Don't believe the hype
Death is a scary thing and most of us don’t want it.
We dislike it so much that we added science and technology to the list on “Saviors against death”, where religions have occupied the top places for a long time.
Technology has by us humans been given magical power and through it we hoped to turn earth into a garden of Eden. However earth can never be the garden of Eden and human beings cannot be angels. Both earth and we human beings have limits.
Earth is finite and we are dissipative structures, consuming resources and leaving waste to survive. The economy, made up by us humans and our technology, is in the same way a dissipative structure, something that we have seen was forgotten by many of us and still is, as many humans look for technology to help us from something that humans and technology has caused.
Our belief in technology's magical power have us touting it as a solution for our environmental pressure on the planet. However since technology cannot to do away with its own, our own and our economy’s physical structure nor the 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics, it can never be the sole solution to our growing ecological and social problems on this planet.
Take carbon dioxide emissions that are released when we and our now fossil fuel dependent economy consume resources as an example. Looking at evidence at hand technology hasn’t really helped in bringing down our fossil fuel use with our demand for energy still bending upwards. To say the least a worrying trend for the technical optimists. Technology, like the one needed to use renewable energy, takes time to develop and implement and therefore needs help in reducing carbon emissions by other strategies like concepts of sufficiency and caps on resources use if we want to reach our planet and people saving goals in time.
As the carbon emissions example shows the human kind will somewhere down that sustainable line will find out that, even though we are bathed in sun light, living on finite planet where it is impossible to create energy and nearly impossible to create matter means that even technology has limits.
A shift in value of the idea of technology is therefore needed. It is important yes but not magical and besides the limits of technology to solve our growing planetary problem it is also often built on an unequal exchange of potential energy (exergy) concealed by the idea of money and prices. This inequality can be seen looking at a map of the world at night. Where it is lit is where resources ended up and where it is dark is where it was taken from.
So how can we understand how to use technology?
First of all we need to be careful (precautionary principle) as it might be a devil in disguise. Because as much as there is to applaud about human invention and its manifestation in technology, there are really as much to boo. The combustion engine helped some of us to travel faster and further than before and build bigger and faster but it also emptied our resources and filled our carbon dioxide sinks faster.
Secondly we need to realize, as mentioned, that it is not magical and neither good or bad. The goal we set for technology determines its value. Don’t let the goal be the creative destruction helping our economic system to grow beyond the limits of this planet but use it to reach our goal to flourish within them. Here technology can for example help us being more efficient in our use of resources, mindful of the rebound effect, it can potentially free us from Keynes economic problem and it can maybe find what Georgescu-Roegen called a Promethean recipe, a way to make renewable energy make more renewable energy!
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