Kevin Folta: “Where we fail is in the deployment of technology”

University of Florida plant scientist Kevin Folta invests a lot of unpaid personal energy in science communications. In the volatile comments to Mark's Cornell speech, Kevin gently introduces the working scientist's perspective:

29 April 2013 at 8:31 pm

@Jim Bell . I’m sorry that you have such a negative view on the accomplishments of our human family. To me, I see it the other way around. Like you, I see us as remarkably clever, but I think we are somewhat wise. Where we don’t foresee a problem, we correct it, and learn from it.

The one instrument and technology that has changed the world the most is attached to that keyboard in front of you now. We are now instantly connected, interactive, learning together. Health care has brought our life spans to new highs with amazing new diagnostic methods and improved therapies. I could go on and on about how the human family has been a brilliant steward of technology.

There are bumps in that road. Use of nuclear weapons has been widely decried. Environmental disasters like DDT and others were halted, we learned, we corrected. Rivers once dead are alive. We make decisions with a consciousness that was not there years ago. We have a long way to go, but I think technology helps us be better caretakers of the planet.

There are successes. Nuclear power serves many in a carbon-free manner. DNA-based technologies now help diagnose and treat disease. We put a man on the moon 40 years ago. C’mon, this is good stuff.

We also have unprecedented means to predict and test for adverse effects of our technology. Genetic engineering is hardly a new science. We know more about how it works and its effects than ever. Our ability to detect problems, were they to occur, is amazing.

So unlike you I feel that our track record as a civilization is pretty awesome. Our handle on technology is great and the benefits massively outweigh risks.

Where we fail is in the deployment of technology. How can we use technology to get food, medicines, water, fuels to those that desperately need it? Once that is satisfied, how do we get them connected with educational resources and the best information?

Our job is to ensure that we leave the next 100,000 generations with a healthy, happy, functional world. Health, happiness and function will come from our understanding and implementation of science and technology.



1 thought on “Kevin Folta: “Where we fail is in the deployment of technology”

  1. How can we use technology to get food, medicines, water, fuels to those that desperately need it?

    The people who create that technology need to think beyond “need” and look to “why”. Why, in a world which has been industrializing for roughly 3 centuries, have so many been unable to adopt the successful ideas which made Europe and America what they are? When these ideas are not secrets, but widely published and pushed via training programs?

    “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” Being too idealistic leads to horrific failures, such as feeding the starving (who only starve due to their inability to plan for the future) only to see them get AIDS from ignorance and/or inability to defer gratification and then rape babies (giving AIDS to many of the survivors) in misguided attempts to cure themselves of the disease transmitted by their own foolish behavior.

    It is impossible to cure maladies born of personal and social failures.  The people involved must first learn to correct themselves before any aid can be effective… and such aid must be withheld until the prerequisites for its success are satisfied.

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