Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems
If anyone is critical of technology, I am. But here Technology Review makes much the same point. I quote from the final chapter:
It’s not true that we can’t solve big problems through technology; we can. We must. But all these elements must be present: political leaders and the public must care to solve a problem, our institutions must support its solution, it must really be a technological problem, and we must understand it.
This should be read carefully, and not skimmed over. He acknowledges in the article the work of Amartya Sen, who showed that poverty is a political problem, not a technical one.
I also quote from the section Irreducible Complexities:
There should be some kind of price on carbon, now a negative externality, whether it is a transparent tax or some more opaque market mechanism. There should be a regulatory framework that treats carbon dioxide emissions as pollution, setting upper limits on how much pollution companies and nations can release. Finally, and least concretely, energy experts agree that even if there were more investment in research, a price on carbon, and some kind of regulatory framework, we would still lack one vital thing: sufficient facilities to demonstrate and test new energy technologies. Such facilities are typically too expensive for private companies to build. But without a practical way to collectively test and optimize innovative energy technologies, and without some means to share the risks of development, alternative energy sources will continue to have little impact on energy use, given that any new technology will be more expensive at first than fossil fuels.
Less happily, there is no hope of any U.S. energy policy or international treaties that reflect this intellectual consensus, because one political party in the United States is reflexively opposed to industrial regulations and affects to doubt that human beings are causing climate change, and because the emerging markets of China and India will not reduce their emissions without offset benefits that the industrialized nations cannot provide. Without international treaties or U.S. policy, there will probably be no competitive alternative sources of energy in the near future, barring what is sometimes called an “energy miracle.“
Fair enough. But this overlooks entirely the psychological and social effects of technology in the last two hundred years. Which can be stated simply enough – people have been eliminated, or reduced to hollow shells.
After posting this, I found this article on Fast Company: Innovation Fails Because _____