IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - March 2018 - 47

The Technological
Fix as Social
Cure-All
Origins and
Implications
Sean F. Johnston

I

n 1966, a well-connected engineer posed a
provocative question:
will technology solve
all our social problems? He seemed to
imply that it would,
and soon. Even more contentiously, he hinted that engineers
could eventually supplant social
scientists - and perhaps even
policy-makers, lawmakers, and
religious leaders - as the best
trouble-shooters and problemsolvers for society [1].1
The engineer was the Director of Tennessee's Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, Dr. Alvin
Weinberg. As an active networker,
essayist, and contributor to government committees on science

Figure 1. Engineers and scientists as social problem-solvers
[source: New York Herald Tribune, 7 Aug 1945 (the day after Hiroshima), p.22].
1
Weinberg's second speech on the topic was
more cautiously titled, and was reprinted
in numerous journals and magazines and
widely anthologized in university texts [2].

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2018.2795118
Date of publication: 2 March 2018

march 2018

∕

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

1932-4529/18©2018IEEE

47



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