Freedom for Technology! A Call for Second Separation of Powers

Freedom for Technology! A Call for Second Separation of Powers

Modem life, precisely because it is fraught with so many problems, needs technological creativity as we need air to breathe. How else can we meet successfully such global challenges as the destruction of the environment, poverty, the population explosion, and the need to create meaningful forms of work? True, technology often solves problems that no one really worries about, problems that would not even exist without technology. Still, the degree to which we are dependent on technology becomes apparent only when we criticize it. Any criticism that wants to be taken seriously, that claims to make sense, must itself be grounded in technology, must use the language of technology. If we didn’t trust technology, not one of us could step out onto the street. Like it or not, we must recognize that technology has become the prerequisite for the survival of the human race. That’s one side of the issue.

The other side is that our uneasiness about technology keeps increasing, and not, as many scientists, doctors, and engineers would like to think, out of ignorance, but out of familiarity with the processes and potential applications of technology. Concerns about technology are no longer voiced by “out-of-work teachers” (as the sarcastic phrase went), but by nuclear technicians, biochemists, doctors, public health officials, neurophysicians, and geneticists. Some of these groups have started up their own journals and newsletters. As social survey research reveals, technological expertise and criticism of technology often go hand in hand, particularly among the young. In expressing their concerns about technology, people are simply articulating their instinct for self-preservation and their democratic impulses in a world where technology has long since become a political force of the first mag- nitude, permanently transforming all aspects of life. At almost every turn we find ourselves confronting worlds of our own making—mistakes, uncertainties, and catastrophes for which neither God nor nature, however defined, can be held responsible. As much as our civilization needs technology, it also needs imaginative, observant, and competent critics of technology—as a matter of survival. The critics have a far more important role to play than prodding technologists into building in a margin of safety that will pay off later on the world market.


Lima