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HIST365/STS203: History of Technology

Unit 9: Challenges and Reflections   As industrialization continues to spread throughout the Middle East and Asia, our terminology may shift to refer to the North/South hemispheric split rather than the East/West division. The most important technological developments today have global reach; consider computers and the Internet. The more tentative union of science and technology that emerged in the 19th century is now a tighter amalgam that some call technoscience. Technoscience refers to experimentation that requires massive technological infrastructure, such as scientific research conducted in space. Notwithstanding these advancements, criticism of technological progress has become more organized and professional, especially in the fields of biotech, nuclear power, energy, and environmental studies.
 
This unit provides a snapshot of technology in the present day, paying particular attention to energy, medicine, and computers. Complex socio-technical systems (networks of humans, machines, and institutions) are quite obvious in these fields. These topics also underscore how certain technologies have become global matters today that raise ethical and philosophical questions concerning the environment, human and civil rights, and humanity in general. Science and Technology Studies (STS) offers new perspectives on technology, such as feminist approaches and Actor-Network Theory.

Unit 9 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 20.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 9.1: 5.75 hours ☐    Subunit 9.1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.1.2: 0.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.1.3: 3.75 hours

☐    Subunit 9.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.4: 4.25 hours ☐    Subunit 9.4.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.4.2: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 9.5: 3.75 hours

Unit9 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- identify major fossil fuels; - discuss and analyze arguments for and arguments against natural gas; - discuss and analyze arguments for and arguments against nuclear power; - explain major ethical challenges of modern medical technology; - explain feminist interpretations of modern technology; - explain Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory; - explain the significance of Mars to the scientific community; - explain how CERN’s Supercollider contributed to the Standard Model; - explain the technical and organizational causes of the Challenger disaster; - identify major steps in the history of computing; - describe a case in which social media had political significance; - explain and identify examples of a major cyber threat; and - identify Ray Kurzweil’s predictions.

9.1 Energy and the Environment   9.1.1 The Historical Context   - Reading: San Diego State University’s World History for Us All: “Environmental Change: The Great Acceleration, 1900-1950” Link: San Diego State University’s World History for Us All: “Environmental Change: The Great Acceleration, 1900-1950” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, scroll down to the bottom of the webpage to locate the title (“Environmental Change: The Great Acceleration”), and click on the “Complete Teaching Unit PDF Format” link to download the PDF. Read “The Historical Context” (pages 3-7), and study the charts and graphs for “Using Charts and Graphs as Evidence of Environmental Change” (pages 11-28). Pay close attention to the technology changes involved and major trends in energy use. For example, notice China’s massive recent turn to coal, Saudi Arabia’s importance in oil production, the Soviet Union (and Russian Republic’s) stake in natural gas, and how dominant a prime mover the internal combustion engine has become.
 
Reading, studying the charts and graphs, and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
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9.1.2 Fossil Fuels and Greenhouse Gasses   - Web Media: TED Talks: T. Boone Pickens’s “Let’s Transform Energy – with Natural Gas” Link: TED Talks: T. Boone Pickens’s “Let's Transform Energy – with Natural Gas”  (Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and watch this talk by energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who argues that natural gas is the most viable alternative to coal in America. Be sure to listen to the question/response at the end. Take notes on the major arguments for natural gas. You may also read along with the transcript by clicking on the transcript drop down menu and choosing your preferred language.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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9.1.3 Nuclear Energy   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Debate: Does the World Need Nuclear Energy?” Link: TED Talks: “Debate: Does the World Need Nuclear Energy?” (Flash)
 
Instruction: Click on the link above, and view this debate on nuclear energy. Take notes on the major arguments for both sides. You may also read along with the transcript by clicking on the transcript drop down menu and choosing your preferred language.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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  • Reading: World Nuclear Association’s “Three Mile Island Accident” and “Chernobyl” Link: World Nuclear Association’s “Three Mile Island Accident” and “Chernobyl” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read these two detailed accounts of nuclear reactor meltdowns (one in the United States in 1979 and one in the Soviet Union in 1986) by an organization generally favorable to nuclear power. You do not need to remember the technical details behind these disasters, but focus on the importance of the cooling systems, the health and environmental concerns surrounding radioactive exposure, and changes in the industry as a result of these experiences. The Fukushima disaster in Japan (2011) is another stark reminder of the dangers of nuclear power generation.
     
    Reading and note-taking should take approximately 3 hours.
     
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9.2 Medical Technologies   9.2.1 Medical Technology in Context   - Reading: Colorado State University: Michael A. De Miranda’s “Medical Technology Teaching Primer” Link: Colorado State University: Michael A. De Miranda’s “Medical Technology Teaching Primer” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, locate the link at lower right titled “Download Free Teacher Content Primer,” and select the link to open the PDF file. First, study the graphic on page xi for a good look at the socio-technical system surrounding these technologies, and then read Section 1 that follows (pages 1-19). Pay close attention to advances of the 20th century, ethical concerns, social impacts, and the diffusion and transfer of medical technology.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 3 hours.
 
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9.2.2 Biomedical Engineering   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Paul Root Wolpe: It’s Time to Question Bioengineering” Link: TED Talks: “Paul Root Wolpe: It's Time to Question Bioengineering” (Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and view the entire video. Wolpe discusses controversial bioengineering projects such as cloning and robotic insects and animals. As you view this video, think about which (if any) projects you find morally objectionable, and why. You may also read along with the transcript by clicking on the transcript drop down menu and choosing your preferred language.
 
Viewing the video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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9.3 Technoscience   9.3.1 Particle Accelerators   - Web Media: YouTube: TED Talks: “Brian Cox on CERN’s Supercollider” Link: TED Talks: “Brian Cox on CERN's Supercollider” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and watch the entire video. Physicist Brian Cox at CERN discusses the Large Hadron Collider, in search for the Higgs Boson – discovered in 2012. Notice the size of the Collider and how the research would contribute to the Standard Model.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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9.3.2 Jet Propulsion Lab   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Charles Elachi on the Mars Rover” Link: TED Talks: “Charles Elachi on the Mars Rover” (MP4)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and view the entire video. The Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab explains the Mars Rover and other projects. Pay close attention to the unforeseen challenges of conducting research on Mars, and what about the planet holds most interest to the scientific community. The latest Rover (Curiosity) landed successfully on Mars on August 6, 2012. You may read along with the transcript by selecting the transcript in your preferred language from the drop down menu.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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9.3.3 Space Shuttle Disaster   - Web Media: YouTube: CNN’s “Challenger Disaster” Link: YouTube: CNN’s “Challenger Disaster” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Note that this resource contains graphic material. Watching this video is optional. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during liftoff, killing all astronauts on board. What was the cause of this engineering disaster? In the reading below, you will see that the answer was not as simple as one might think.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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  • Reading: NASA’s “Report of the Presidential Committee on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident Link: NASA’s “Report of the Presidential Committee on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link above, and read Chapters 4-6. Notice that a technical problem concerning the O-rings was the major cause of the accident, but the report entertains the decision-making process between management and engineers, workplace pressures, and the history of the O-ring issue – matters we might label “structural” or “organizational” rather than technical. The disaster becomes a case-study in the “socio-technical system” (subunit 7.3.1) that surrounded the space shuttle.
     
    Reading and note taking should take approximately 2 hours.

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9.4 Computers and the Internet   9.4.1 History of Computing   - Reading: The Open University: Mike Richard’s “The Birth of Modern Computing” Link: The Open University: Mike Richard’s “The Birth of Modern Computing” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read this short account of the history of computing. Pay particular attention to Conrad Zuse and the context of World War II.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 30 minutes.
                                           
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  • Reading: Internet Society: Leiner et al.’s “Brief History of the Internet” Link: Internet Society: Leiner et al.’s “Brief History of the Internet” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: This reading is a detailed history of the Internet from the 1960s to the present day. The authors are some of the computer engineers who were themselves participants in that history. In particular, focus on the following sections: “Introduction,” “Origins of the Internet,” “Formation of the Broad Community,” and “History of the Future.” You do not need to remember the technical details of this history, but note the role of the US Department of Defense (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA) and other major institutions, organizations, and universities. Also, take note of the coining of the word ‘Internet.’
     
    Reading and note-taking should take approximately 2 hours.
     
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9.4.2 Cyberspace   9.4.2.1 Social Media and Politics   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Clay Shirky: How Social Media Can Make History” Link: TED Talks: “Clay Shirky: How Social Media Can Make History” (MP4)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and watch this talk on social media in the U.S. and abroad. Pay attention to what is most unique about contemporary media technology by comparison to prior communications breakthroughs. Also, note the political influence that media technology is having in China and the United States. You may read the transcript as you watch the video by selecting your preferred language to view the transcript from the drop down menu.
 
Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.  
 
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9.4.2.2 Cyber Threats and National Security   - Reading: Council on Foreign Relations: Jonathan Masters’ “Confronting the Cyber Threat” Link: Council on Foreign Relations: Jonathan Masters’ “Confronting the Cyber Threat” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Council on Foreign Relations is an American think tank that advances U.S. national interests. Click on the link above, and read this article for an introduction to the major issues in cybersecurity today and the efforts by the U.S. government to contain the threat. Pay close attention to the various kinds of cyber threats, the major nations involved, and most recent U.S. Cybersecurity Policy under President Obama.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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9.4.2.3 Cybercrime and Privacy   - Web Media: TED Talks: “Mikko Hypponen: Three Types of Online Attack” Link: TED Talks: “Mikko Hypponen: Three Types of Online Attack” (MP4)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and view this video on the means through which individuals, corporations, and governments acquire information from computer users without their consent. Take notes on the three types of online attack, paying special attention to how governments infringe on the privacy of their citizens.
 
Watching this video and note-taking should take about 15 minutes.
 
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9.5 Rethinking Technology and Society   9.5.1 Feminist Technology Studies   - Reading: University of Oslo: Technology and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives: Gender, Technology, and Politics in Transition: Tone Bratteteig and Guri Verne’s “Feminist or Merely Critical? In Search of Gender Perspectives in Informatics” Link: University of Oslo: Technology and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives: Gender, Technology, and Politics in Transition: Tone Bratteteig and Guri Verne’s “Feminist or Merely Critical? In Search of Gender Perspectives in Informatics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read this paper on the gender and feminist analysis of modern technology. Pay close attention to the four topics in the discipline of informatics: computers, information, programming, and computer games.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 2 hours.
 
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9.5.2 Actor-Network Theory   - Reading: Ritske Dankert’s “Using Actor Network Theory (ANT) Doing Research” Link: Ritske Dankert’s “Using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) Doing Research” (HTML)
 
Instructions: In prior units, we have used the concept of socio-technical system to explain technology in society (subunit 7.5). Now, we will introduce a more recent theory, developed especially by philosopher Bruno Latour. His Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is one way to avoid the twin extremes of technological determinism (see subunit 3.1.3) and social constructivism, or the notion that social forces drive all technological changes. Latour does not believe that technologies and other “non-human actors” are fundamentally distinct from humans and society. As you will see in this reading, a “network” unites human and non-human actors. Click on the link above to access this introduction to ANT. You should leave the reading with a basic idea of what ANT is, based on concrete examples.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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9.5.3 Technological Futurism   - Web Media: MIT: Ray Kurzweil’s “Innovation Everywhere: How the Acceleration of ‘GNR’ (Genetics, Nanotechnology, Robotics) will Create a Flat and Equitable World” Link: MIT: Ray Kurzweil’s “Innovation Everywhere: How the Acceleration of ‘GNR’ (Genetics, Nanotechnology, Robotics) will Create a Flat and Equitable World” (Flash)
 
Instructions: Author and inventor Ray Kurzweil believes that our most cutting-edge technologies are transforming the world. His more controversial claim is that these changes are in fact predictable. Listen to this talk and take notes on how Kurzweil predicts the future of particular technologies. Which of his predictions do you find reasonable, and which (if any) do you find unlikely?
 
Listening to the lecture, note-taking, and answering the question above should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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Unit 9 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 9 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 9 Assessment” (HTML)

 Instructions: Complete the linked assessment.  
    
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