Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


quinta-feira, março 31, 2005

Fear of technology

IT MAKES planes fall from the sky! It causes explosions at petrol stations! It gives you cancer! It helps terrorists! What is this terrible device? Why, the mobile phone of course, which is simultaneously the most successful digital device on the planet (1.7 billion users and counting) and the origin of all sorts of myths and scare stories.
On the face of it, there is a contradiction here: mobile phones are ubiquitous and indispensable, yet they have also given rise to a curious bundle of safety fears. But it is, in fact, quite normal for successful technologies to cause concern when they are first introduced. In the 19th century, people worried that telegraph wires were affecting the weather, or were a form of black magic. Trains were thought to cause nervous disorders. More recently, people have worried about the health effects of overhead power lines, microwave ovens and radiation from computer monitors—though years of research have failed to find evidence of harm. So the reaction to mobile phones is merely the latest example of a familiar pattern.
As new technologies emerge and the pattern repeats itself, two things are worth bearing in mind. The first is that even when a technology is perfectly safe, the nature of scientific proof makes it impossible to verify. It is only possible to look for evidence of harm, and if none is found, there either is no harm, or it is necessary to look for it in a different way. Evidence that mobile phones are dangerous could still emerge, but so far they would seem to be safe.



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