The technological fix as social cure-all: origins and implications

Johnston, S. F. (2018) The technological fix as social cure-all: origins and implications. IEEE Technology and Society, 37(1), pp. 47-54. (doi:10.1109/MTS.2018.2795118)

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Abstract

Abstract: In 1966, a well-connected engineer posed a provocative question: will technology solve all our social problems? He seemed to imply that it would, and soon. Even more contentiously, he hinted that engineers could eventually supplant social scientists - and perhaps even policy-makers, lawmakers, and religious leaders - as the best trouble-shooters and problem-solvers for society [1]. The engineer was the Director of Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Alvin Weinberg. As an active networker, essayist, and contributor to government committees on science and technology, he reached wide audiences over the following four decades. Weinberg did not invent the idea of technology as a cure-all, but he gave it a memorable name: the “technological fix.” This article unwraps his package, identifies the origins of its claims and assumptions, and explores the implications for present-day technologists and society. I will argue that, despite its radical tone, Weinberg's message echoed and clarified the views of predecessors and contemporaries, and the expectations of growing audiences. His proselytizing embedded the idea in modern culture as an enduring and seldom-questioned article of faith: technological innovation could confidently resolve any social issue.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Technological fix, social engineering, technocracy, solutionism.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S. F.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
E History America > E11 America (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
T Technology > T Technology (General)
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:IEEE Technology and Society
Journal Abbr.:IEEE T&S
Publisher:IEEE
ISSN:0278-0097
ISSN (Online):1937-416X
Published Online:06 March 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 IEEE
First Published:First published in IEEE Technology and Society 37(1):47-54
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
652811Trusting the technological fixSean JohnstonBritish Academy (BRITACAD)SG132088IS - INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES