The introduction to this essay is obviously not finished, and the entire thing is about at the second draft stage.
All of the below is Copyright 1999 Adrian Hon.
Intro: Long entrenched debate. Extreme examples are scientists who conduct new research without thought of consequences, and luddites. More conservative are those who point to widespread benefits.
If you look at it one way, science and technology are essentially a means of developing ways in which we can change our environment to suit our needs. These needs often include the need for food, the need for heat, the need for entertainment and so on. As science progresses further and further, we discover improved methods of satisfying these needs, such as by developing farming, then irrigation and fertilisation, then mechanisation and computerisation. Take entertainment as another example; at first we only could amuse ourselves with ‘physical’ objects such as balls and sports, then we developed radios, televisions, computer games and virtual reality.
However, our needs are not always so benign. Sometimes our most pressing need is the need to survive against aggressors. All other needs are subordinate to survival; after all, what use is having a highly developed culture when you have no means of defending yourself against the country next door who’s just developed gunpowder?
So often we see science as a way of creating ever more deadly weapons to ensure our survival. In fact, we even map out our history according to new arms developments; the turning points of history are entwined with the invention of the catapult, the cannon, gunpowder, submarines, fighters and bombers, V2 rockets, nuclear bombs and most recently space-based and airborne laser strategic defence.
Of course, that’s not the whole story. The march of science proceeded relatively steadily up until the Renaissance. Still, progress was comparatively slow.
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