To the Hopi Indians in America's Southwest, our existence will soon become koyaanissqatsi or "a world out of balance." Some doomsday theorists, like historian Edward Tenner, argue we are already there. But unlike many of his colleagues, Tenner doesn't believe technology is causing the world's demise--rather, it is carrying us, as individuals, to our own koyaanissqatsi more quickly. Technological "breakthroughs" such as X-rays and computers have their immediate benefits, but their long-term consequences in terms of health and environmental risks, lost time, and disintegration of traditions set us back further than where we started in the first place. While Tenner doesn't damn technology, he cautions for modest and skeptical acceptance of it.
From Publishers Weekly
Even when used to better the world, technology fosters unforeseen, often unpleasant consequences that Tenner calls "revenge effects." For example, air-conditioned subways raise platform temperatures by as much as 10 degrees F; some computer users get painful, wrist-numbing carpal tunnel syndrome; flood control systems encourage settlement of flood-prone areas, inviting disaster; 6% of all hospital patients become infected with microbes they encounter during their stay. In a thought-provoking study, Tenner, a historian of science and visiting researcher at Princeton, looks at revenge effects that pop up in medicine, sports, the computerized office and the environment. Oil spills, erosion of beaches, back injuries, athletes' illegal use of steroids and mass extermination of bird species on the world's islands by ship-hopping rats mark this saga of bewildering, often frustrating change. Tenner's cautionary conclusion: revenge effects demand ingenuity and brainpower as technology continues to replace life-threatening problems with slower-acting, more persistent ones.
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