Re: Modern Technology: Out of Control?

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 19 Jan 1998 22:39:01 -0500

Weslake, Brad BG wrote:
> Hi.
> Why do you think the image of modern technology being 'out of
> control' has such a strong appeal? In what ways does technology appear
> difficult to control? For some of the problems you identify, explore
> their implications for government policy-makers. Provide examples for
> your arguments.
IMO, the appeal is based on reality: technology is out of control,
in the sense that no person or group can comprehend all of
technology. Peter the Great (?) managed to teach himself the
basics of the technology (European) of his time: that was
probably the last point in history that such a thing was
possible for one man. Today, a well-educated and capable
technologist cannot stay abreast of more than a small part
of one field. Even fairly dedicated techno-junkies such as
many on this list have trouble tracking most relevant
advances at a shallow level. No wonder the general public
is overwhelmed.

IMO, technology is actually considerably less under control
than most alarmists realize. Many futurists believe the
civilization of 50 years hence will be completely
incomprehensible from today's perspective. Some
more radical futurists think this is true for the civilization
of 15 years hence, or ten years hence.

Another way to put it is to ask "if technology is under control,
what is the nature of the control? Is this control sufficient to
prevent a runaway exponential growth leading to computer-based