Posted by: bravo22c | 13/02/2010

All the Ills of Humankind

Are caused by technology.

This seems to be the gut belief of some people in blatant disregard of all evidence to the contrary.  This view is particularly prevalent amongst those who adhere, on no evidence and against falsifying data of the main planks of the theory, to the anti-technology propaganda that masquerades as man-made climate change.

In exchanges of comments on a recent blog it was asserted that: The history of the disasters of technology is a fact.’  When I questioned this statement and asked for data to back up such a bald assertion, I was accused of ‘blind optimism,’ of being a ‘died-in-the-wool optimist who sees no downside to anything,’ and of ‘being in a reverie.’  When the request for backing data to support the assertion was repeated, the answer was that this was a ‘principle’ and that a catalogue of disasters was not necessary to support it.  We eventually got around to discussing a couple of examples, (Union Carbide, Thalidomide, fall-out from Chernobyl,) all of which fall into the category of accidents, however tragic the outcomes – at best, as was pointed out to me by the author of the blog, they could be categorised as system, or systemic failures.

I have never understood the jaundiced view of technological advance – a phenomenon, (the viewpoint that is, not the advances in technology,) that is not new but has been around in one guise or another since technological advance began – probably since Ug from the cave down the street picked up a flaming branch after a lightning strike and began taming fire. The overwhelming message of all evidence on technological advance is that the more advanced the level of technology in a society, the healthier and wealthier and generally happier* the citizens of that society are.  Without the technological advances we in developed countries enjoy, our lives would be much nastier, much more unhealthy, much shorter and full of the drudgery our forebears had to live with, (unless they were priests or aristocrats or others who lived from the drudgery of ‘lesser’ people.)

it was also proposed that using technological advance to sustain our special advantage at the top of the food chain is somehow unnatural.  I fail to see the logic in this argument.  Each species uses whatever advantage it possesses in an attempt to climb the food chain, some are more successful than others.  Homo sapiens turns out to have been the most successful of all and, with our ability to avoid, or at least moderate the effects of, whatever corrective factors may come into play to curtail our success, there is no evidence to suggest that we will not continue to be the most successful.  I argue that our peparedness to place self-imposed limitations on our success and to share it with other species is ‘unnatural ‘- and note that I am absolutely NOT suggesting that we should not do this, just that no other species does the same, in a non-symbiotic relationship, so it is Homo Sapiens that is out of step.

I do not suggest that such subjects as genetic engineering, cloning and other possible technologies that may have a moral dimension should not be debated, I do, however, maintain that that the continued search for new solutions and the adoption of new technology is going to continue to improve the lot of humankind generally.  The corollary is, of course that the denial of the same advantages to large swathes of humankind living in the ‘developing’ world means that millions of people will be forced to continue living in poverty to soothe the consciences of the liberal West.

I challenge anyone to provide an example of technological disaster with effects on the scale of the Black Death, Pandemic Influenza, major volcanic eruption or any other ‘natural’ disaster you care to name.

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