The world is changing rapidly. A single technological development can lead to an infinite number of consequential developments, each of which having varying impacts on humanity. These impacts, or indicators, display the results of technological development. Climactic, economic, social, and energy related indicators are important in showing humanity’s use of technoscience, and demonstrate that certain political and economic changes are needed so that technoscientists can use their knowledge to benefit the great majority of humanity.
Climactic indicators are excellent examples of humanity’s misuse of technoscience. One such indicator is global temperature. It displays the results of the burning of fossil fuels and the release of nitrous oxides into the atmosphere. Production of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power each expanded by 1 percent in 1995 (Brown, 16). Globally, the ten warmest years out of the last 130 have all occurred in the eighties and nineties (Brown, 15). These figures demonstrate that humanity is not effectively controlling and limiting its use of fossil fuels. As a result, acid rain falls upon the earth destroying what is left of the planet’s forests and, an estimated 37 percent of the fish species that inhabit thelakes and streams of North America are either in jeopardy or extinct.
A second indicator that displays humanity’s misuse of technoscience is the global economy. Global economic statistics show the results of the applications of technoscience. In 1995, the global economy grew by an estimated 3.7 percent the largest gain since the 4.6 percent growth in 1980 (Brown, 74). The use of technoscientific developments in various fields raised the global output of goods and services.
Although this was an impressive expansion promoting employment and development, it also increased the unsustainable demands on the earth’s natural systems and resources, such as the planet’s forests. Applications of technoscience have established the need for wood. The forests that once blanketed more than 40 percent of the earth’s land surface now cover only 27 percent of it (Brown, 19). As a result, soil erodes, and the capacity of soils and vegetation to absorb and store water is reduced.
Humanity’s misuse of technoscience can also be displayed with social indicators. Eighty-seven million people were added to the population in 1995 (Sachs, 88). The overwhelming majority were added to countries that were already struggling with the results of technoscience: depletion of forestry, erosion of soil, and reduction of aquifers. This added population only increased these countries’ problems.
Population growth is slowing in some country’s, but for the wrong reasons. In Russia, the combination of economic deterioration and environmental pollution has raised death rates, while a loss of hope in the future has lowered birth rates (Brown, 19). In Zimbabwe, births still exceed deaths, but by much less than a few years ago because AIDS related deaths are increasing. Beneficial applications of technoscience could be used in the above cases to improve social situation by introducing greater population control methods and by helping to control the AIDS epidemic.
Energy related indicators shoe the positive effects of technoscientific application. While the production of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power each expanded by 1 percent in 1995, wind electric generation expanded by 33 percent and sales of solar cells climbed 17 percent (Brown, 5658). The harnessing of wind and solar energy does not create the environmentally harmful byproducts associated with their fossil fuel and nuclear counterparts. Humanity’s use of renewable energy sources can only decrease environmental problems. Charles E. Lindblom’s procedure of public policy integration is an effective method by which technoscientists can be assured that their developments will be thoroughly explored so that humanity will not be hurt by their work.
However, most corporations give strong incentives (bonuses, stock options) to encourage executives to diligently pursue corporate profitability (Woodhouse, 173). This results in a rapid, untested decision-making process that yields swift innovation of products and production techniques that offer short term buyer effectiveness, profits for the seller and potentially long term negative consequences to a portion of humanity, the environment or the world.
Political procedures concerning technological developments must be gradual and deliberate so that the development’s benefits can greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Conflicting leaders should explore developments so that each can consider the other’s views. The initial policy should be revised in small, reversible steps in response to feedback about errors, interpretations, and changing perceptions of needs and opportunities (Morone, 168). The net result will be a general benefit to humanity.
From an economic standpoint, technoscientist’s work might yield a greater humanitarian benefit with the increase in common people’s role in the technological decision making process. Unfortunately, technological developments, no matter how beneficial to society they might be proven to be, cannot be put into action without governmental and corporate acceptance, or funds. However, those that are chosen to decide whether it is necessary to invest in such developments might not be true representations of society. Some in this hierarchy could be more interested in profit than global well being. This hypothesis could consequentially have an affect on technoscientists psychologically. Those looking to better the world might become cautious and skeptical in releasing and promoting their views and ideas. There is also the possibility that the temptation of money would override the fundamental principal technoscientists have of improving the world.
Society should have a greater role at the decision making step. Those who might be directly affected by technological developments might not be so quick to accept or decline a development for economic reasons. Technoscientists could then put greater focus on improving the lives of those who are affected by their developments. In order for the world to benefit from technoscience, humanity must learn to use it correctly and with foresight. Current climactic, global economic, social, and energy related indicators show that the earth is deteriorating from humanity’s overall misuse of technoscience. Changes must be made in political and economic situations related to technoscientific development. If changes are not made, the decline in global quality of life will proceed as rapidly as technological development now advances.
1. Brown, Lester R., Vital Signs, c.1996, Worldwatch Institute.
2. Sachs, Aaron, “Population Slightly Down”, Vital SigInstitute.
3. Morone, Joseph G., “Why the Demise of Nuclear Energy?,” c.1989,Yale
4. Woodhouse, Edward J., “Decision Theory and the Governance of
Technology”, 1987ns, c.1996, Worldwatch