Weighing The Dangers Of New Technologies With The Benefits

from the scare-mongering-or-reasonable-caution? dept

There are often times when it seems like we’re headed for a real backlash against new technologies that can certainly make the world a better place. A big part of the issue is often that the very same technology has the potential to have quite nasty downsides as well. The NY Times has an article looking at how nuclear technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology all seem to have strong potential impacts in either direction. What’s interesting is the issue of whether or not those who look to stop these new advancements are simply involved in fear mongering, or reasonable levels of caution. Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to know for sure until well down the road — and that raises serious questions about when progress may be postponed due to too much caution.

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Comments on “Weighing The Dangers Of New Technologies With The Benefits”

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Tyshaun says:

Re: Re:

in situations where it is unknown where new technology is going to end up being dangerous it is necessary to keep your heads and go along anyway. otherwise what is the point of trying anything

That is possibly one of the most irresponsible stances I have ever heard on the application/experimentation of new scientific principles.

Sometimes it is better to stop and do a “worst case analysis” when evaluating new technologies. Do we know enough to sufficiently contain the results? Is the result worth the associated risk? Do we know enough to apply the results in such a way as not to adversely affect the environment?

Questions such as the ones above need to be asked before experimentation in new areas goes too far. Most universities and research institutions have some type of ethics boards to deal with issues such as this, and these groups need to be bolstered as we explore more and more of the scientific frontier.

I am not saying we shouldn’t pursue new science, just do it with our eyes open and stepping carefully.

nunya_bidness says:

Re: Re: Re:

in situations where it is unknown where new technology is going to end up being dangerous it is necessary to keep your heads and go along anyway. otherwise what is the point of trying anything = I am not saying we shouldn’t pursue new science, just do it with our eyes open and stepping carefully. same same but not not same same XD

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

my apologies for being brief in the earlier comment, yes you are right in saying that these questions need to be asked and yes we need to be responsible.

But at the same time, at such an early stage in the development of ideas, before any signifant technology has been gained from them. It is pointless in stopping when we just dont know either way and “fear mongering” used insted of actual scientific knowledge.

Patrick Mullen says:

The perfect example of this is the US process of drug approval. The FDA is under fire from both sides, one side saying that they approve too many unsafe drugs. They also take heat from consumer groups that say they are too slow to approve needed drugs for people that will die.

There are currently drugs that have been removed from the marketplace because they tend to kill 3 or 4 percent of the people that take it, yet, it prevents a indication that kills over 500,000 people a year.

This is not an easy slam dunk bumpersticker issue.

Searcher619 (profile) says:


Only the foolish would charge blindly into a new technology. That would be the perfect recipe for disaster. You must stop and examine the risks before going forward. Sometimes we lack the ability to over come the negetives of a proposed technology. This does not mean the tech is forever off limits. It just means we have to develop other technology before we can tackle this one. Better safe than sorry is a good rule to follow.

Brian says:

If it has good purposes, then do it.

Doesn’t everyone realize that nearly all technology has both good and bad sides? The wheel, fire, internet, nuclear tech… it all does.

You cannot give up using a technology simply because it has bad uses, otherwise we’d never advance the human race.

The research used to make Nuclear energy/bombs could very well lead to the next enery break through, the next medical break through, etc.

By not using a technology for it’s good purposes because it contains bad purposes as well is just supressing flaws that the humans have. Maybe if we have to suffer through these flaws (and their bad use of technology) the next generation will come out to a better people than the generation before it.

Craig Earon says:

Weighing The Dangers Of New Technologies

Considering the difficulties in weighing the dangers in existing technologies, why is it a surprise that new technologies have the same problem?

It is often so hard to find existing facts documenting actual threat events because these are often hidden by those companies that have experienced the attack. I can find statistics which can guide me in selecting a safer automobile, neighborhood or baby car seat from the insurance companies, but try to find real statistics regarding the security risk of technologies tied to the internet appication is often a guess at best. Sure, I can sometime find a proof-of-concept attack on an application, but figuring out how often that attack actually occurs in a given time period is nearly impossible to calculate given the fact that nobody wants to end up as the top news story in today’s news.

James (user link) says:

Technophobia our biggest enemy

Those who fear technology most end being big losers. Let me illustrate this using crop biotechnology. Except the United States, the rest of the world is cautious about cultivating genetically modified crops.They say they pose health risks to consumers and the environment. Despite this hoopla, Americans grow and eat them. American farmers are minting billions of dollars from GM crops. Now, there’s a mad rush for biofuels, and again Americans are in it. While the rest of the world persists procrastinating about GM crops, U.S. farmers are laughing all the way to the bank. In my blog, GMO Africa, (http://www.gmoafrica.org/), I once asked Africa to embrace genetically modified crops, not as food, but as a source of raw materials for the biofuel industry. I am looking forward to see if anybody will listen to me.

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