Archive for June, 2010

The Inventor’s Dilemma and Our Fix-It Faith

June 1, 2010

It seems that plenty of jesters in other domains are also raising the volume in questioning techno-utopian ideology.

A New Yorker article (May 17, 2010, p. 42) talks about MacArthur Fellowship winner Saul Griffith’s realization that “The real problem with eyeglasses in the developing world isn’t making lenses, it’s testing eyes and writing accurate prescriptions.”  Sound familiar?

Another New York Times article (May 28, 2010) discusses our society’s hubris in believing that technology can fix all problems, with regard to the oil spill. It quotes David Eyton, BP’s head of research and technology: “[Technology] becomes both an enabler, while at the same time being itself a source of risk.” Andrew Khout, president of the Pew Resaerch Center for the People and the Press, says “American have a lot of faith that over the long run technology will solve everything.” The article ends with a note about air passengers frustrated by the inability for volcanic ash delays. Khout says, “The reaction was: ‘Fix this. Fix this. This is outrageous.'” Indeed! How could it be possible that our technology can’t solve a problem caused by volcano?!

(The Jester, incidentally, was also caught in the Netherlands when the volcano struck and decided to take advantage of train and bus to reach Barcelona, and from there to fly home. The Jester is thus thankful for land-based transport technologies. He fears an all-too-soon need to return to animal-based transport technologies.)