Protagonists of science claim that dire warnings about the future are essentially unpredictable. They quote the 19th Century futurist who said that by the middle of the 20th Century because of all the horse drawn transport no one would be able to move in London for horse-dung.
The way society expects to get out of the today’s problems is to create tomorrow’s technology yet I am sceptical that humans will forever continue to create new technology that WILL solve the problems of their old technology.
Needless to say, the risks of not being able to create this problem solving technology are considerable. All innovation brings its own paradox, for all the benefits that technology provides its dark side also creates harm and damage. Structural violence: eg. it may help millions today but it may also harm millions in the future.
In the past we came to a forked road. Our leaders at the time took the one that said, ‘Industrial revolution’. And as our technology increased so did our need for it. We became hooked on ever increasing tech innovation.
The major concern must be our ability to always rise to the occasion. Our senses are no longer useful to for discovering pure science. With have learnt that with better tools we discover new things, as Galileo and Hook did with the telescope and the microscope. With more complex tools we uncover deeper and extended levels of the microcosm and macrocosm. New tools extend our senses.
Nowadays our computers get bigger and faster as do our particle accelerators. A probing analysis of infinitesimally small particles aids our comprehension of quantum mechanics, our vast array of space craft increase a greater understanding of cosmological laws. We have grown used to the fact that a synthesis of newly discovered pure science can produce an applied science tech that will take us somewhere safer and better. However the dangers associated with each new generation of technological innovation gets greater. We play technological Russian Roulette. Nowadays we dont create new tech from merely speculative interest but as a necessity and there is no certainty that new discoveries and perceptions will fall into our test-tubes and beat the deadline.
From all these new horizons and boundaries crossed in pure science, from new scientific understandings and R&D, industry goes on to create new devices, gadgets, power production, new transport, health and fertility solutions, etc. Yet with each generation of innovation the downside risks get greater. Coal to create steam gave us energy but it filthied our skies and our lungs. We created nuclear fission which gives cheap energy but it also left behind deadly waste that is virtually impossible to store. (Just look at Chernobyl and Fukishima). If we create Nuclear Fusion, what will its downside risk be? An error which could ignite a stellar explosion?
It would seem that every innovation has a shelf life in its usefulness and safety. And this shelf life is likely to get shorter with each cycle as humanity seeks desperately for answers, when new horizons fail to open up.
It is not difficult to find situations where new technological solutions are an absolute necessity. Antibiotics, for example, have been a fabulous aid to the health of the human race, but now they are becoming ineffective as bacteria has becomes familiar with antibiotics to circumvent them.
Unexpected effects of innovations are extremely hard to predict. This is why we are so concerned by genetic modified crops, by nanotechnology, by cloning and biotechnology, where will these innovations lead the human race? One place they will definitely lead to, is the seeking of solutions to the problem they raise in the future.
Looking at the world as it is, I think that despite all the many safeguarding committees and overseers that are set up, corporate-led science will thrust forward without any consideration for the potential Pandora’s box they open. This is because the imbecilic corporate desire for profit has taken greater importance than the survival of the human race. This must be seen as ‘Rationalism’ and ‘Scientism’ leading us to total madness. And many countries and corporations would die without the lifeblood of new technological innovation as tech development is critical to the GDPof both. I don’t want to get uber-classical or religious here but the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden ironically comes to mind. Humanity was doomed when it ate the ‘Apple of Knowledge’. They were thrown out of God’s garden.