Thursday, September 6, 2007

810 Technophilia/Technophobia

Message no. 810[Branch from no. 792] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 5:56pm Subject: Technophilia/Technophobia

Pat, I think we all straddle the line between embracing and fearing technology -- it is a love/hate relationship because we develop technology to give us a greater sense of control, then we lament it when "the law of unintended consequences" shows us that sometimes that control turns out to be an illusion and we end up more out of control than we started out. And often we allow technologies into our lives that do give greater control -- but not to us! As I mentioned in my reply to Adrienne when we were talking about whether we have to accept that cars and powerplants inevitably bring risk to us : "Pollution is somebody's profit". That famous quote is from the great activist Poet Gary Snyder in his beautiful book "A Place in Space" from 1995. (see quotes here and you can read him selected poems here

The same logic applies to out of control technology (or technology that makes us feel out of control). I would echo Gary Snyder by saying "Out of control technology is somebody's controlling technology."

If you watch the video clip I linked to in my reply to Adrienne, where Amory Lovins talks with Charlie Rose, you will see and hear him describe how and why so called "peaceful" nuclear technology benefits only the governments who build it. Keep in mind that the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and the hundreds of other accidents that we don't hear about; see for a list compiled by Greenpeace in a "Calendar of Nuclear Accidents" month by month) made alot of people very rich.

To give you an example, I play in a rock band here in Cairo with a great guy who is an engineer with U.S. AID. His day job involves flying to Beirut to help rebuild the bridges and clean up the tragic oil spill resulting from the Israeli bombing campaign of terror last summer. He just spent our taxpayers money over there in Lebanon to the tune of 5 MILLION DOLLARS hiring contractors to help with the oil cleanup. The last 100,000 dollars was going to be spent sending the sludge sand from the beach resorts to London to a waste treatment facility (of course we have to clean up the Lebanese beach resorts first with US taxpayer dollars!! What would the rich do if they didn't have beaches to lounge on during the coming hot summer? They would leave for Greece or something. The poor fishermen and their families will have to wait!). My friend thought that was a waste of money, making some British company rich off of Lebanon's disaster, so he thought he could find a better solution. When he blocked the shipment of sludge to England the group decided to ship it to Egypt to be buried in the desert, putting the money in the pockets of the Egyptian government. My friend blocked that too. Finally he said, "Why don't we use it to build roads and bridges right here in Lebanon. That way the money can stay in the country it was intended to help" (He is a good man!). They asked him, "how would you do that?"

He said, "we build roads out of rocks, sand and tar. We have scraped rocks sand and tar off the beaches -- after all, oil sludge IS tar. So we can just make it into roads and bridges."

"What about the combustible waste we have collected?' they asked.

"We can burn it to heat the tar to make the asphalt. It is a free source of energy."

When he got back to Cairo last week he was smiling from ear to ear. He said to me, "I love my job. I love my life. It is great when you can make a real difference and turn waste into a golden opportunity!".

So this story has a happy ending. But my friend also talked about the dark side of what he does. He said, "my brother works for McDonnel Douglas. He builds the bombs that knock out the roads and bridges that I repair. We joke about it when I go home to the States. I say, "brother, stop giving me more work!" but that is the way it works -- his company bombs 'em, my company rebuilds 'em."

In other words -- every time there is a war or disaster, the companies hired to "fix" the problem make big money. If the taxpayer is paying the bill -- as with FEMA and other disaster cleanups, then it would behoove any politician with connections to companies that contract (like Haliburton Mr. Cheney!) to encourage the use of technologies that have the side effect that they could lead to "more work" for the contractor.

Thus, out of control technologies put certain people in control.

But that doesn't mean that "technology" per se is bad. It just means that we must analyze the consequences of our technologies and always ask "WHO PROFITS"? This question helps everything snap into perspective!

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