How to Cope with the Promises and Perils of Technology

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We are all technologists. We all believe in progress. But not all in the same way.

The politics of engineering is as complicated as engineering itself, and as contested as man and nature that usually enrich political debates. The mission of an engineer is essentially savoring it, defending it, and improving it, but also coping with it and transcending it. There is nothing especially laudable in romanticizing lost worlds, or pretending that societies without skyscrapers or modern communication are more “authentic” than our own, or believing that disarming ourselves will make the perils of technological power disappear. May we not fantasize that the present world is necessarily the finest human achievement yet, or that politically necessary and morally justified uses of technological power are wholly innocent. For, they usually are not.

Our problem is that of ensuring whether the future we believe in is worthy of our devotion. In other words, it is about how we cope with the promises and perils of technology. Answering this question will require clear thinking about scientific prospects, distinguishing wild speculations from scientific reality, and describing technological possibilities in a way that common man can judge and understand. It will require political leadership with a deeper understanding of engineering, and engineers who accept that technological expertise does not guarantee its balanced application to humanity.

The problem of engineering — how to spread its

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