Calestous Juma shares about “why people resist new technologies” in his new book – Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.
The book draws from 600 years of technological controversies ranging from attacks on coffee in Medieval Middle East and Europe to today’s debates on the potential impact of AI, drones, 3-D printing, and gene editing.
We eagerly embrace them (technologies) when they support our desire for inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment with nature. We do so even when they are unwieldy, expensive, time-consuming to use, and constantly break down.
Innovation and Its Enemies shows that resistance to new technologies is heightened when the public perceives that the benefits of new technologies will only accrue to a small section of society, while the risks are likely to be widespread. This is why technologies promoted by large corporations often face stiff opposition from the public.
What is the way forward? The answer might lie in the much-abused phrase “social entrepreneurship”. For many, this term is a euphemism for a charity or nongovernmental organization. But what is really needed is to bring the “social” back into “entrepreneurship”.
New technologies are essential to fostering economic growth, meeting human needs, and protecting the environment.
But their adoption is often held back by the incumbent industries and vested interests. The dilemma is that in many cases clinging to the old may in fact be in conflict with our humanity, especially in regard to our search for affinity with nature. As the American composer John Cage aptly put it: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
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