the rocket boosters in place were faulty. He found that the seals that were made of rubber in cold temperatures were unable to prevent the leakage of hot gases created by the burning grain of the rocket. Boisjoly organised a team to lobby against the use of this technology that he had established as being faulty, he and the other opponents wanted the seals to be replaced or not used under cold conditions. Their opposition was unable to prevent the launch of the Challenger space shuttle on the 28th of January 1986. The morning that it was launched on was cold, and the seals leaked hot gases that caused the space shuttle to explode killing all on board.
Some forms of progress in technology must occur for people (at least in the Western world), to continue to enjoy the standards of living we have come to enjoy through technological advancements that have been made since late last century, that appears to have encompassed all areas of our lives. However, those who oppose progress occurring in certain areas of technology are not simply anti-progress , but do so to prevent what they believe will be the dire political, social, moral, economic or environmental consequences of the application of the new technology.