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The dark side of technology


Have We the Knowledge, Willpower, and Determination to Survive?Technology and Survival—Are They Compatible?Disaster movie scenariosWho will be vulnerable?The villainSatellite loss and air trafficWhat will happen in the modest sunspot scenario?A ground-based view of this modest eventHistory of auroras and sunspot activityVulnerability of modern interconnected power grid networksConsequences of power grid failuresThe real disaster situationWhen will it happen?How bad could it be?Wider area consequences of grid failuresWhich areas of the globe are at risk?Is there any good news?Knowledge is power and absolutely essential for survivalHow should we view technology?Natural Disasters and CivilizationA fascination with dangerEvents that happen only on geological timescalesEarthquakes and volcanoesFuture eruptionsEuropean effects from Icelandic volcanoesTsunamis and floodsRain stormsIce agesAttempts at climate predictionDisease and plaguesHow bleak are our prospects?Weapons of mass destructionThe good newsGood Technologies with Bad Side EffectsTechnological changes within our controlBeauty, style, and fashionProgress no matter whatAcceptance of new ideasHistoric examples of unfortunate technologyVictorian kitchensHindsight so farFrom Trains to TransistorsIndustrial revolutionsFood—small changes and big effectsThe dark side of the Industrial RevolutionUnderstanding pollutants in our own timePollutants and climate changeArithmetic for scepticsOther greenhouse gasesWhy are we reluctant to solve the problem of greenhouse gases?Ozone—our shield against ultraviolet lightTwenty-first century technology control of trace contaminantsBiological sensitivity to chemicals at levels of parts per billionPotential future difficultiesHow do we take control?Food, Survival, and ResourcesOur caveman conditioningCan we produce enough food?How much food do we actually need?Technology and obesityMore examples of our sensitivity to trace contaminantsCatalysis, enzymes, diet, and healthHow can we recognize when there are delayed side effects?How pure is our food?ConclusionThe ‘Silent Spring’ RevisitedFood, survival, and technologyFrom hunting to farmingEarly hunter gatheringGrowth of cities and long-range food transport—early RomeRepeated patterns from later European nationsTwentieth-century agricultural technologyThe bombshell of 1962Genetic time bombsHow successful is a monoculture with pesticides?Farming attitudes and black grassA return to a diversity of breedsFishingTechnology of mutationsWaterOptimism or pessimism?Medicine—Expectations and RealityMedicine—the scale of the problemAttitudes and expectations from experts and the publicUnderstanding side effects and drug testingDo we need such an immense medical system?Personal contacts between patients and doctorsGullibility and marketingSelf-destructionThe financial and health costs of our own failings and weaknessesDo we understand statistics?The dilemma of improving medical diagnosisWhere next?Knowledge Loss from Changing LanguageLanguage and why are humans so successfulDecay of language and understandingInformation survivalLost languagesLanguage and technologyLanguage evolutionReading and understanding past languagesThe challenge of translationLanguage and contextInformation loss in art images and picturesMusic and technologyDecay of Materials and Information Loss from TechnologyInformation and knowledgeInput technology and data lossInformation loss from technology of materialsWriting information to computersSuccesses and replacements of media for musical recordingsCD storageDomesday Book—parchment success and electronic failureText, graphics, and photographic storageA ‘law’ of the speed of written information lossPictorial information lossImages, photography, and electronicsSurvival of electronic image storageComputer power and information lossPatterns in data storageA broader canvas of the half-life conceptWhat are the possible solutions for data retention?The final question—will we be remembered?Technology, the New Frontier for Crime and TerrorHow to succeed in crime with minimal riskSmaller-scale computer crimesThe UK scale of cybercrimeHacking and securityEffective anti-hackingEspionage and securityMobile phones, cars, and homesMedical recordsDistortions of existing dataTechnology and terrorismThe futureTechnology-Driven Social IsolationIsolation driven by technologyIsolating technologies and the youngIsolating technologies for adultsJob huntingAccess to fast communications—who really has it?Electronic access for older peopleInflation and self-isolationPhysical problems of computers and smartphonesAge and mobile phonesPredictive textAge-related changes to sound and lightTechnology, colour vision, and ageingWill designers adjust their electronics for the elderly?Advanced medical centresCan we improve?Consumerism and ObsolescenceObsolescence and marketingSocial status and imageAcceptable or commercially driven obsolescenceReplacements before obsolescenceArmaments and warfareRejection of Knowledge and InformationHow eager are we to learn?Rejection from distrust, religion, and cultureExcessive reliance on initial opinionsInformation loss from an excess of dataAn example of plate tectonicsDifficulties for CopernicusWhom should we believe?Information rejection from geographic isolation, xenophobia, religion, and prejudiceNews coverageFailure to exploit resourcesParliamentary representation and practiceThe way forwardHindsight, Foresight, Radical Suggestions, and a Grain of HopeCivilization and our dependence on technologyHindsight on solar emissions and modern technologyTopics where we can control the relevant technologiesForesight, resources, and foodThe health industryBenefits of a smaller world populationIdeas to produce a revolution in human attitudesTechnology and political seating plansThe benefits of full equality for womenThe educational disaster of warThe two faces of technologyFurther Reading
 
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