No technique is possible when men are free. … Technique requires predictability and, no less, exactness of prediction. It is necessary, then, that technique prevail over the human being. For technique, this is a matter of life or death. Technique must reduce man to a technical animal, the king of the slaves of technique. ~ Jacques Ellul
If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world. ~ Joseph Ratzinger
As many as were the types of work involved in the enterprise, so many were the languages by which the human race was fragmented; and the more skill required for the type of work, the more rudimentary and barbaric the language they now spoke. But the holy tongue remained to those who had neither joined in the project nor praised it, but instead, thoroughly disdaining it, had made fun of the builders' stupidity. ~ Dante Alighieri
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. ~ Richard Feynman
High technology has done us one great service: It has retaught us the delight of performing simple and primordial tasks—chopping wood, building a fire, drawing water from a spring.
Edward Abbey, Science and Technology, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto) (1989), 91.
Anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural.
Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting, and you’ll probably get a career in it.
Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.
Douglas Adams in the book The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time, 2002, p. 95, which is a posthumous collection of previously published and unpublished material by him.
Incorrigible humanity, therefore, led astray by the giant Nimrod, presumed in its heart to outdo in skill not only nature but the source of its own nature, who is God; and began to build a tower in Sennaar, which afterwards was called Babel (that is, 'confusion'). By this means human beings hoped to climb up to heaven, intending in their foolishness not to equal but to excel their creator.
Only among those who were engaged in a particular activity did their language remain unchanged; so, for instance, there was one for all the architects, one for all the carriers of stones, one for all the stone-breakers, and so on for all the different operations. As many as were the types of work involved in the enterprise, so many were the languages by which the human race was fragmented; and the more skill required for the type of work, the more rudimentary and barbaric the language they now spoke. But the holy tongue remained to those who had neither joined in the project nor praised it, but instead, thoroughly disdaining it, had made fun of the builders' stupidity.
The technical genius which could find answers … was not cooped up in military or civilian bureaucracy, but was to be found in universities and in the people at large.
Henry H. Arnold Quoted by Theodore von Karman, The Wind and Beyond: Theodore von Karman, Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Science (1967), 268. As cited in Office of Air Force History, Harnessing the Genie: Science and Technology Forecasting for the Air Force 1944-1986 (1988), 186.
Asimov: Science fiction always bases its future visions on changes in the levels of science and technology. And the reason for that consistency is simply that—in reality—all other changes throughout history have been irrelevant and trivial. For example, what difference did it make to the people of the ancient world that Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire? Obviously, that event made some difference to a lot of individuals. But if you look at humanity in general, you'll see that life went on pretty much as it had before the conquest.
On the other hand, consider the changes that were made in people's daily lives by the development of agriculture or the mariner's compass ... and by the invention of gunpowder or printing. Better yet, look at recent history and ask yourself, "What difference would it have made if Hitler had won World War II?" Of course, such a victory would have made a great difference to many people. It would have resulted in much horror, anguish, and pain. I myself would probably not have survived.
But Hitler would have died eventually, and the effects of his victory would gradually have washed out and become insignificant—in terms of real change—when compared to such advances as the actual working out of nuclear power, the advent of television, or the invention of the jet plane.
Plowboy: You truly feel that all the major changes in history have been caused by science and technology?
Asimov: Those that have proved permanent—the ones that affected every facet of life and made certain that mankind could never go back again—were always brought about by science and technology. In fact, the same twin "movers" were even behind the other "solely" historical changes. Why, for instance, did Martin Luther succeed, whereas other important rebels against the medieval church—like John Huss—fail? Well, Luther was successful because printing had been developed by the time he advanced his cause. So his good earthy writings were put into pamphlets and spread so far and wide that the church officials couldn't have stopped the Protestant Reformation even if they had burned Luther at the stake.
But of all environments, that produced by man’s complex technology is perhaps the most unstable and rickety. In its present form, our society is not two centuries old, and a few nuclear bombs will do it in.
To be sure, evolution works over long periods of time and two centuries is far from sufficient to breed Homo technikos….
The destruction of our technological society in a fit of nuclear peevishness would become disastrous even if there were many millions of immediate survivors.
The environment toward which they were fitted would be gone, and Darwin’s demon would wipe them out remorselessly and without a backward glance.
Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Physics (1976), 151. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 181.
We have become a people unable to comprehend the technology we invent.
Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.
J. G. Ballard, Introduction to the French edition (1984) of Crash (1974),
The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermonuclear weapons systems and soft drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudoevents, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century—sex and paranoia.
J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973, 1995), catalogue notes. In J. G. Ballard, The Kindness of Women (2007), 221.
During my eighty-seven years I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.
Technology and the machine resurrected San Francisco while Pompeii still slept in her ashes.
Silas Bent, Machine Made Man, p. 326. (1930)
Engineering or Technology is the making of things that did not previously exist, whereas science is the discovering of things that have long existed.
David Billington, The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (1983), 9.
It makes sense to examine Plato and pottery together in order to understand the Greek world, Descartes and the mechanical clock together in order to understand Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the same way, it makes sense to regard the computer as a technological paradigm for the science, the philosophy, even the art of the coming generation.
Technology is an inherent democratizer. Because of the evolution of hardware and software, you’re able to scale up almost anything you can think up. … We’ll have to see if in our lifetime that means that everybody has more or less tools that are of equal power.
Sergey Brin, Guest Lecture, UC Berkeley, 'Search Engines, Technology, and Business (3 Oct 2005). At 10:37 in the YouTube video.
What we are finding out now is that there are not only limits to growth but also to technology and that we cannot allow technology to go on without public consent.
David Brower Skeptic (Jul-Aug 1976).
It's Supposed To Be Automatic But Actually You Have To Press This Button
In 1891, during the Presidency of William Henry Harrison [Benjamin Harrison], electric lights were first installed in the White House, the residence of the leaders of our country. At that time, commercial electricity was not economically feasible, but President Harrison wanted to affirm his confidence in the technological capability of our country.
Jimmy Carter, Speech, at dedication of solar panels on the White House roof, Solar Energy Remarks Announcing Administration Proposals (20 Jun 1979).
There are, as we have seen, a number of different modes of technological innovation. Before the seventeenth century inventions (empirical or scientific) were diffused by imitation and adaption while improvement was established by the survival of the fittest. Now, technology has become a complex but consciously directed group of social activities involving a wide range of skills, exemplified by scientific research, managerial expertise, and practical and inventive abilities. The powers of technology appear to be unlimited. If some of the dangers may be great, the potential rewards are greater still. This is not simply a matter of material benefits for, as we have seen, major changes in thought have, in the past, occurred as consequences of technological advances.
DSL Cardwell Concluding paragraph of "Technology," in Dictionary of the History of Ideas (1973), Vol. 4, 364.
The solutions put forth by imperialism are the quintessence of simplicity...When they speak of the problems of population and birth, they are in no way moved by concepts related to the interests of the family or of society...Just when science and technology are making incredible advances in all fields, they resort to technology to suppress revolutions and ask the help of science to prevent population growth. In short, the peoples are not to make revolutions, and women are not to give birth. This sums up the philosophy of imperialism.
Those of us concerned with developing new technology should consider ourselves to have a major undertaking to try to meet the expanding needs of the increasing number of people in the world with its finite resources and environments constraints.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into The Limits of the Possible (1962; revised 1973)
Anything that is theoretically possible will be achieved in practice, no matter what the technical difficulties are, if it is desired greatly enough.
Arthur C. Clarke, Hazards of Prophecy: An Arresting Inquiry into the limits of the Possible: Failures of Nerve and Failures of Imagination (1962)
We cannot idealize technology. Technology is only and always the reflection of our own imagination, and its uses must be conditioned by our own values. Technology can help cure diseases, but we can prevent a lot of diseases by old-fashioned changes in behavior.
President Bill Clinton Remarks at Knoxville Auditorium Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee (10 Oct 1996) while seeking re-election. American Presidency Project web page.
It is primarily through the growth of science and technology that man has acquired those attributes which distinguish him from the animals, which have indeed made it possible for him to become human.
Far from attempting to control science, few among the general public even seem to recognize just what “science” entails. Because lethal technologies seem to spring spontaneously from scientific discoveries, most people regard dangerous technology as no more than the bitter fruit of science, the real root of all evil.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 181.
Presumably, technology has made man increasingly independent of his environment. But, in fact, technology has merely substituted nonrenewable resources for renewables, which is more an increase than a decrease in dependence.
[W]e might expect intelligent life and technological communities to have emerged in the universe billions of years ago. Given that human society is only a few thousand years old, and that human technological society is mere centuries old, the nature of a community with millions or even billions of years of technological and social progress cannot even be imagined. ... What would we make of a billion-year-old technological community?
If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward
Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.
Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions: Gifford lectures given at Aberdeen, Scotland (2004), 270
The most revolutionary aspect of technology is its mobility. Anybody can learn it. It jumps easily over barriers of race and language. … The new technology of microchips and computer software is learned much faster than the old technology of coal and iron. It took three generations of misery for the older industrial countries to master the technology of coal and iron. The new industrial countries of East Asia, South Korea, and Singapore and Taiwan, mastered the new technology and made the jump from poverty to wealth in a single generation.
Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions: Gifford lectures given at Aberdeen, Scotland (2004), 270.
The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. ... It was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York. [The year-round growth of green grass in the Mediterranean climate meant that hay was not needed by the Romans. North of the Alps, hay maintained horses and oxen and thus their motive power, and productivity.]
Freeman Dyson "Quick is Beautiful". Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland (1988, 2004), 135.
The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York. ... Great inventions like hay and printing, whatever their immediate social costs may be, result in a permanent expansion of our horizons, a lasting acquisition of new territory for human bodies and minds to cultivate.
Freeman Dyson, Infinite In All Directions (1988, 2004), 135. The book is a revised version of a series of the Gifford Lectures under the title "In Praise of Diversity", given at Aberdeen, Scotland.
Alan M. EddisonFrom Worse Verse (1969), as cited in Colin Jarman, The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993), 237
All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.
Albert Einstein, Letter to Heinrich Zangger (Dec 1917), Collected Papers Vol. 8, 412, as cited in Jürgen Neffe, Einstein: A Biography (2007), 256.
[About research with big particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider.] I think the primary justification for this sort of science that we do is fundamental human curiosity. ... It's true, of course, that every previous generation that's made some breakthrough in understanding nature has seen those discoveries translated into new technologies, new possibilities for the human race. That may well happen with the Higgs boson. Quite frankly, at the moment I don't see how you can use the Higgs boson for anything useful.
John Ellis as quoted in Alan Boyle, Discovery of Doom? Collider Stirs Debate, article (8 Sep 2008) on a msnbc.com web page.
No technique is possible when men are free. … Technique requires predictability and, no less, exactness of prediction. It is necessary, then, that technique prevail over the human being. For technique, this is a matter of life or death. Technique must reduce man to a technical animal, the king of the slaves of technique. Human caprice crumbles before this necessity; there can be no human autonomy in the face of technical autonomy. The individual must be fashioned by techniques, either negatively (by the techniques of understanding man) or positively (by the adaptation of man to the technical framework), in order to wipe out the blots his personal determination introduces into the perfect design of the organization.
I'm struck by the insidious, computer-driven tendency to take things out of the domain of muscular activity and put them into the domain of mental activity. The transfer is not paying off. Sure, muscles are unreliable, but they represent several million years of accumulated finesse. Musicians enjoy drawing on that finesse (and audiences respond to its exercise), so when muscular activity is rendered useless, the creative process is frustrated. No wonder artists who can afford the best of anything keep buying “retro” electronics and instruments, and revert to retro media.
Our contemporary culture, primed by population growth and driven by technology, has created problems of environmental degradation that directly affect all of our senses: noise, odors and toxins which bring physical pain and suffering, and ugliness, barrenness, and homogeneity of experience which bring emotional and psychological suffering and emptiness. In short, we are jeopardizing our human qualities by pursuing technology as an end rather than a means. Too often we have failed to ask two necessary questions: First, what human purpose will a given technology or development serve? Second, what human and environmental effects will it have?
United States report of the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution (7 Aug 1969). Environmental Quality: Summary and Discussion of Major Provisions, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Legal Compilation, (Jan 1973), Water, Vol. 3, 1365. EPA website.
While technology can be instrumental in closing gaps and reducing social inequality, not everyone feels invited to the party. Religious extremists, fundamentalists and racists of all sorts, find an easy foothold for spreading hatred and anger among youngsters who feel they’re missing out on the spoils of technology.
The most important and urgent problems of the technology of today are no longer the satisfactions of the primary needs or of archetypal wishes, but the reparation of the evils and damages by the technology of yesterday.
Dennis Gabor, in Innovations: Scientific, Technological and Social (1970)
Crap is the essence of innovation and technological advancement. ...It’s our human way of becoming … well … generators of more crap that helps us become more modern, productive and communicative human beings.
Imagine Aristotle revivified and visiting Manhattan. Nothing in our social, political, economic, artistic, sexual or religious life would mystify him, but he would be staggered by our technology. Its products—skyscrapers, cars, airplanes, television, pocket calculators—would have been impossible without calculus.
Martin Gardner in book review, "Adventures Of a Mathematician: The Man Who Invented the H-Bomb", New York Times (9 May 1976), 201.
Misuse of reason might yet return the world to pre-technological night; plenty of religious zealots hunger for just such a result, and are happy to use the latest technology to effect it.
A. C. Grayling, The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century (2006).
The world has changed far more in the past 100 years than in any other century in history. The reason is not political or economic but technological—technologies that flowed directly from advances in basic science. Clearly, no scientist better represents those advances than Albert Einstein: TIME’s Person of the Century.
One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world’s problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive - it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.
Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 38.
To this day, we see all around us the Promethean drive to omnipotence through technology and to omniscience through science. The effecting of all things possible and the knowledge of all causes are the respective primary imperatives of technology and of science. But the motivating imperative of society continues to be the very different one of its physical and spiritual survival. It is now far less obvious than it was in Francis Bacon's world how to bring the three imperatives into harmony, and how to bring all three together to bear on problems where they superpose.
Gerald Holton, Science, Technology and the Fourth Discontinuity (1982). Reprinted in The Advancement of Science, and its Burdens (1986), 183.
We must ask whether our machine technology makes us proof against all those destructive forces which plagued Roman society and ultimately wrecked Roman civilization.
The same society which receives the rewards of technology must, as a cooperating whole, take responsibility for control. To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man's welfare, but the dignity of man's spirit.
Lyndon B. JohnsonMessage to Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty written to Congress (8 Feb 1965), in Lyndon B. Johnson: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President (1965), Vol.1, 156. United States. President (1963-1969 : Johnson), Lyndon Baines Johnson, United States. Office of the Federal Register - 1970
We're trying to change the Kleenex mentality of technology - you buy a smartband or an Android Wear watch and next year you'll throw it away. This is a horrible world we're preparing for the next generation. We have to get away from that crazy approach, as we look at the resources left on this planet. We need to be able to create objects that are worth keeping and upgrading.
It is characteristic of our age to endeavour to replace virtues by technology. That is to say, wherever possible we strive to use methods of physical or social engineering to achieve goals which our ancestors thought attainable only by the training of character. Thus, we try so far as possible to make contraception take the place of chastity, and anaesthetics to take the place of fortitude; we replace resignation by insurance policies and munificence by the Welfare State. It would be idle romanticism to deny that such techniques and institutions are often less painful and more efficient methods of achieving the goods and preventing the evils which unaided virtue once sought to achieve and avoid. But it would be an equal and opposite folly to hope that the take-over of virtue by technology may one day be complete, so that the necessity for the laborious acquisition of the capacity for rational choice by individuals can be replaced by the painless application of the fruits of scientific discovery over the whole field of human intercourse and enterprise.
Anthony John Patrick Kenny, Mental Health in Plato's Republic, in The Anatomy of the Soul: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Mind (1973), 26.
To appeal to contemporary man to revert, in this twentieth century, to a pagan-like nature worship in order to restrain technology from further encroachment and devastation of the resources of nature, is a piece of atavistic nonsense.
Norman Lamm, Faith and Doubt (1971).
Focusing on the science-technology relationship may strike some as strange, because conventional wisdom views this relationship as an unproblematic given. … Technology is seen as being, at best, applied science … the conventional view perceives science as clearly preceding and founding technology. … Recent studies in the history of technology have begun to challenge this assumed dependency of technology on science. … But the conventional view of science is persistent.
Arie LeegwaterTechnology and Science, Stephen V. Monsma (ed.), Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective (1986), 78-79
Any demanding high technology tends to develop influential and dedicated constituencies of those who link its commercial success with both the public welfare and their own
All technologies should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
Jerry Mander as cited in: Peter Lunenfeld, Snap to Grid, 2001. p. 29
Our way of life has been influenced by the way technology has developed. In future, it seems to me, we ought to try to reverse this and so develop our technology that it meets the needs of the sort of life we wish to lead.
When you look at the companies that have really won customers over in technology—say, Apple and Google—you find that they spend billions of dollars on R&D [research and development] each year, often spending that much on a product before they ever make a dime back in profits. Unfortunately, in the environment, I don’t see as much willingness to invest heavily in R&D as I do in consumer technology. And that’s a pity.
Ramez Naam, rom interview with Mark Tercek, Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment, Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
Science and technology have freed humanity from many burdens and given us this new perspective and great power. This power can be used for the good of all. If wisdom governs our actions; but if the world is mad or foolish, it can destroy itself just when great advances and triumphs are almost without its grasp.
Jawaharlal (Pandit) Nehru as quoted in Suranjan Das The Nehru Years in Indian politics, Edinburgh Papers on South Asian Studies (16 Nov 2001), 16, 230. As cited in M.J. Vinod and Meena Deshpande, Contemporary Political Theory (2013), 507. Vinod and Deshpande introduce the quote by writing “Nehru was largely instrumental for building a scientific temper and culture in India” and “emphasized the need for building national laboratories and research institutes.
As well as Japanese animation, technology has a huge influence on Japanese society, and also Japanese novels. I think it's because before, people tended to think that ideology or religion were the things that actually changed people, but it's been proven that that's not the case. I think nowadays, technology has been proven to be the thing that's actually changing people. So in that sense, it's become a theme in Japanese culture.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
Barack Obama In Second Inaugural Address (21 Jan 2013) at the United States Capitol.
It is the constant attempt in this country [Canada] to make fundamental science responsive to the marketplace. Because technology needs science, it is tempting to require that scientific projects be justified in terms of the worth of the technology they can be expected to generate. The effect of applying this criterion is, however, to restrict science to developed fields where the links to technology are most evident. By continually looking for a short-term payoff we disqualify the sort of science that … attempts to answer fundamental questions, and, having answered them, suggests fundamentally new approaches in the realm of applications.
John C. Polanyi, A Scientist and the World He Lives In, Speech to the Empire Club of Canada (27 Nov 1986) in C. Frank Turner and Tim Dickson (eds.), The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1986-1987 (1987), 149-161.
I don’t believe in evolution, like people believe in God … Science and technology are not advanced by people who believe, but by people who don’t know but are doing their best to find out.
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 41
Technology and production can be great benefactors of man, but they are mindless instruments, and if undirected they careen along with a momentum of their own. In our country, they pulverize everything in their path—the landscape, the natural environment,
It troubles me that we are so easily pressured by purveyors of technology into permitting so-called “progress” to alter our lives without attempting to control it—as if technology were an irrepressible force of nature to which we must meekly submit.
Hyman G. Rickover quoted in The American Land (1979). In Barbara K. Rodes and Rice Odell, A Dictionary of Environmental Quotations (1992), 274.
Most of us aren't even sure where science leaves off and technology begins. Neither are the experts.
I know that science and technology are not just cornucopias pouring good deeds out into the world. Scientists not only conceived nuclear weapons; they also took political leaders by the lapels, arguing that their nation — whichever it happened to be — had to have one first. … There’s a reason people are nervous about science and technology.
And so the image of the mad scientist haunts our world—from Dr. Faust to Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Strangelove to the white-coated loonies of Saturday morning children’s television. (All this doesn’t inspire budding scientists.) But there’s no way back. We can’t just conclude that science puts too much power into the hands of morally feeble technologists or corrupt, power-crazed politicians and decide to get rid of it. Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history. Advances in transportation, communication, and entertainment have transformed the world. The sword of science is double-edged. Rather, its awesome power forces on all of us, including politicians, a new responsibility — more attention to the long-term consequences of technology, a global and transgenerational perspective, an incentive to avoid easy appeals to nationalism and chauvinism. Mistakes are becoming too expensive.
Carl Sagan, in "Why We Need To Understand Science" in The Skeptical Inquirer Vol. 14, Issue 3, (Spring 1990)
We've arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
Carl Sagan, in The Demon-Haunted World : Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995), Ch. 2 : Science and Hope, p. 26
We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.
Carl Sagan, from interview with Anne Kalosh in her article Bringing Science Down to Earth, in Hemispheres (Oct 1994), 99. Collected and cited in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), 100.
We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.
David Sarnoff Acceptance speech for an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. In Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man? (2nd Ed.,1964), 11.
The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.
The machine is a slave which serves to make other slaves. Such a domineering and enslaving drive may go together with the quest for human freedom. But it is difficult to liberate oneself by transferring slavery to other beings, men, animals, or machines; to rule over a population of machines subjecting the whole world means still to rule, and all rule implies acceptance of schemata of subjection.
The principal impetus for my entering a career in science … was the successful launching of Sputnik in 1957, and the then current belief that science and technology was going to be where the action was in the coming decades.
Richard E. Smalley From Richard E. Smalley: Biographical, collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
Technology … is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.
C. P. Snow, as quoted in The New York Times (15 March 1971)
Edward Teller The Legacy of Hiroshima (1962), 146.
Today, nothing is unusual about a scientific discovery's being followed soon after by a technical application: The discovery of electrons led to electronics; fission led to nuclear energy. But before the 1880's, science played almost no role in the advances of technology. For example, James Watt developed the first efficient steam engine long before science established the equivalence between mechanical heat and energy.
Edward Teller, Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.
I should regard them [the Elves interested in technical devices] as no more wicked or foolish (but in much the same peril) as Catholics engaged in certain kinds of physical research (e.g. those producing, if only as by-products, poisonous gases and explosives): things not necessarily evil, but which, things being as they are, and the nature and motives of the economic masters who provide all the means for their work being as they are, are pretty certain to serve evil ends. For which they will not necessarily be to blame, even if aware of them.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter draft to Peter Hastings (manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford, who wrote about his enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings) (Sep 1954). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 190, Letter No. 153
The "hard" science-fiction writers are the ones who try to write specific stories about all that technology may do for us. More and more, these writers felt an opaque wall across the future. Once, they could put such fantasies millions of years in the future. Now they saw that their most diligent extrapolations resulted in the unknowable … soon.
Here I had tried a straightforward extrapolation of technology, and found myself precipitated over an abyss. It’s a problem we face every time we consider the creation of intelligences greater than our own. When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity — a place where extrapolation breaks down and new models must be applied — and the world will pass beyond our understanding.
I have argued above that we cannot prevent the Singularity, that its coming is an inevitable consequence of the humans' natural competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. And yet … we are the initiators. Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things. We have the freedom to establish initial conditions, make things happen in ways that are less inimical than others. Of course (as with starting avalanches), it may not be clear what the right guiding nudge really is...
Our attention will focus on the institutional context of technological innovation rather than … individual inventors, for the actual course of work that leads to the conception and use of technology always involves a group that has worked for a considerable period of time on the basic idea before success is achieved.
Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Social Context of Innovation: Bureaucrats, Families, and Heroes in the Early Industrial Revolution as Foreseen in Bacon’s New Atlantis (1982, 2003), 3.
Give me the third best technology. The second best won’t be ready in time. The best will never be ready.
Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt as quoted in a speech by an unnamed executive of General Electric, excerpted in Richard Dowis, The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write It, How to Deliver It (2000), 150.
Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.
What is peculiar and new to the [19th] century, differentiating it from all its predecessors, is its technology. It was not merely the introduction of some great isolated inventions. It is impossible not to feel that something more than that was involved. … The process of change was slow, unconscious, and unexpected. In the nineteeth century, the process became quick, conscious, and expected. … The whole change has arisen from the new scientific information. Science, conceived not so much in its principles as in its results, is an obvious storehouse of ideas for utilisation. … Also, it is a great mistake to think that the bare scientific idea is the required invention, so that it has only to be picked up and used. An intense period of imaginative design lies between. One element in the new method is just the discovery of how to set about bridging the gap between the scientific ideas, and the ultimate product. It is a process of disciplined attack upon one difficulty after another This discipline of knowledge applies beyond technology to pure science, and beyond science to general scholarship. It represents the change from amateurs to professionals. … But the full self-conscious realisation of the power of professionalism in knowledge in all its departments, and of the way to produce the professionals, and of the importance of knowledge to the advance of technology, and of the methods by which abstract knowledge can be connected with technology, and of the boundless possibilities of technological advance,—the realisation of all these things was first completely attained in the nineteenth century.
Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925, 1997), 96.
Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
Anonymous saying, this is an inversion of the third of Arthur C. Clarke's three laws : "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It has been called "Niven's Law" and attributed to Larry Niven by some, and to Terry Pratchett by others, but without any citation of an original source in either case, and the earliest occurrence yet located is in Keystone Folklore (1984) by the Pennsylvania Folklore Society.