7 April 2011
Thesis Summary: In my paper I essentially discuss the historical progress of technology through various literary periods. It was initially held as a point of reverence by Enlightenment thinkers and their “ends justifying the means” mentality. As the Romantic ideals emerged, I explore the cautionary attitude toward the Enlightenment thinkers and the feel that the pursuit of knowledge of the sake of knowledge was wrong because of its intrusion of nature.
I then mention the ethical questions of the creator’s responsibility toward what it has created. I show how in Frankenstein it is believed that man has truly gained a dominance over nature in knowing how it works, and how to mimic things such as thunder and earthquakes. After this I move into how technology then began to have an impact of society and people. Once technologies began to be controlled by a select few and factories emerged, poor working conditions and deplorable city conditions arose. In this society (Dickens, etc.) we see how people simply become tools or gears to continue the production machine that has arose because of factories.
At this point, I discuss the increase of the use of chemicals in industry and the (essentially) toxic pollution that followed as a result. How industrial pollution at one point was merely smog or polluted water which one could (if they had the option) move away from, to a point where no matter where you were, industrial pollution and contamination managed to reach you.
I also criticize the popular idea that scientists and industrialists would be able to correctly assess the potential dangers of a given technology, but that there is actually no way of knowing. I also emphasize the fact that systems put in place to keep such things like nuclear power plants going are so complex that if one little system within the larger system fails, the entire thing fails.
I want to focus on the latter half of my paper, so I would try to cover the following points:
• How mankind became so confident in their Enlightenment inspired logic and science that they thought they could properly assess risks and consequences.
• How this idea carried on throughout the ages and had a devastating effect in modern systems of technology.
• Technology having to gradually incorporate systems/networks to keep machines/power plants/etc. running and how simply one thing within that system failing means the whole thing fails because of high inter-dependence.
• I would relate it to things people would know: Three-mile Island, Chernobyl, and current things such as the Japanese nuclear plant crisis.
• I would also incorporate images to point to of each idea.
• I would also like to address the progress of not technology, but the pollution associated with technology.
• If I feel that there’s no fit in the overall conference for talk of technological systems and its dynamics, then I would focus mainly on pollution throughout the ages and how we’ve shifted from a reverence and faith in technology, to anxiety and fear.