A Methodological Essay on the Impact of Technology
Every massive technological enterprise – the space program is only one recent example, if the most spectacular – produces major social effects that may be unanticipated and may become, unless their symptoms are noted in time, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Technical advancement also breeds second-order consequences after its own kind: it produces seeds of new technology that can “drop out” and bear fruit in other areas of research. The problem is to foresee, to measure, to control and channel these consequences – in short to manage them. Undesirable second-order consequences must be limited or suppressed, and beneficial ones must be found and brought to maximum utility.
This volume concentrates on the problem of managing the consequences of technological change in a broad sense, rather than on specific consequences of the space program. Even if it were possible, it would not be desirable to draw a clear line between the space program and large-scale modern technology in general. The urgent job at hand is to develop, almost from the ground up, a new methodology that is adequate in dealing with these questions that become more and more significant as society becomes more and more significant as society becomes more and more dependent on technology. However, the second of the three sections in this book includes, as an application of the methodology developed, an overview of the actual impact of the space program on special groups. One particular problem – the role of technicians in the manpower picture – is selected as an example to be examined in depth.
This book is the third and concluding volume in the series Technology, Space, and Society, prepared by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The other two volumes in the series are The Railroad and the Space Program, edited by Bruce Mazlish and Social Indicators, edited by Raymond A. Bauer.