Science Technology And Society Essays On Leadership

Spring 2018
ENGL 507 (capstone) / ENGL 690 (graduate) / HUM 510 (Honors)
(or not-for-credit, for professionalization)

Syllabus - Table of Contents


Philip Baringer

Chris McKitterick

Physics and Astronomy

English / Center for the Study of Science Fiction


(more contact info on bio page)
(more contact info on bio page)

When writing, for clarity please put the course number in your subject line.

Office hours:

4075 Malott

Feel free to stop by during office hours or e-mail me if you would like an appointment for a different time.

Office hours:

3040 Wescoe (aka Gunn Center library)

Nichols Hall 340 (West Campus)

Other times by appointment: I am sometimes in the office when not in class and almost always available via email.

Science-Fiction Grand Master James Gunn is also a course consultant.

Course Info

Science and technology offer countless benefits, yet they also present new challenges. In this interdisciplinary course, we explore the past, present, and possible future effects of science and technology on society and humankind, and how we in turn shape science, technology, and society. We use nonfiction articles, multimedia materials, and science fiction as tools to understand the transformative and revolutionary changes that we will experience in our lifetimes, as well as explore the possible utterly changed - even transhuman - futures to follow.


The central question we'll investigate this semester is this: How do scientific discoveries, technological advances, and society pressures drive human change? Our goal is to provide you with information, exploration, knowledge, resources, and how we understand this to help guide you discover how best to interpret that in a way that's meaningful to you, relevant to your life, and helpful in the pursuit of your career, personal research, and future. The only thing certain about our future is that it will be different than today! You will shape that future, so it's vital that you learn to continually ask the next question.

Led by experimental particle physicist and Professor Philip Baringer and science-fiction author Chris McKitterick, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and English writing and SF faculty. We'll expose you to a vast set of possibilities, ideas, and information - how much you take in is largely up to you and your desire to learn! - and by discussing these things in a collaborative, respectful environment that values diversity of experience and opinion, we hope you'll discover new levels of potential within yourself and possibility in the future you help create. And we hope we'll learn as much as you do this semester!

Satisfies the Humanities requirement and KU Core Goal 6, is a featured Honors course, and is a capstone for English majors. Available to undergraduate and graduate students. Ask your advisor for details about how the various ways to enroll best fit your needs.

Diversity and Disability

Everyone enjoys equal access to the Gunn Center's offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement. If you encounter any needs or concerns in one of our classes, we want you to feel comfortable coming to us with confidentially your request or suggestion. All courses offered by Gunn Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available).

The Academic Achievement and Access Center (AAAC) coordinates accommodations and services for all eligible KU students. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodation and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is (785)864-4064 (V/TTY). Also please contact us privately about your needs in this course.

Adding and Dropping

Thinking of adding this course? Do so as soon as you can, because it's easy to fall behind in the readings.

Withdrawing from a course should not be taken lightly. Please consult with us if you are having any type of difficulty (academic or personal) to see if we can develop a plan of action that does not include dropping the course. We know that life can get complex sometimes, so talk to us before you do something as drastic as dropping the course; we've worked with a number of people in the past to avoid a drop.

If you are having difficulties that affect your regular attendance, let us know as soon as possible what's going on so that we can work out a solution short of withdrawal or a grade penalty. On the other hand, its better to withdraw than to fail, so stay in good communication. The sooner we know, the sooner we can help.

If you are thinking about dropping a class, check the Registrar page for relevant dates, as well as the KU Registrar Calendar and Timetables. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Undergraduate Services sends messages about drop dates. Note these deadlines. For Spring 2016, the last day to add/drop without penalties is January 18.


Most of the course readings are linked from the Daily Schedule, below, or are available through the Blackboard course site. However, you will buy a few books, download other readings, and possibly get others in class. When you lead class discussions, you are also expected to do additional research beyond the regular readings and share these materials with the rest of the class.

Graduate students:
Each week, find, read, and respond to an additional work that matches the week's topics; include your response to this work as part of your regular response paper. If you found it online, provide a link in your response paper! Otherwise, include bibliographic information. Look for paragraphs shaded gray like this throughout the syllabus to find our grad-student-specific expectations.

 E-Reserve Readings

Go to Blackboard to access many of your readings listed in the Daily Schedule table, below.

 Required Books

The titles below contain links to online booksellers like Amazon and Powell's; click these links to find the books for sale online. Most are available as free downloads:

 Weekly Schedule

Draft syllabus last updated Dec 20, 2017. Keep watching for updates.
Note: This will change as we and student discussants add readings, and as we find more extra credit opportunities.

Revision history:
Keep an eye out for when we post Version 1; this is currently in flux as we update everything.

Discussion Topics +Extras

We often look at these in class, and links are provided for weekly Level Up opportunities. Check back frequently for more suggestions.

Required Reading Prior to Class

Most articles link to websites.
Find stories not linked here on Blackboard.

Week 1: Aug 25
What is science fiction? Thinking outside the box: Dimensions.

Level Up bonus suggestions:

A former student put together a list of recommended Futurama episodes relevant to each class - check it out!

Click the links to read these online:

Graduate students: If possible this week - but for sure starting next week - find, read, and respond to an additional work that addresses the week's topics.

You might find it handy to bring your weekly required reader response or discussion-leader notes to class. Your response paper for this week is about these materials and topics. Upload your response to the "Week 1:" Blackboard assignment slot by noon (next) Monday at the latest to count as "on time." For the rest of the semester, upload your response to the week's assignments into the appropriate Blackboard assignment slot before class starts (12:30pm) each Thursday

To earn maximum Level Up! bonus points for this week, upload your reading response to the bonus materials you read and the in-class discussions into the Blackboard "Week 1 Level Up!" slot by 5:00pm on Friday (and - if possible - come to class having already read the bonus materials, so you can reference this material during in-class discussion). Be clear in your response about how these additional materials and ideas extend your understanding of the week's content and themes. 

Week 2: Sept 1
The ideas in science fiction, futuristics.

How science and technology shaped the present. Science's greatest hits. 

Level Up bonus suggestions:

  • Articles:
  • Multimedia:
  • Discovery Channel's "Prophets of Science Fiction" show.
  • Stories:
  • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:

See Blackboard for these (attached to this week's Assignment):

  • Isaac Asimov's story, "The Psychohistorians" (from The Foundation Trilogy).
  • Isaac Asimov's essay, "Science."
  • Arthur C. Clarke's essay, "The Hazards of Prophecy."

Click the links to read these online:

Discussion leaders note: Always perform additional research that addresses the week's topics, and prepare to share in class (and include a link in your discussion notes, if possible). See the column to the left for ideas, or this section of the syllabus.

Starting this week, be sure to upload your required reading response or discussion-leader notes into the "Week 2:" Blackboard assignment slot by 12:30pm today at the latest. For max bonus points, turn in your Level Up! response into the Blackboard "Week 2 Level Up!" slot by 5:00pm on Friday.

Week 3: Sept 8
Innovations in communication, future economics.

Level Up bonus suggestions:

  • Multimedia:
  • Read significantly more chapters or the rest of Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers.
  • Read significantly more chapters or the rest of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (free on the author's website in many formats).
  • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:
  • Articles:
    • "Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains," from The Atlantic.
    • Popular Science article, "This Professor Calculated The True Cost of Destroying The Death Star."
    • Physics Today article, "The bicentennial of Francis Ronalds' electric telegraph."
    • "Professor examines ways in which governments, private companies censor online speech," about how the internet is not actually free....
    • "The Consequences of Economic Inequality," by Nicholas Birdsong.
    • "Biophysical economics" - the denizens of Star Trek will likely use this over current, conventional, neoclassical economics.
    • New York Times article on bringing scientific thinking into economics.
    • The Atlantic's article on "When kids can get their lessons from the Internet, what's left for classroom instructors to do?"

See Blackboard for these:

Click the links to read these online:

Week 4: Sept 15
Space exploration.

Consider economic and scientific aspects, public or private sector....

Level Up bonus suggestions:

  • Multimedia:
  • Movies:
  • Art:
  • Stories:
    • Want to read the sequel to McKitterick's story? It's called, "Orpheus' Engines," and it's available in Mission: Tomorrow (ask for a copy if you'd like to read without buying the anthology).
    • Isaac Asimov's story, “The Martian Way” (See Blackboard).
  • Novels:
    Gateway, by Frederik Pohl.
  • Articles:
  • Comic:
    "Escape from Terra," at least from here to here.
  • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:

See Blackboard for these (as always, you'll find them attached to this week's Assignment):

  • Robert Heinlein's story, "Requiem."
  • Mary Turzillo's story, "Mars is No Place for Children."

Click the links to read these online:

Special guest tonight! Steve Hawley - Astronomy Professor and former NASA astronaut - often graciously agrees to visit class for this session. Prepare your questions for the first hour!

Week 5: Sept 22
Aliens and SETI.

Are we alone... and what if we're not? 

Level Up bonus suggestions:

  • Multimedia:
  • Articles:
    • Popular Mechanics article, "The Case for Alien Life."
    • i09 article, "All Stars Have Planets."
    • Astrobiology Magazine's article, "Plentiful Planet Population."
    • Article on The "Wow!" Signal (and here's a new hypothesis about its origin).
    • The Fermi Paradox wiki page.
    • i09 article, "Does a galaxy filled with habitable planets mean humanity is doomed?"
    • article, "Jupiter's Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?"
    • Exobiology article, "Thriving on Arsenic" (this one's now disproven, but suggests other ways life might develop).
    • The Encyclopedia of SF's "Aliens" entry.
    • article, "Hidden Ocean Found on Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus, Could Potentially Support Life."
    • article, "Population of Known Alien Planets Nearly Doubles as NASA Discovers 715 New Worlds."
  • Movies and shows:
  • Fiction:
  • Read the Gunn Center's statement on diversity - aliens often serve as a way to comment on "the Other" in SF.
  • Read about Wayne Douglas Barlow's art, and check out the Expedition fanfiction site.
  • Relevant Science technology society course tags:

See Blackboard for these:

  • James Gunn's story, "The Listeners."
  • David Brin's story, "The Crystal Spheres."
  • Greg Egan's story, "Luminous."
  • Science News special feature, "In Search of Aliens."

Level Up opportunity tonight:

Join students at the KU Natural History Museum for Contagion, the 2011 film about everyday people, government employees, and CDC researchers in the midst of a worldwide health epidemic. After the film, stay for a lecture and Q&A by KU's Distinguished Professor and Curator of Ornithology, A. Townsend Peterson, who has researched predictive models for the spread of diseases such as West Nile, Ebola, and the Zika virus.

Facebook event here.

Week 6: Sept 29
Ecology and evolution.

The shape of things to come. 

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these:

  • Paolo Bacigalupi's story, "The Calorie Man."
  • Stephen Baxter's story, "Children of Time."
  • Ted Kosmakta and Michael Poore's story, "Blood Dauber."

Click the links to read these online:

Week 7: Oct 6
Biotech and the future of medicine.

Think about extended age spans, organ transplants, genetic engineering, GM foods, stem cell research, mutation, cloning, fear of change, religious resistance...

Level Up bonus suggestions (NOTE: You need only cover a couple of these to count in your Level Up bonus response - the more you cover, the more potential bonus points, but no need to do them all! They're all just suggestions):

  • James Gunn's story, “New Blood” (part 1 and part 2, from Some Dreams Are Nightmares).
  • Larry Niven's story, "The Jigsaw Man" (See Blackboard).
  • Articles:
    • LiveScience article, "Mini-Brains Allow Scientists to Study Brain Disorders."
    • New Scientist article, "World's first baby born with new 3-parent technique."
    • NPR article, "Breaking Taboo, Swedish Scientist Seeks To Edit DNA Of Healthy Human Embryos."
    • Apparently, a la Gunn's novel, the ultra-rich are becoming ACTUAL VAMPIRES so they can live forever (science report here).
    •'s infographic article, "How CRISPR Works: The Future of Genetic Engineering and Designer Humans."
    • Motherboard article, "Artificial Wombs Are Coming, but the Controversy Is Already Here."
    • CNN article, "The 'living concrete' that heals itself."
    • The Escapist article, "Woolly Mammoth Genes Slipped Into Elephant DNA."
  • Movies and multimedia:
  • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:
  • Mid-term research paper due
    by 11pm on Monday, Oct 3

    See Blackboard for these:

    • Nancy Kress' story, "Beggars in Spain."
    • Judith Merril's story, "That Only a Mother."
    • Ian McDonald's story, "Tendeleo's Story."
    • James Tiptree's (Alice Sheldon) story, "The Screwfly Solution."

    Click the links to read these online:

    Week 8: Oct 13
    Cyber space I: Robots and AI.

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    • Movies and shows:
    • Articles:
      • NPR story, "Weighing The Good And The Bad Of Autonomous Killer Robots In Battle."
      • Asimov's SF magazine article, "Welcome Our Robot Overlords!" by James Patrick Kelly.
      • Science Newsseries on consciousness.
      • Ray Kurzweil's comprehensive website about artificial intelligence.
      • Kaila Colbin article (or Spark Lab talk) on "Technological Unemployment: The Real Reason This Elephant Chart is Terrifying."
      • Wired article, "Does This Terrifying Robot Really Have to Look Like a Mermaid?"
      • Rolling Stone article, "Inside the Artificial Intelligence Revolution: A Special Report, Part 2."
      • article, "Google's Artificial Intelligence Beats the World Champion of Go for the Second Time."
      • The Encyclopedia of SF's "Androids" entry.
      • The Encyclopedia of SF's "Robots" entry.
      • Donna Haraway's essay, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century."
      • Adbusters article, “The Artistic Lives of Machines.”
      • Kansas City Star's article, "'Chappie' and other movies ask: Should we be afraid of artificial intelligence?"
      • "Will Superintelligent AI Ignore Humans Instead of Destroying Us?" by Jason Koebler (in response to Zelijko Svedic's "Singularity and the anthropocentric bias").
      • Future of Life Institute's website. Their motto: "Technology has given life the opportunity to flourish like never before... or to self-destruct."
    • Stories (see Blackboard for those with no link):
      • "Maneki Neko," by Bruce Sterling (referenced in "Cat Pictures Please").
      • Jack Williamson's, "With Folded Hands" - the original robot-laws-gone-amuck story.
      • Lisa Goldstein's story, "Paradise is a Walled Garden."
      • Alastair Reynolds' story, "Weather."
    • Novels:
    • Multimedia:
    • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:

    See Blackboard for these:

    • Isaac Asimov's story, "The Evitable Conflict."
    • Robin Wayne Bailey's story, "Keepers of Earth."
    • C.L. Moore's story, "No Woman Born."

    Click the links to read these online:

    Week 9: Oct 20
    Cyber space II: Cyborgs and cybertech, present and future.

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    • More from the book, Infoglut(see Blackboard).
    • Movies and TV:
    • Articles:
      • CNN article, "U.S. military spending millions to make cyborgs a reality."
      • Holy Cyborgs-Are-Now, Batman! Check out this article about a real-life cyborg.
      • Daily Mail article, "Rise of the brain-controlled robot armies: Chinese military trains students to control machines with their minds."
      • Cyborg-lifestyle jewelry that harvests human energy.
      • Daily Dot article, "Meet 'No Hands Ken,' the quadriplegic gamer who plays with just his mouth."
      • Popular Mechanics article, "DARPA's Prosthetics Can Now Grip, Climb, and Grasp Slippery Objects."
      • Science Daily article, "New device allows brain to bypass spinal cord, move paralyzed limbs" (video on page, too).
    • Relevant Science technology society course blog tags:

    William Gibson's novel, Neuromancer (entire book - get started reading early!).

    Click the link to read these online:

    See Blackboard for this:

    • First five pages of the introduction to Infoglut (feel free to read and respond to the full excerpt if it draws you in!).

    Week 10: Oct 27

    Plague, overpopulation, pollution, climate change, dystopias, terrorism, war....

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    • Movies:
    • Multimedia:
    • Articles:
    • Novels:
    • Relevant Science technology society course tags:

      Check out this great interactive asteroid- and comet-impact site; here's another one with more detail but less drama.

    See Blackboard for these:

    • David Brin's story, "Cascades" (short story that later became the first part of the novel, The Postman).
    • Harlan Ellison's story, "A Boy and His Dog." (Note: Contains scenes of violence and assault; if this is a trigger for you, feel free to substitute a relevant alternative.)
    • Paul McAuley's story, "Antarctica Starts Here."

    Click the links to read these online:

    Week 11: Nov 3
    Nanotechnology: Present and future.

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    K. Eric Drexler's book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (free download, or you can purchase a print copy if you prefer; read the entire book). Available for free download on

    See Blackboard for these:

    Greg Bear's story, "Blood Music."
    Nancy Kress' story, "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls."

    Click the link to read this online:

    Level Up opportunity to turn in final project (by 5pm Friday): +8 points.

    Week 12: Nov 10
    Posthumanism and transhumanism.

    What will we become?

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    Chapters 1 thru 7 of Ray Kurzweil's book, The Age of Spiritual Machines (free download on here - scroll down to see the chapters and click to read each; there's also a print book you can buy).

    See Blackboard for these:

    • Ian Creasey's story, "Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone."
    • Harlan Ellison's story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." (Note: Contains scenes of virtual violence and horror; if this is a trigger for you, feel free to substitute a relevant alternative.)
    • Ken Liu's story, "Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer."

    Level Up opportunity to turn in final project (by 5pm Friday): +6 points.

    Week 13: Nov 17
    The Singularity and sociology of the future.

    Technological black holes. Future society: Global or local? How will cities evolve?

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    Chapters 8 thru 12 of Ray Kurzweil's book, The Age of Spiritual Machines (free download on here - scroll down to see the chapters and click to read each).

    Click the links to read these online:

    Deadline for Final Project:
    5:00pm on Monday, Nov 21.

      Nov 24: Break (no class)  

    "Have regular hours for work and play. Make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well."
        - Louisa May Alcott

    Week 14: Dec 1
    The far future: Is it unknowable, unimaginable?

    Level Up bonus suggestions:

    If we haven't already, determine presentation order for next week.

    See Blackboard for these:

    • Charles Sheffield's story, "At the Eschaton."
    • Cordwainer Smith's story, "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard."
    • Frederik Pohl's story, "Day Million."

    Click the links to read these online:

    Week 15: Dec 8

    Student presentations!
    Note: If everyone is willing, we'll try to fit everyone's presentations into this week (so we need not meet during Finals Week). If so, this session is likely to run a little long.

    When you're not presenting, your job is to be a responsive and attentive audience, and to think of good questions to ask the groups after their presentations. Come prepared to enjoy and learn!

    Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 9 CHAPTER 2 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY About 200 years ago the pace of technological change in western society began to quicken. Wind, water, and animal power, with their limitations of place and capacity, were supplemented and then replaced by the steam engine, which went on to power the factories of the industrial revolution. The railroad made it possible to move things and people quickly over great distances. The telegraph and, later, the telephone carried communications across the countryside. Electric lighting supplanted the dim glow of candles, kerosene, and gas lights. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the notion of progress was closely linked with technological development, and that linkage intensified in the following decades. The automobile and the airplane changed not only travel but the nature of our cities and towns. Radio and then television brought more of the outside world into everyone’s homes. Knowledge about the causes of diseases brought new treatments and preventive measures. Computers appeared, and soon the transistor made them smaller, more powerful, more accessible, and cheaper. Today, the system by which research and development leads to new products is fundamentally different than it was in the nineteenth century. To the role of the individual inventor has been added the power of organized scientific research and technological innovation. Organized research and development, which are increasingly international in character, have greatly increased the production of new knowledge. Deeper understanding of living organisms is leading toward cures of diseases once thought

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 10 untreatable. Basic insights in materials science enable the development of structures that are lighter, stronger, and more durable than anything available before. The computer and novel modes of communication, such as optical fibers, bring new, interactive modes of work and more capable machinery. These new devices and new ways of working, in turn, speed the growth and dissemination of new knowledge. The accumulation of scientific knowledge and new technologies has transformed human life. echnologies have helped provide many—though far from all—people with standards of warmth, cleanliness, nutrition, medical care, transportation, and entertainment far beyond those of even the wealthy two centuries ago.1 They have also presented us with difficult questions about how to use science and technology most effectively to meet human needs. The rapid rate of material progress can continue, but it is not inevitable. The extent to which the products of science and technology are useful depends on the needs of society. Each of the four areas discussed in this chapter—industrial performance, health care, national security, and environmental protection—uses these products in different ways. Progress is more likely if we understand these differences. Only then can we effectively translate scientific and technical understanding into the techniques, tools, and insights that improve the quality of our lives. THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN INDUSTRY Industries differ in the manner and extent to which they use the results of research. Some, such as the semiconductor industry, the biotechnology industry, and parts of the chemical industry, were created and shaped almost entirely by ideas that grew out of science. The technologies at the heart of these industries were initially characterized more by promise than by real products. Semiconductors were in this stage right after the invention of the transistor; more recently, biotechnology went through

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 11 this stage after the development of recombinant DNA techniques. High-temperature superconductivity is a scientific discovery that shows promise of leading to new industries and is in this stage today. As science-based industries continue to develop, they remain closely dependent on continuous inputs of new science, often produced by university researchers. These industries depend as well on the technological development of these ideas in order to grow and to widen their range of products. At an early stage, these industries tend to be small, to move at a fast technical and competitive pace, and to have enormous potential. Biotechnology is now in this stage. In a more mature stage, a science-based industry may still be growing quickly, but it depends ess on the progress of academic scientists. The semiconductor industry, for example, moves at a fast technical pace and requires increasingly detailed knowledge of its materials and, as the individual transistors buried in its chips become ever smaller, even of new quantum phenomena. But its scientific needs are met almost entirely by the work of semiconductor scientists and engineers working in the plants and laboratories of the semiconductor companies. Indeed, industry scientists are often the only ones with the detailed knowledge needed to make incremental improvements in the technologies. Another example of an industry at a mature stage is the aircraft industry, where thousands of scientists and engineers are required to deal with the enormous complexities of new plane design. Investments in manufacturing tools and plants are often measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. Only major companies can act on this scale, and only they have the technological knowledge and experience needed to design these complex products. The most mature industries—for example, the automobile or construction industries—move at a slower technological pace and require fewer inputs from current science, whether generated by their own laboratories or by university research. Many of these

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 12 were not based on science even at their birth. They do, however, require the highest levels of technological and production know-how. For industries that rely on high technology but are technically self-contained (such as the semiconductor industry) and industries that do not depend heavily on current science (such as the automobile industry), the results of current fundamental research are generally not decisive. Japan, which has not been a leading research power, has exhibited great strength in such industries. In these areas, productivity gains and product leadership can be attained by a number of strategies largely separate from scientific research but highly dependent on engineering, such as developing new technology in corporate laboratories, improving the development cycle to hasten the marketing of improved products, better coordination of design and manufacture, maximizing the creative capabilities of employees, and responding quickly to changes in consumer preferences. Additional university research can help, but it will be of peripheral importance to such industries. Nor can research rescue a failing industry that has difficulties in other areas. THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MEETING OTHER NATIONAL OBJECTIVES In addition to their influence on industrial performance, science and technology are directly involved in efforts to achieve a number of other important national goals. As in the case of industry, many other factors must also be in place for the goals to be achieved, but science and technology provide many of the crucial insights and techniques that enable progress. The following sections briefly describe some of the linkages between science and technology and several of these goals. Health Care Maintenance of health and prevention of illness are among the highest goals of our society. cience and technology have

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 13 become critical factors in achieving those goals, and the health sciences—including the life sciences, health services research, and public health research—will remain vital elements in the promotion of the nation’s well- being. In health care, as in other areas, science and technology are embedded in much broader social and institutional structures. For example, a research discovery can lead to experimental products in a very short time. Yet those products may require very long lead times to bring to market because of the need to ensure their safety and efficacy. The most visible public policy issue in health care today is cost.2 Many of the medical products generated by research and development, such as vaccines, actually reduce total health care costs. Other new products derived from research and development, such as complex imaging devices and expensive surgical procedures, raise costs in the short term while enhancing overall care. Still other procedures reduce unit treatment costs, but these reductions make treatments more available and thus increase demand and total costs. The development and pricing of health care products are unusual for a number of reasons. In a normal market economy, differences in the costs of technologies are reflected in the level of use. But our current system of health care reimbursement insulates patients from the true costs. In addition, the government directly regulates many aspects of medical technology to ensure safety and control costs, further distorting market signals. Finally, health care involves such basic human conditions as birth, disease, and ultimately death. Under such conditions, individual consumers often ignore economic considerations; yet the total cost of health care is a matter of enormous national concern. The effects of technical progress on costs depend to a large extent on the social and institutional structures surrounding the health care system. As the nation undertakes a broad reassessment of its health care system, a central challenge is to create administra

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 14 tive structures that promote the development of medical technology while improving care and containing costs. National Security Since World War II, the United States has sought military advantage through technological rather than numerical superiority. For example, technological superiority in the hands of a well-trained military contributed greatly to the success of the Persian Gulf War. The United States will continue to rely on this strategy to retain military advantage, but the sources of new military technology are shifting.3 In the past, the segment of industry that has supplied both hardware and software to the U.S. military has been largely separate from civilian industry. This segment of industry has had essentially one customer, and its requirements were focused on product performance more strongly than on cost. In the 1950s and 1960s, the defense industry produced much technology of value to civilian industry. But today the technological sophistication of civilian industry in many cases surpasses that of the defense industry. As a result, the military has become more dependent on civilian technologies. This trend will make improvements in national security more dependent on overall national economic performance. A major challenge facing the military today is to maintain technological superiority in the face of declining defense budgets. Meeting this challenge will require a reexamination of the broad scientific and technological base that contributes to military needs, including research and development in government laboratories, in industry, and in universities. Environmental Protection Over the past two decades, the United States has recognized and has made substantial progress in curbing the degradation of the environment. Nevertheless, difficult problems remain.

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 15 Environmental degradation continues to accompany many aspects of economic growth. Emissions and effluents of contaminated materials continue, waste disposal plagues urban areas, forests continue to be devastated, and biodiversity losses are growing. At the same time, science and technology have exposed new issues of great complexity and uncertain consequences, such as global warming, acid precipitation, the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer, and the contamination of water supplies. By the middle of the twenty-first century, the human population is projected to double to around 11 billion people, and, to meet their basic needs, the global economy will need to be several times larger than it is now.4 Many industrial and agricultural practices and products used today in energy and food production, transportation, and manufacturing will need to be restructured to prevent pollution if sustainable economic growth is to be achieved. In some situations, existing technologies can be made cleaner and more efficient; in others, entirely new technologies, including energy technologies, will be needed. Almost all fields of science and technology can contribute to the reduction of environmental degradation. Biotechnology, materials science and engineering, and information technologies can enable the efficient use of raw materials and prevent pollution at the source. Reducing and preventing pollution is an important goal of the new field of industrial ecology, which, by examining industrial processes, strives to maintain sustainable technological growth.5 COMMON THEMES These examples demonstrate that science and technology are powerful determinants of the conditions of modern life but that they clearly are not the only determinants. Nevertheless, even if science and technology are not sufficient by themselves to resolve societal issues, they are necessary for progress. Industry, for example, now relies heavily on technology to raise productivity;

    SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN MODERN SOCIETY 16 economic studies show that more than half the per capita productivity increases in the United States since World War II have come from technological advances. Although such factors as better skills among workers and new methods of organizing production will continue to contribute to economic expansion, new technologies will continue to be the major force behind the generation of new wealth. Similarly, many new technologies are increasingly reliant on science—whether the new science emerging from research laboratories or the well-established science available to everyone with the necessary training. Engineering, increasingly science-based, could not have achieved its present level of sophistication without its base of scientific knowledge. This increasing integration of science and technology also applies in reverse: technological problems now inspire important areas of science, even as science broadens the scope and capabilities of technology. Given the fact that science and technology are necessary, but not sufficient, elements of human progress, we as a nation face important questions: How great an investment in science and technology should we make to meet national needs? How can we best measure national performance in science and technology? The committee turns to these questions next. REFERENCES 1. William J. Baumol, Sue Anne Batey Blackman, and Edward N. Wolff. Productivity and American Leadership: The Long View. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989. 2. Annetine C. Gelijns and Ethan A. Halm, Eds. The Changing Economics of Medical Technology. Washington, D.C.:National Academy Press, 1991. 3. Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, Task Force on National Security. NewThinking and American Defense Technology. New York: Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, 1990. 4. George Heaton, Robert Repetto, and Rodney Sobin. TransformingTechnology: An Agenda for Environmentally Sustainable Growth in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 1991. 5. “Papers from the NAS Colloquium on Industrial Ecology,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 89, No. 3 (February 1, 1992), pp. 793–1148.


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