Cultural and Sociotechnical Values

ROBERT McC. ADAMS

Values surely play a part, and sometimes perhaps an important one, in the loosely articulated bundle of subsystems composing human society. But to what extent and under what circumstances does that part ever become determinative? Can we, more particularly, identify and isolate some of the major impacts that values have on whatever set of other subsystems contains (most of) engineering? The reflections on these questions given here are frankly those of a skeptic, doubtful that cultural values constitute a superior, autonomous domain with which more mundane activities like technology must somehow be brought into harmony.

This agnosticism admittedly may be idiosyncratic, a result of my involvement for many years with prevailingly impersonal themes of demography, economy, and ecology across millennial spans of early Near Eastern history. In that setting it was seldom possible to distinguish values with sufficient clarity to credit them with a significant role either as agencies of change or resistance to change. But more recently, and now in a more commonplace role as an administrator and policy-oriented social scientist, I continue to find values themselves intangible and evanescent while readily conceding that values are in the air we breathe and surely influence in some way much of what we think and do.

On the other hand, each successive action we take, individually or in association, subtly changes the mosaic of standards by which we assess our own behavior or that of others. Granting that those mosaics simultaneously constrain and influence our perceptions and actions, how could they not also be continually tested and redefined by the circumstances we encounter or bring about? In short, I believe it is fundamentally mistaken to elevate values to a



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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Cultural and Sociotechnical Values ROBERT McC. ADAMS Values surely play a part, and sometimes perhaps an important one, in the loosely articulated bundle of subsystems composing human society. But to what extent and under what circumstances does that part ever become determinative? Can we, more particularly, identify and isolate some of the major impacts that values have on whatever set of other subsystems contains (most of) engineering? The reflections on these questions given here are frankly those of a skeptic, doubtful that cultural values constitute a superior, autonomous domain with which more mundane activities like technology must somehow be brought into harmony. This agnosticism admittedly may be idiosyncratic, a result of my involvement for many years with prevailingly impersonal themes of demography, economy, and ecology across millennial spans of early Near Eastern history. In that setting it was seldom possible to distinguish values with sufficient clarity to credit them with a significant role either as agencies of change or resistance to change. But more recently, and now in a more commonplace role as an administrator and policy-oriented social scientist, I continue to find values themselves intangible and evanescent while readily conceding that values are in the air we breathe and surely influence in some way much of what we think and do. On the other hand, each successive action we take, individually or in association, subtly changes the mosaic of standards by which we assess our own behavior or that of others. Granting that those mosaics simultaneously constrain and influence our perceptions and actions, how could they not also be continually tested and redefined by the circumstances we encounter or bring about? In short, I believe it is fundamentally mistaken to elevate values to a

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE permanence and status above the reach of reappraisal or controversy. Doing so diminishes rather than explains their significance. As values are dynamic and situationally evolving, so they both rationalize and are at the same time continuously shaped by the courses of action we choose. Of course, this must be no less true of engineering than of any other profession, even if at first glance it may seem to be reactive and rooted in a more elemental attempt to cope with material exigencies rather than active and value-driven. After all, few definitions of engineering or technology are free of moral overtones, as exemplified by the suggestion that their “basic function is the expansion of the realm of practical human possibility” (Brooks, 1980, p. 65). So it is my own view that advancing technology is at once a value position to whose defense engineers (and others) can and should justifiably rise as protagonists, and at the same time a vast program of practical, day-to-day activity carried out in the same spirit. And to maintain its effectiveness, engineering must systematically extend itself beyond its familiar concern for the modification of nature. Borrowing a felicitous phrase from Herbert Simon (1981), engineering encompasses most of the sciences of the artificial, and social engineering is inexpungibly among them. Simple efficacy in a complex, socially ordered world demands modes of application that are sociotechnical rather than narrowly technical. This leads, however, to the obvious further point that we live in a world of contending value positions that coexist uneasily but completely supersede or displace one another only rarely. It is undeniable that substantial segments of the electorate in most industrialized societies view with increasing indifference or hostility at least some fruits of technology—products and processes that engineers have taken pride in creating and probably regard as unambiguously life-enhancing. Contradictory perceptions always tend to be selectively fixated on hardware; conflicts demand and generate their own inanimate symbols. But the real issues are, on closer inspection, almost always both sociotechnical and value-laden. This means that such issues are also highly complex, not easily bounded, and almost never neatly terminated. Considerations of efficacy once again require that we recognize the multiple, interactive levels at which they engage everyone's attention and are actuated in their practices. As this suggests, it is a dangerous oversimplification to dismiss most issues of angry partisanship for or against some particular technology as ritualized collisions over irreconcilable values, immune to new information or the give-and-take of rational argument. Fundamental clashes of value may indeed sometimes occur, and then often attain a momentum of their own and continue indefinitely. But on closer inspection, it generally turns out that neither side is the undiluted locus of truth, wisdom, or social equity. The right degrees and institutional affiliations make it easy to claim the cloak of specialized authority,

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE but much of the public rightly recognizes—even when seemingly preoccupied with absolutist values—that the cloak of technical expertise often slips. RISK, UNCERTAINTY, AND PUBLIC TRUST The rapidly growing field of contention over technical assessments of risk and uncertainty provides a case in point. Technical assessments abound on risks to health, for example, but so do legal, legislative, and regulatory challenges to them that frequently commission their own, conflicting technical assessments. Adversarial proceedings over the reputed toxic or carcinogenic effects of substances like agent orange, alar, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, fluoridated water, polychlorinated biphenyls, and tetraethyl lead (merely to sample a long list) no doubt reflect a high level of public concern. Given the poignancy and vividness of that concern, it not surprisingly then captures a large and growing share of the domestic attention of our media. It is inevitable that values play a considerable part in these exercises, for they are concerned with prospects of suffering, the blind capriciousness and hence seeming unfairness of the random blow, and the finality of death. Yet despite the depth and even terror of the issues involved, too many of the technical experts who deal with risk address only matters of statistical precision and remain remote from the real issues of distributive justice: Risk for whom, chosen from among what range of alternatives, and with what range of alternative modes of recompense? How speculative or subjective, and how candidly admitted, are the measures of uncertainty that tend to be applied to highly improbable events? What can be done to provide assurance to rising public doubts that all “reasonable” second- and third-order consequences of new technological modifications of the existing or natural order have been anticipated, as examples accumulate in which this plainly turns out not to be the case? Those who would address risk as a primarily technical and statistical problem have failed to notice that these increasingly salient issues of distributive justice can independently affect public perceptions of risk, and that variations in the latter can produce second-order effects that sometimes far outstrip statistically based computations of cost or frequency. As one noted student of the subject has recently observed, In becoming a central cultural construct in America, the word [risk] has changed its meaning. It has entered politics and in so doing has weakened its old connection with technical calculations of probability. . . . The word has been preempted to mean bad risks. The promise of good things in contemporary political discourse is couched in other terms. The language of risk is reserved as a specialized lexical register for political talk about undesirable outcomes. Risk is invoked for a modern-style riposte against abuse of power (Douglas, 1990, pp. 2–3).

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Fueling public distrust is what thus turns out to be the self-fulfilling but accurate perception that risk consequences are frequently far graver and more disruptive than advance calculations indicate. The public is aware, and engineers cannot afford to be less sensitive to this, that prominently mentioned, conveniently estimable, direct consequences of unanticipated scientific or technological failures seldom cover the full range, cost, and persistence of subsequent effects. Second-order consequences may include (to mention only a few of them): insurance rate increases; declining property values; economic disruptions resulting from a cessation of tourism, or from shifts in consumer demand for products believed—whether accurately or not—to be somehow associated with other products found faulty or dangerous; and, as was shown at Three Mile Island, persistent effects even on the mental health of the adjacent population. It is simply unrealistic for those advocating new or improved technologies to dismiss such costs from consideration as if they were externalities unrelated to technological risk. There is also a valid public perception that technological risk probabilities frequently have been grossly underestimated. From a narrowly technological viewpoint, for example, “driver error, pilot error, and human error, ” are often dismissed as outside the frame of calculation because they arise from human fallibility rather than machine malfunction. But the human controller and the machine together constitute a single system in their operation, and certainly affect the public precisely as if they were a single system. The machine and its operative need to be incorporated in designs as if they constituted a common, closely interacting set of capabilities and weaknesses. Tragic outcomes of obscure, highly improbable risks have, of course, a special attraction for the media, but it is nevertheless hard to escape the impression that far too little time and effort is currently being devoted to analyzing the tails of probability curves. Performance will always fall short in certain instances, but without greater and more systematic attention, the number of egregious errors threatens to pass a threshold that will inspire general public disbelief in the process of estimation itself. While conflict of interest is always a possibility to be guarded against, the prevailing sources of error are less direct but no less damaging. A common one is unforeseen interactions of system components, under what may be an almost indefinitely wide array of different permutations and combinations of component (including human component) failure. As systems themselves become more complex, this problem can only increase in frequency and severity. Particularly to be guarded against, it seems to me, is the understandable tendency to stake out the terrain of risk analysis within the disciplinary limits of those performing it. We should not be surprised if the greatest dangers then emerge along the neglected margins and interstices of those fields. Who assumes responsibility for maintaining an enveloping, continuous perspective

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE rather than merely a specialized one? Are engineers satisfied to defer to technically ill-equipped generalists in this crucial respect? An excellent example of the tendency to work within a narrow disciplinary focus, and its attendant dangers, has been developed by Victoria Tschinkel (1989). Physicians, she points out, were the first to turn their attention to the effects of human activities on the water supply. Through their efforts, the spread of cholera was much reduced by removing sewage from populated areas. Raw sewage added to water bodies that were also the sources of drinking water led, however, to a new generation of threats to public health. These were met, on the advice of a different set of specialists, by chlorination and the consequent, virtual elimination of typhoid. But now, once again, we find we have been left with a system that admirably met its earlier design criteria but failed to keep in view the whole problem. Besides wasting tremendous quantities of water and nutrients, it bypasses expensive treatment facilities with uncontrolled storm drains, fails almost completely to check discharges of heavy metals and exotic chemicals, and has led to spreading eutrophication and contamination of our increasingly precious wetlands and natural water bodies (Tschinkel, 1989, pp. 159–161). Of importance comparable to the narrowness of focus this illustrates are other “expert” shortcomings. Insufficient attention is frequently paid, for example, to the fragility of assumptions employed. Also common are expressions of assurance that are incommensurate with available sample sizes, or that fail to take account of low-probability eventualities rather than admit the uncomfortably large element of conjecture they require. As suggested earlier, risk is an area in which public perceptions often are widely discrepant from quantitatively well-established measurements of past experience. Studies of expressed preference lend support, in particular, to the view that “people are willing to tolerate higher risks from activities seen as highly beneficial ” and that “other (perceived) characteristics such as familiarity, control, catastrophic potential, equity, and level of knowledge also seem to influence the relation between perceived risk, perceived benefit, and risk acceptance” (Slovic, 1987, p. 283). One recent study of the risk perceptions based on a modest sample of respondents suggests that “those who rate their self-knowledge of technologies highly also tend to perceive greater average benefits associated with technologies than those who are less confident about their knowledge” (Wildavsky and Dake, 1990, p. 48). That carefully qualified statement leaves open two alternatives— either that greater knowledge produces greater confidence, or that professedly greater knowledge is a dependent manifestation of greater confidence in the processes and institutions currently producing most technological assessments. Both alternatives are consistent with the significant correlation this study found with a continuum from what it terms a “political culture of hierarchy” to one

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE of “egalitarianism,” roughly equated with a continuum from conservatism to liberalism (Wildavsky and Dake, 1990, pp. 49–51). My own suspicion is that on further study, matters will turn out to be more complex and less easily reduced to ideal-typical contrasts. Conservatism, for example, is as easily associated with individual autonomy and reliance on individual initiative as with a respect for hierarchy. Autonomy no doubt appears in different clusterings of associated attitudes, but it has undeniably become a pervasive value: We live in a culture that prizes autonomy. Against that background, our responses to risk acquire their meanings. We respond differently to risks that we choose for ourselves and over which we believe we have some degree of control than we do to risks that we do not choose or believe we control. . . . In light of our commitment to autonomy, it is not unreasonable to think that consent plays a role in the legitimation of risky activity. Its role is important in our political process, which relies on the participation of the governed for legitimacy, and in the marketplace, where the ideal transaction is represented as one of voluntary exchange (Teuber, 1990, p. 237). However, these issues of public concern for equity versus public trust in institutions by no means exhaust the discrepancies between popular perceptions and statistically based calculations of technological risk. Grossly optimistic biases as to the consequences of personal exposure to risk are common. People are more concerned to avoid negative consequences than to secure positive ones of equal likelihood. Treatment of very improbable events tends to be capricious and undependable, sometimes dismissing them entirely and at other times elevating them to a supreme and undebatable level of importance. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are of course representative of this latter category, but so are such other risks as those exemplified by new chemical technologies whose toxic side-effects are not immediately apparent. The complete elimination of a lesser hazard typically is overvalued, in comparison with a more significant but merely partial reduction of a far greater one. Although the gulf between scientific findings and popular perceptions like these is also frequently exaggerated (Freudenburg, 1988), the more important point is that widely and firmly held public attitudes are no less a part of the real world, needing to be squarely and yet sensitively dealt with, even if they sometimes may seem to border on the irrational. Let me briefly illustrate complications of this kind. As seen in the far greater preoccupation with the demonstrably small likelihood of nuclear power disasters than with the substantial, known morbidity and mortality resulting from coal-fired generating plants (and mining the coal they consume), the public reacts more strongly to disasters that can be sharply highlighted than to more diffuse conditions of risk. Along the same lines, the carnage on our highways is passively accepted as “accidents,” with the imputation of a random mass of personal bad luck or misjudgment, while rare lapses in relatively

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE much safer air transportation provoke exhaustive investigations and expensive countermeasures. Many such cases of an apparent skewing of public perceptions, with profound implications for governmental or corporate policy, may well be to some extent reflections of the operation of underlying cultural values. But it would be no more correct to exclude them from further, open discussion for that reason than it would be to dismiss them as mere psychological aberrations undeserving of engineering attention. Recognizing that pervasive misunderstandings like these can complicate communications with the public, there is no reason to question the public's reception of new technological innovations that are imposed by governmental action with growing prudence if not suspicion. For engineers venturing out into domains of sociotechnical contention with renewed courage, this means that the public's trust must be sought and earned. Indeed, it was once won over many decades, in a broad tide of technological advances whose sociotechnical consequences visibly promoted the public welfare. More recently the public's trust has been somewhat eroded, although by no means irretrievably lost, in the same gradualistic way. But to arrest this erosion we must recognize that we are all the losers when technical specialists rely, without acknowledgment, on inadequate, error-laden analytical methodologies. My own service as a reviewer of many National Research Council studies has painfully familiarized me, for example, with the racking internal arguments, seldom reaching the public, over the questionable simplifications and quantitative precision of many cost-benefit analyses. Closer to a domain where values may indeed play the dominant role, what basis do we ever have for assigning a rate of future discount that establishes the ratio of preference for present returns over the possible welfare of future generations? And that question, of course, brings us face to face with current controversies over whether, how, and how soon to check or demand compensation for the depletion of scarce, publicly owned natural resources or fragile environmental quality. Builders and protagonists of sociotechnical systems who encounter the public over issues of risk and uncertainty thus enter an arena where values undoubtedly play a significant role. But I have sought to show that values are no more than one of many inputs into the fluid, heavily politicized processes of interaction that account for public responses. To treat them as basic and irreducible is to homogenize the opposition to technological innovation, and thus unwisely to polarize and perhaps paralyze the process. More hesitantly, I should now like to take up a second set of encounters over sociotechnical issues that seems to support the same general finding. Characterizing it very simplistically, it has to do with public understanding of, let alone confidence in, the reductionist or linear models of explanation that have become our models of discourse since they serve as the standard in science and engineering education.

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Perhaps I can best introduce this theme with an admittedly simplistic binary opposition. Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, is said to have noted once that people can be divided between those who see the world as analogous to clocks, in which cause and effect are always mechanically related, and those who see the world as clouds, each particle acting erratically with only the broad shape of things moving in understandable ways (Sills, 1984). Gross categories like these, to be sure, are never fully applicable to anyone; at best they refer to two arbitrarily distant positions in a continuous distribution. Nevertheless, I think they call attention to another source of friction or misunderstanding that may unnecessarily lead to collisions over supposedly different value positions. Fundamental changes that to most people are disturbing and unsettling are under way in the structure of our social and economic life. Vast webs of long-distance but narrowly focused interactions erode the integrity of primary social units and substitute for a stable sense of place as an ordering principle in our lives. Virtually all our activities and relationships reflect an immensely heightened mobility —not only in our own routine physical movements but in the permanence of our places of employment, access to information, professional and other reference group memberships, sources of style and entertainment, acquisition of credit, capital and other resources, and, not least, the competition we face as a nation. For many people, growing recognition of a wider world is accompanied less by pleasure at the discovery of new horizons than by a growing sense of vulnerability and dependency. Corporate mergers and their sometimes disastrous outcomes defy rationality and prediction. Factories break up and migrate, responding both to lower labor costs in developing countries and to declining economies of scale as assembly lines are altered by robotics and the emergence of product variability and quick turnaround as keys to competition. Sheltering careers in industrial employment have to be abandoned for the lowered incomes and insecurity of the services sector. The mismatch between the normal offerings of public education and the accelerating demands of information-oriented workplaces widens dangerously. Great urban areas fall into ruins, strangled by unemployment, suburbs, drugs, ethnic barriers. The technological contribution to this vast series of changes has obviously been fundamental, but it is important to distinguish a marvelously enabling series of discoveries from the social arrangements that have distorted and constrained how and for whose benefit they were deployed. The clouds model of explanation, not the clock model, is the one that applies, and pride in their achievements need not lead engineers to claim an excessive share of responsibility for what is widely perceived not as progress but as loss. After all, some of the principal thrusts of development pioneered by generations of engineers have experienced a similar reversal. Economies of scale, centralization, and even standardization, long and tirelessly sought for, have virtually lost their relevance. Even labor productivity may be losing its former importance, as

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE “much more innovative effort in the future will be directed at saving resources and energy, or substituting more abundant, but more difficult to convert and use, resources for relatively rare, but easier to convert and use, resources” (Brooks, 1980, p. 74). All of these new parameters of change may or may not ultimately contribute to the goal of greater human welfare and—perhaps according to one 's value preference!—either harmony with or mastery over nature. In a world still as full of desperate needs as this one is, I am personally inclined to be skeptical of anything that does not at least sustain industrial output and modestly advance productivity. But that engineers have had only a modest hand in the huge, complex, and still largely obscure array of forces responsible for engineering of the present state of affairs needs to be communicated to the public at every opportunity. There is another respect in which linear, reductionist approaches do a disservice to an improved public understanding and successful implementation of sociotechnical systems. It has to do with how they are communicated and adopted, or, in processual terms, with what is known of the diffusion of innovations. This field of research has undergone an important shift in recent years, away from being conceptualized primarily as the overcoming of physical and other barriers to communications. That approach had left to the ultimate adopter of the new technology a presumably free rein of choice over his or her decision, and paid only indirect attention to the manner and effectiveness of communication to that firm or individual. Technical and even sociotechnical personnel thus played little part in demonstrating the advantages of their discoveries and devising ways to extend their use, turning this function over to marketing and advertising specialists. Unaccounted for by this approach were the typically long lags and other discontinuities between major inventions and their successful introduction into either industrial or commercial applications. Even less well explained were frequent impediments to technology transfer that substantially distort or delay processes of economic development. Meanwhile, there has been rapid growth in sophistication about the nature and transfer of information. Information, all would now agree, is a complex amalgam of many components with different properties. It cannot be understood as a unitary commodity that will trigger a desired decision when made available in appropriate amounts. Cultural values sometimes may be interposed, as may be also considerations of unintelligibility, trust, status anxiety, or perceived but unexpressed risk and uncertainty. Under modern conditions we face “an increasing mismatch between the complexity of the product and the ability of the purchaser to assess its qualities and performance. Thus the traditional model of the market in which producers and consumers bargain rationally, based on complete information regarding the properties of the products in question, breaks down” (Brooks, 1980, p. 74).

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Adoption choices, whether by firms or individuals, of course remain a critical subject of concern. But they are now recognized not to be matters of uncontrolled free choice but of decisions made within constraint-sets that are largely imposed by widely varying conditions of access and information. Considerable research on the diffusion of innovations accordingly is being redirected toward the comparative efficacy of supply-side measures. That shifts the focus of managerial planning toward the strategic positioning, staffing, and equipping of agencies in the diffusion process (Brown, 1981, pp. 5–10). To contribute effectively to this process requires a contextual understanding of broadly interacting sociotechnical systems, and the training and working horizons of engineers need to expand accordingly. To illustrate the extent to which adoption of new technology is not a matter of unconstrained free choice, let us briefly consider the industrialization of the home. It may appear that little more is at work here than perpetually rising expectations and discretionary income, met by a consequent satisfying of rising consumer demand with new, labor-saving technologies. And indeed there has been as sustained and profound a transformation in labor-saving efficiency in homes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as in most concurrent industrial advances where it is much more celebrated. Yet this outcome results, in a persuasively revisionist historian 's view, from many social processes over which householders had very little direct control: Nowadays, the general expansion of both the economy and the welfare system has led fewer people than ever before into the market for paid domestic labor; and the diffusion of appliances into households, and of households into suburbs, has encouraged the disappearance of various commercial services. The end result is that housewives, even of the most comfortable classes (in our now generally comfortable population) are doing their housework themselves. Similarly, the extension of schooling for those who are young, the proliferation of school-related activities, and the availability of jobs for those who have finished their schooling has led to the disappearance of even those helpers upon whom the poverty-stricken housewife had once been able to depend. Hence, in almost all economic sectors of the population (except the very, very rich) housework has become manual labor (Cowan, 1983, pp. 196–197). Most labor-saving devices, in effect, have facilitated a rescheduled and reorganized work program, without substantially reducing the hours of work that a household requires. Hence, The washing machine, the dishwasher, and the frozen meal have not been causes of married women's participation in the workforce, but they have been catalysts of this participation: they have acted, in the same way that chemical catalysts do, to break certain bonds that might otherwise have impeded the process. . . . Modern household technology facilitated married women's workforce participation not by freeing women from household labor but by making it possible for women to maintain decent standards in their

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE homes without assistance and without a full-time commitment to housework (Cowan, 1983, pp. 208–210). This, I submit, needs to be recognized as a new and decisive feature of our social landscape, both incorporating and redirecting the tide of sociotechnical advance. Engineers and designers need to deepen their own understanding of this changing climate of demand, rather than to concede responsibility for basic strategies of responsive management to others who lack the requisite technical insights. HUMAN PROGRESS Earlier I touched momentarily on progress. Surely this idea is heavily freighted with cultural values, not least those associated with engineering. So it is noteworthy that not much is heard about human progress these days. As individuals or organizations, we may “make progress,” but earlier aspirations for progress as a realizable goal for large social aggregates—for nation states, let alone the community of nations—are mired in skepticism if not outright disbelief. This is a time of concern instead with the unintended and perverse effects of ambitious, large-scale efforts to deal with almost any challenge or problem, prominently including “runaway” science and technology. The confidence that was generally projected into the future as recently as a generation ago was in large part associated with the assumption of indefinitely continuing improvements in our quality of life. The characteristically overreaching optimism of the time was captured in Alvin Weinberg's emphasis on quick technological palliatives or “fixes” (1967, p. 416) that somehow all fell well short of their objectives. Many of the associated innovations are now widely regarded as having been at least party vitiated by shortsightedness and miscalculation over the environment. Do we trace this to the eruption of a new set of values, or to lessons of vulnerability repeatedly hammered home by intervening decades of more doubtful experience? Does it matter which? The ways in which we can go forward to establish a new consensus are the same in any case. Similarly, there was confidence a generation ago in what seemed the natural ascendancy of this country based on the technological primacy it had achieved. Admittedly this had occurred in a context of massive military destruction from which we had largely escaped, but the prodigious success of our own wartime efforts seemed to suggest no limit to what could be attained through self-sustaining technological progress alone. Now we may think we know better, but is this because our values have altered or because any slow turn of the historical wheel will inevitably highlight—for a time—new risks, opportunities, and experiences? As a frank partisan of materialistic progress, I am less disturbed by the rise of spirited opposition to it, at least sustaining an interest

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE in the issue, than by the concomitant growth of a narrow preoccupation with the here-and-now. Early in American history, I might note, there was little recognition of a potential conflict between a widely professed love of nature and the ambition to become an industrial power. These attitudes, now regarded by many as incompatible, somehow harmonized to form a single vision of the fulfillment of our national destiny (Kasson, 1976, p. 174). It was only in the later nineteenth century that a gradual shift can be traced, principally in the darkening tones of literary imagery connected with industrialism and its products (Marx, 1964). Since then, of course, the attack on a dehumanizing, engulfing technocratic mastery has broadened and become more direct, as exemplified in the works of Aldous Huxley, Charles Chaplin, George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, and others. In many domains of the social sciences and humanities as well, “the technocratic image is now associated with a political pathology” (Gunnell, 1982, p. 397). I do not mean to minimize the strength of these forces. With the growing depth of their own historical traditions, their movement has acquired self-sustaining autonomy as well as numbers and momentum. But in the end, what means have we of improving the common life and overcoming its many adversities, other than scientific-technical and sociotechnical ones? There is a good case for broadening the managerial, analytical, and communications skills of engineers, particularly in sociotechnical areas. Greater concern for identifying and mitigating the adverse human impacts of technological innovations is badly needed. But engineering as a profession may not abandon its mission. As Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, observed not long ago, To fail to do all that we can is to fail to be human. The point is, man is not free not to elaborate his technology. He must pursue the path that he sees but has never followed (Boorstin, 1986, pp. 102, 130). REFERENCES Boorstin, D. 1986 Interview Omni 8(May) : 102–130 (passim) Brooks, H. 1980 Technology, evolution, and purpose Daedalus 109 : 65–81 Brown, L. A. 1981 Innovation Diffusion: A New Perspective London : Methuen Cowan, R. S. 1983 More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave New York : Basic Books Douglas, M. 1990 Risk as a forensic resource Daedalus 119(4) : 1–16 Freudenburg, W. R. 1988 Perceived risk, real risk: Social science and the art of probabilistic risk assessment Science 242 : 44–49 Gunnell, J. G. 1982 The technocratic image and the theory of technocracy Technology and Culture 23 : 392–416 Kasson, J. F. 1976 Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America 1776-1900 New York : Grossman Marx, L. 1964 The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America New York : Oxford University Press

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ENGINEERING AS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Sills, D. L. 1984 The trouble with technology Nature 309 : 185 Simon, H. 1981 The Sciences of the Artificial 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press Slovic, P. 1987 Perception of risk Science 236 : 280–285 Teuber, A. 1990 Justifying risk Daedalus 119(4) : 235–254 Tschinkel, V. J. 1989 The rise and fall of environmental expertise Pp. 159–166 in Technology and Environment J. H. Ausubel and H. E. Sladovich eds. Washington, D.C. :National Academy Press Weinberg, A. M. 1967 Social problems and national socio-technical institutes Pp. 415–434 in Applied Science and Technological Progress A report to the Committee on Science and Astronautics U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. : National Academy of Sciences Wildavsky, A. and K. Dake 1990 Theories of risk perception: Who fears what and why? Daedalus 119(4) : 41–60