TRADEOFFS: Imperatives of Choice in a High-Tech World by

TRADEOFFS: Imperatives of Choice in a High-Tech World

Email this review


A distinguished sociologist's vibrant call for a reasoned national policy to control the juggernaut of modern technology. Wenk, an engineer/academic who was appointed the first technology advisor to Congress in 1959, hammers home through myriad examples technology's often unsensed omnipresence, from the obvious hardware such as automobiles and VCRs to its more subtle but all-pervasive role as a ""social amplifier"" through the global communications network. The Chernobyl and Challenger disasters, he argues, clearly indicate that a nation's technologies, unlike its economies, are directed by no encompassing policy or even viable set of safeguards. According to Wenk, all technologies necessarily breed dire side effects (nuclear energy: nuclear waste; robotics: unemployment; health technology: spiralling costs). He posits that the only way to control these trade-offs is to ask continually ""What might happen it?"" Now, however, control of technology rests primarily with the technicians/scientists, who have a vested interest in its unchecked expansion, and in the government, especially the executive branch, too easily under the sway of the military/industrial complex. The only way for ""What might happen if?"" to dominate thinking about technology, Wenk believes, is for the American citizenry to take over the job of regulating technology by a massive program of self. education about technology and its trade-offs, followed by grassroots advocacy and lobbying aimed specifically at increased Congressional participation in technology planning. Although Wenk's solution of popular advocacy to control technology seems far-fetched, his passionate warning of possible technological peril, backed by sound reasoning and elegant presentation, makes this a book to be heeded.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1986
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press