Innovation and Its Enemies


The rise of artificial intelligence has rekindled a long-standing debate regarding the impact of technology on employment. This is just one of many areas where exponential advances in technology signal both hope and fear, leading to public controversy. This book shows that many debates over new technologies are framed in the context of risks to moral values, human health, and environmental safety. But it argues that behind these legitimate concerns often lie deeper, but unacknowledged, socioeconomic considerations. Technological tensions are often heightened by perceptions that the benefits of new technologies will accrue only to small sections of society while the risks will be more widely distributed. Similarly, innovations that threaten to alter cultural identities tend to generate intense social concern. As such, societies that exhibit great economic and political inequities are likely to experience heightened technological controversies.

Drawing from nearly 600 years of technology history, Innovation and Its Enemies identifies the tension between the need for innovation and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability as one of today’s biggest policy challenges. It reveals the extent to which modern technological controversies grow out of distrust in public and private institutions. Using detailed case studies of coffee, the printing press, margarine, farm mechanization, electricity, mechanical refrigeration, recorded music, transgenic crops, and transgenic animals, it shows how new technologies emerge, take root, and create new institutional ecologies that favor their establishment in the marketplace. The book uses these lessons from history to contextualize contemporary debates surrounding technologies such as artificial intelligence, online learning, 3D printing, gene editing, robotics, drones, and renewable energy. It ultimately makes the case for shifting greater responsibility to public leaders to work with scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to manage technological change, make associated institutional adjustments, and expand public engagement on scientific and technological matters… More here.

Now this is a subject I want to understand more about. Bought.

Categories: Books

1 reply

  1. Not to simplify the issue, but in general people are resistant to change, especially imposed change, regardless of whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. And the older one gets, in general the more resistant. Why? Because as we get older, we’ve found ways of doing things that suit us, we’ve been doing them for a long time, and that builds up inertia. This is a direct application of Newton’s 1st law. Yes, they apply to people as well. If you’re going along, minding your own business, and someone or something tries to change your direction or the way you’re going, they or it needs to exert greater force than for someone who is younger. As we age, we develop more inertia or resisting power.

    Ever notice that a child can often pick up something faster than you can? Here’s an example. My 5 year old grandson handles the TV box remote like a pro. He knows how to find his TV shows in the list of recorded TV shows and how to start and stop them. He got that with minimal instruction by watching his father and because it was something he wanted. How long did it take you to understand yours? Probably longer because you had to read the manual and then assimilate the information. Now what happened if you changed remotes. A great many people wouldn’t bother changing because there’s not enough gain.

    New technologies usually take root in younger generations. They may or may not be accepted by older generations, but it doesn’t matter, because eventually, the younger generations will replace the older, and that once new technology will be just the way things are. And the cycle will repeat.

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