Some Reflections on Teaching Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Information Technology
Vanderberg, Willem H.
Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Vol. 24, Num. 1
Vanderberg argues that technology development should be guided by the same negative feedback systems that we use in daily life; if we did so, we would take a less reverent, more iconoclastic and overall saner view of what we want to design into our lives. Consequences would be regulated up front, by engineers, not at the end, by designated specialists. A cultural approach toward life would dictate that we learn each thing by its relevance and place; by contrast, the current technical approach uses a non-contextual, abstract mode of knowing and interacting with the environment. Success in an activity is dictated by a set of numbers several removes from any reality that may have generated them and, as efficiency is among the highest of technical achievements, success in such numbers increasingly takes priority over other activities. "In sum, the technical order represents a domain of non-sense lying outside of the domain of sense (i.e., experience and culture based on meanings and values)." Vanderburg concludes: " This pattern of technologies that produce spectacular but specific results by undermining the human and natural orders goes back nearly 100 years in time. Human expectations tend to be based on these results without taking into account their downside. Information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology have the potential of intensifying these patterns even further. We have already moved well beyond applying a precautionary or no-regrets principle to these developments, because they are clearly here to stay. A discussion of these new technologies must have our present situation as the point of departure."