⌚ Shoreline Used To Be Essay
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The undesired but common and expected consequence is the heating of the ocean water near the plant. An undesired and improbable consequence would be a major explosion, and we would associate the term 'risk' with this outcome, but not with the heating of the water. An unanticipated and desirable consequence might be the discovery of new operating procedures which would make nuclear power safer. An unforeseen and undesirable consequence might be the evolution of a new species of predator fish, in the warmed ocean water, which destroy existing desired species. This paper concentrates on unanticipated consequences of our technologies. Anticipated negative consequences have been dealt with extensively in the literature on risk. See, for example, Margolis , and Bernstein The latter emphasizes the role of mathematics in risk assessment.
Two brief points should be made before we proceed. The first is that change is always with us. Even without the intervention of human beings, nature changes constantly. Continents move, weather changes, species evolve, new worlds are born and old ones die. The second point is that all change seems to involve unanticipated consequences. Hence, the unanticipated is a part of life. There is no absolute security. Unanticipated consequences can be mitigated, largely through the gaining of additional information or knowledge, but not eliminated. That's the nature of our life, natural and human.
Although we focus here on the term 'technology' as it is usually taken, it is worth pointing out that human beings do much that has unanticipated consequences, in all areas of life, certainly including, for example: medicine, business, law, politics, religion, education, and many more. Because of the parallels among these fields it is useful to think of a broader definition of technology, such as " Seen in the light of this broader definition, writing is one of our first technologies. Postman recalls the story of Thamus and the god Theuth, from Plato's Phaedrus, as an example of unanticipated consequences. Theuth had invented many things, including: number, calculation, geometry, astronomy and writing. Theuth claimed that writing would improve both the memory and the wisdom of humans.
Thamus thought otherwise. Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. So it is in this: you, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part ignorant.
And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society. It is true in all of our technologies, the discoverer of an art, or the designer of a new system is not usually the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. And yet, paradoxically, it is often the designer to whom we must go to ask for the likely outcomes of her work. This is a problem with which society must wrestle, and we shall discuss later how it does so. Dietrich Dorner has recently analyzed systems in a way that can help us see why they can be so difficult to understand, and hence why consequences are unanticipated. Dorner has identified four features of systems which make a full understanding of any real system impossible.
These are:. Complexity reflects the many different components which a real system has and the interconnections or interrelations among these components. Our system models necessarily neglect many of these components or features, and even more so their interrelations, but there is always a danger in doing so, because it is from such interrelations that the unanticipated may arise. Our economic system is an example of a highly complex system. Not only are there many players, but the players are also interrelated in many ways which are difficult to identify and define.
Many devices and systems exhibit dynamics , that is, the property of changing their state spontaneously, independent of control by a central agent in charge of the system. One of the most fascinating examples of our time is the Internet, an extraordinarily dynamic system, with no one in charge. There is no way to model the Internet system in a way which will predict its future and the future of the people and things which will be impacted by the Internet. Many of our complex technological systems have this property. Examples might include: a new freeway system, nuclear power, high definition television, genetic engineering. For example, a freeway system is dynamic because a large number of players initiate actions beyond any central control.
Driver A slows down to observe an accident, Driver B responds in an unpredictable way, depending on his skills, state of mind, sobriety perhaps, and other factors. The system, though structured to some degree, is in many ways on its own. Intransparence means that some of the elements of a system cannot be seen, but can nevertheless affect the operation of the system. More complex systems can have many contributors to intransparence. In the Internet, for example, the list would include almost all of the users at a particular time, equipment failures at user sites, local phenomena, such as weather, which affect use of the Internet at other locations.
We need to understand that what you can't see might hurt you. Finally, ignorance and mistaken hypotheses are always a possibility. Perhaps our model is simply wrong, faulty, misleading. This last problem is particularly interesting and important, because it is the one we can do something about. We can take steps to reduce our ignorance, to increase our understanding, as we shall discuss in Section 6. And in Section 7 we argue that we are obliged to do so. Lets look next at some other perspectives on this problem. Peter Bernstein has addressed the matter from the viewpoint of probabilities and economics.
He points out that economists have sometimes believed that deterministic forces drive our societies and their enterprises. More contemporary economists have seen less order. Bernstein puts it this way. The optimism of the Victorians was snuffed out by the senseless destruction of human life on the battlefields of the First World War , the uneasy peace that followed, and goblins let loose by the Russian Revolution. Never again would science appear so unreservedly benign, nor would religion and family institutions be so unthinkingly accepted in the western world. Up to this point, the classical economists had defined economics as a riskless system that always produced optimal results Such convictions died hard, even in the face of the economic problems that emerged in the wake of the war.
But a few voices were raised proclaiming that the world was no longer what once it had seemed. Writing in , the University of Chicago economist Frank Knight uttered strange words for a man in his profession: 'There is much question as to how far the world is intelligible at all It is only in the very special and crucial cases that anything like a mathematical study can be made. Edward Tenner takes still another perspective on the phenomenon of unanticipated and unintended consequences. He sees in some of our technologies a "revenge effect" in which our perverse technologies turn against us with consequences which exceed the good which had been planned.
Security is another window on revenge effects. Power door locks, now standard on most cars, increase the sense of safety. We shall return to this issue of perversity in Section 6 when we see how society attempts to deal with unintended consequences. For Dorner on engineering, for Bernstein on economics, for Tenner's perverse technologies the message is the same. The world is not knowable and predictable. It's complexities are too great, its uncertainties beyond our understanding.
Some unanticipated consequences are a necessary feature of all of our enterprises. But this does not mean that we should give up the effort to reduce uncertainty. We shall return to this in Section 7 on ethical implications. In the next section we turn to some examples of such consequences. Then in Section 6 we consider how society responds to the problem of unanticipated consequences. In this section we consider some anecdotes, some cases, of consequences which were not anticipated. We follow a historical path in this effort. We have already reached back to a time before the dawn of human history for a story of the invention of writing.
Now we jump forward to the last two hundred years, touching on some of the effects of the Industrial Revolution, and moving on to questions which are being asked today about newly proposed technologies. James Beniger's The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society , traces in some detail the evolution of technological development over the past two centuries, particularly in the United States. While Beniger stresses the role and need for control in technology, he does not pay a great deal of explicit attention to consequences. But, the implicit implications of the changes in speed brought on by the Industrial Revolution are clear. Speeding up the entire societal processing system Never before in history had it been necessary to control processes and movements at speeds faster than those of wind, water, and animal power - rarely more than a few miles an hour.
Almost overnight, with the application of steam, economies confronted growing crises of control throughout the society. The conntinuing resolution of these crises, which began in America in the s and reached a climax in the s and s, constituted nothing less than a revolution in control technology. Today the Control Revolution continues, engine of the emerging Information Society. The Twentieth Century was to bring still another quantum leap in speed with the development of aviation. Perhaps no American is a better metaphor for the growth of technology in this century than Charles A. Lindbergh's fascination with emerging technologies in the first decades of this century mirrored that of the nation as a whole, though in Lindbergh's case it was tempered by a love of nature.
I loved the farm, with its wooded river and creek banks, its tillage and crops, and its cattle and horses. I was fascinated by the laboratory's magic: the intangible power found in electrified wires, through which one could see the unseeable. Instinctively I was drawn to the farm, intellectually to the laboratory. Here began a conflict between values of instinct and intellect that was carried through my entire life, and that I eventually recognized as inherent in my civilization.
In Lindbergh symbolized the triumph of technology when he flew alone across the Atlantic Ocean, and electrified the world. But the euphoria did not last, as it never does. Two years later the great depression hit, and the decade to follow saw the rise of Hitler, and the terrible destruction brought on by the Second World war, with its technologies so dependent on aviation. Lindbergh began to question the idea of progress. Sometimes the world above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see, like a vision at the end of life forming a bridge to death.
Can that be why so many pilots lose their live? Is man encroaching on a forbidden realm? Will men fly through the sky in the future without seeing what I have seen, without feeling what I have felt? Is that true of all things we call human progress - do the gods retire as commerce and science advance? As a college youth, I thought civilization could never be destroyed again, that in this respect our civilization was different from all others of the past. It had spread completely around the world; it was too powerful, too universal.
A quarter-century later, after I had seen the destruction of high-explosive bombs and flown over the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I realized how vulnerable my profession - aviation - had made all peoples. The centers of civilization were the centers of targets. In the end Lindbergh found a reconciliation between the world of nature and spirit, and the world of technology, a balance between what Eliade has called the Sacred and the Profane. He came to see that a balance was essential, and that technology is good when it helps to preserve that balance.
Decades spent in contact with science and its vehicles have directed my mind and senses to areas beyond their reach. I now see scientific accomplishments as a path, not an end; a path leading to and disappearing in mystery Rather than nullifying religion and proving that "God is dead", science enhances spiritual values by revealing the magnitudes and the minitudes - from cosmos to atom - through which man extends and of which he is composed.
As the undesired consequences of much of Twentieth Century technology became evident to Lindbergh, his response was not a rejection of technology, but rather a turning to the fundamental questions of why we are here. After his death Susan Gray put it this way. Of all the man's accomplishments - and they were impressive - the most significant is that he spent most of his life considering and weighing the values by which he should live. By the second half of the Twentieth Century we had become painfully aware that our technologies are not unmixed blessings, that they can have fundamental effects on the way we live.
Lets look at some more prosaic examples from the past couple of decades. Microwave ovens were a clever idea, but their inventor could hardly have realized that their effect would ultimately be to take the preparation of food out of the home and into the, increasingly automated, factory; to make cooking as it used to be into a matter of choice, not of necessity; to alter the habits of our homes, making the dining table outmoded for many, as each member of the family individually heats up his or her own meal as and when they require it. Tenner raises an example which is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is not clear which of a number of technologies is causing the unanticipated effects.
Second, the issue is intensely political and interpersonal, partially because of the first reason. This is the matter of the effect which various erosion control technologies have on the condition of coastal beaches. In Tenner's words:. People concerned about the coasts are likely to dispute when and where environmental revenge effects are happening. Whatever more rigorous research may show, it is clear that the shoreline is a zone of chronic technological difficulty. Just as logging and fire suppression alter the forest's composition and fire ecology, compelling more and more vigilance, so beach protection feeds on itself by establishing a new order that needs constant and ever more costly maintenance. Now lets turn very briefly to two examples of emerging technologies whose major unanticipated consequences we have yet to experience.
We shall look at the Internet, and at cloning. Actually, the Internet has already had a very significant impact on human life, involving the ways in which we meet each other, the ways we transact business, the ways we share information, and many more. Still, all of this is surely only the small tip of a huge iceberg, which seems very likely to change our lives in ways which we cannot today imagine. We cannot begin to anticipate the consequences of this technology. The other technology which has stirred the public imagination in the waning years of this century is the cloning of animals, and the possibility that we may eventually be able to clone human beings.
There has been no dearth of questions about the future raised by this subject. Here are just a few. If the government takes no action to control cloning could that decision be worse than a decision to take some specific action? Each of these questions speaks to the uncertainty inherent in the actions which we might take in this field. We have surveyed here just a few examples which make concrete the concerns which we may have about the unintended and unanticipated consequences of our actions and our enterprises.
In the next section we ask what society as a whole does in the face of uncertainty. But before we get to society, we really must say something about the individual. It is clear, but nonetheless worth stating, that each of us often has the opportunity and the right to reject the unanticipated consequences of a technology, by refusing to use the technology in ways which have undesirable consequences.
Whether a technologies is for good or for ill must be our choice. We can use it to enrich our lives or to let our lives lose all meaning. Sometimes a technology is so pervasive that we cannot escape it, but often we have the freedom to choose. The microwave oven is a good example of a technology whose unanticipated consequences can be rejected if we so choose. We don't always have to accept the fast food approach if we choose not to. The violence of television and the pornography of the Internet are not forced on us. The contribution which the automobile makes to a sedentary life can often be rejected. If we become a slave to our telephone or other like media, it is not the telephone which should accept the blame. Discipline is still a virtue, for ourselves and for our children.
In this section we turn to the question of what individuals and societies do in light of the fact that their actions will have unanticipated consequences. We begin with an expansion of the discussion began in Section 4 on why we fail to anticipate consequences fully. Then we ask what specific steps can be taken to reduce uncertainty. Finally, we ask how people respond to proposals for new actions, and how this helps set the course of our actions. The first part of this section is based largely on an outstanding study by Robert K. Merton chose his title carefully. His use of the word 'unanticipated' rather than 'unintended' helped motivate the brief discussion on terminology in Section 2 above. The word 'purposive' is meant to stress that the action under study involves the motives of a human actor and consequently a choice among various alternatives.
Merton begins by stating that there had been up to the time of the article no systematic, scientific analysis of the subject. He surmises that this may be because for most of human history we attributed the unexpected to 'the gods', or 'fate', or divine interference. With the dawning of the Age of Reason, we began to believe that life could be understood. We didn't have to leave it to 'the gods'.
It is curious that in this century that optimism, may we say 'faith', in human understanding of the complexities of life began to fade. Later we shall see this view espoused by the economist Frank H. Knight, in the first half of this century, and by another economist, Kenneth Arrow, writing in the second half of the century. In a sense we have come full circle, though today our uncertainty is not generally attributed to 'the gods' as such. Merton cautions us that there are two pitfalls to be aware of in considering actions and consequences.
The first is the problem of causal imputation, that is, the matter of determining to what extent particular consequences ought to be attributed to particular actions. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that consequences can have a number of causes. Lets consider an example. Periodically the Federal Reserve Board changes the short-term interest rate in an attempt to maintain a balance between the health of the economy and the inflation rate. What makes the problem difficult is that inflation rates over a given period of time are dependent on many factors, including, for example: the short-term interest rate, consumer confidence, employment rates, technological productivity, and even the weather.
So, if the inflation rate follows a certain path over a given one-year a period, to what extent should we attribute the path to the actions taken by the Federal Reserve? The second pitfall is that of determining the actual purposes of a given action. How do we know if this was in fact the cause, or at least a major cause, of the result. This is of course an important question because it helps us decide whether this same action in the future may be desirable. Coastal erosion is known as the natural removal of land and sand caused by changing wave conditions, coastal erosion is also caused by storm events which creates a massive amount of destruction to the beach and can put building and infrastructure in potential danger SES, Some of the factors that affect coastal erosion include: strength of waves, weather as well as human activity can all negatively impact the amount of erosion A.
Jackson, Distinguish between a natural capital b natural resources c natural services d solar capital. However, aside from the large economic advantages to the industry, there are inevitably negative impacts to the host nation and the world as a whole. These negative impacts usually materialise in the form of. This sought explorative literature so that there would be adherence to the advancing technology and rigorous level of development. However, in order to understand the advantages and disadvantages of ecological coastline, three case literatures were involved; Netherlands case, Japanese case and Singapore Case, all of which dwelt on aspects of biodiversity, eco-system, and land reclamation. In furtherance, it was necessary to state.
Therefore, the supply to meet the needs and demand of housing and infrastructure is a very slow process. This is a serious problem which indicates. Coastal management refers to the technique in which natural features of the coast are maintained and protected from the threats of coastal erosion and coastal flooding. They do not prevent the powerful backwash of refracted waves from washing away the beach materials beneath the walls. Beaches are a natural defense against erosion and an attraction for tourists. TABLE 1: showing advantages and disadvantages of methods in hard engineering. Photo 5: showing beach nourishment. Get Access. Overfishing Essay Words 4 Pages using up or consuming supplies.
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