Sunday, 2 February 2014

IS THERE A TECHNO-FIX FOR SOCIETY?

Is there a technofix for society so that humans could live in harmony without blatant problems of inequality and injustice at all levels, from social to racial and gender? Some argue convincingly that there can be a technofix for malnutrition, if only governments worked more closely with scientists and businesses in speeding up genetically modified foods and cloning of animals. Is "techno-optimism" justified because nano-technology will solve all communications problems along with biotechnology and promote a happier and healthier population? Can we save the ecosystem while proceeding toward sustainable development, or is all of this just another public relations exercise about sustainable development that no longer has any meaning because the culprits of environmental degradation and absence sustainability are the ones making the most noise about the eco system and sustainability?

What if the so-called technofix is nothing more than a public relations scam on the part of governments, corporations, academia, the media and institutions that are only interested in tinkering with institutional problems without making the systemic changes that would result in greater social justice with less damage to the ecosystem? Why is it that governments, the UN and multinational agencies such as the World Bank, OECD, as well as corporations, the media and academia place such a heavy emphasis on technofix for society's problems that only become worse as we continue to make remarkable progress in science and technology? Why the blatant contradiction between the phenomenal progress in science and technology on the one hand, and the regression in social justice on the other?

Is it possible that techno-consultants offering advice that their clients want to hear lead to any constructive solution, or is it just another way to make money without changing the status quo? Can science and technology repair social injustice, can there be a technofix for unjust political systems, for grossly unequal economic systems, for decadent institutions? Without a doubt science and technology are inherently positive developments for civilization, assuming they serve human needs of all people and not used to retain oligarchic socioeconomic and political orders as is the case today around the world, including in countries that claim to be the defenders of freedom and democracy. Is society's problem of a technofix nature, or is the problem much deeper requiring going to the root of the nature of the social contract?

Certainly human beings have thought that the methodology applied to science and technology can just as easily lead to solutions for society. If we adopt the correct methodology to solve a technical problem in an engine, then why not society as well? From the Renaissance, and certainly by the 17th century during the Age of the Scientific Revolution, if not by the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century in England and 19th century in northwest Europe and US intellectuals have adopted the technofix approach in varying degrees under the assumption of rationalism. The technofix solution is well packaged by the media, private consultants, government and business that are only interested in placating the masses suffering the injustices of society, while projecting the image that the institutional structure is operating as "scientifically" as possible, and there is no other way.

It is true that there are many people who genuinely believe in techno solutions and do not have a problem going to the root of the problem, whether that is with regard to drinkable water and sufficient food for the malnourished or with regard to lessening the damage to the environment. However, the political and business elites co-opt  the technofixes of those genuinely interested in fixing a social problem, commercialize the nature of the solution and then sell it as a genuine social fix. This is exactly what happened with the so-called sustainable development movement, that today means very little and has changed very little in the world economy. The other related issue to the bogus technofix argument is the remarkable loyalty of the masses to authority and the ability of the mass media to convince the otherwise docile public to accept technofix solutions as a panacea.

If we consider that approximately 30 million people have died in wars between the end of WWII and 2000;  and if we consider that we live in a world of sociopolitical turmoil that political and socioeconomic elites in their pursuit of great control of the world's resources bring about greater social injustice, then we must necessarily conclude that the internet and biotech revolutions operating parallel to the growing inequality on a world scale have not helped to solve the basic problem of social justice. Science and technology in the hands of the strongest governments and corporations in the world benefit those who have the means to benefit from them. In short, technofix does have positive benefits, assuming the individual has the income to afford the best medical procedure, the best living environment, etc. For the vast majority of the planet's population, there has been no technofix even for fundamental things such as clean water because corporations, especially the large multinationals controlling the water resource make water unaffordable.  

Far from requiring a phony technofix, the solution to society's problems is political and it requires addressing systemic injustices that have resulted in disillusionment with the pluralistic society serving socioeconomic and political elites with technocrats offering technofixes as their well-paid servants. What good are all the advances in sciences and technology to the majority of the people in sub-Sahara Africa who have seen European, American, and now Chinese, Japanese and Indian businesses exploit labor and resources? What good are technofixes for the poor inner city neighborhoods of the US when the same poverty-related problems have lingered for decades? Technocrats of all types are doing their job making a living by catering to the political and socioeconomic elites wishing to deceive the public that government, businesses and academia are constantly working for society's welfare. Yet, there are no solutions and the problem of lack of social justice remains.

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