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Innovation and Its Enemies : Why People Resist New Technologies (Hardcover) (Calestous Juma)

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In the early 1980s, cell phones and transgenic crops (or GMOs) both made their commercial debuts. Both have had far-reaching socioeconomic effects: cell phones have been key in facilitating communications, banking, business, and education among people in developing countries, and transgenic crops have increased agricultural output in areas with arid land and underperforming farms. At the same time there are health concerns surrounding both of the technologies: that cell phones may cause cancer, while GMOs could cause a host of problems, both to human health and the wider environment. While there is little to no scientific evidence that either technology causes ill health effects, one technology has been universally embraced, while the other has been largely demonized. Why this disparity? 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 to small sections of society while the risks are 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 more intense technological controversies.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, and it makes the case that modern controversies such as those over GMOs grow out of distrust in public and private institutions. It demonstrates the extent to which this distrust shapes and influences technological controversies by drawing on a number of historical examples, including coffee, electricity, margarine, farm mechanization, recorded music, transgenic crops and transgenic animals, to show how new technologies emerge, take root and create new institutional ecologies that favor their dominance in the marketplace. It ultimately makes the case for shifting greater responsibility on public leaders to work with scientists to manage technological change and to expand public engagement on scientific and technological matters.

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