Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 4/7 (400 words)

                                        Can/Should Technoscientists Do More to Promote Fairness    
Chapter 14 serves one purpose: that is to ask if people should concern that science might contribute to unfairness. Woodhouse lists four potential reasons that might lead to such concern. As he says, these reasons are "bold or foolish," (no offense)  and I would like to list several arguments against some of  his reasoning.

The first reason he brought up is money issue: the affluent nations that can best afford tech research. Under historical, geographical and cultural reasons, countries cannot be in the same pace. Some are developed country, some are developing country, and some are third world country. It is impossible to stop affluent countries investing R&D. However, affluent countries do help poor countries to perform R&D under certain circumstances. This reason seems to be entirely controlled by the government where scientists can hardly interfere.For example, NATO prohibits selling army technology to Communism country because technologies are top secrets. It is hard to say that scientist should do more to promote fairness in army technology, but they definitely are incapable of doing so (it is all up to the government). Thus, Woodhouse's first reason is somehow deviated from this chapter's argument.      

The second reason he proposes is that the ratio of investment in science has been increasing. and a lot of R&D are conducted in US, so a large proportion of R&D is for relatively affluent customer. This is unconvincing because it is based on a assumption that R&D done in affluent country are focused on relatively affluent customers, which might not be true. As we known, many researches in US are to make vaccine cheaper, to make energy cheaper that third world country can afford them. Also, the directions of R&D are more determined by the market. There are more poor people and less rich people. Some products are designed for low income population, and some are aimed at high income population.  This is like a trade-off between "earn less money in each transaction but do more transaction" versus "earn more money in each transaction with less total amounts of transaction."  For example, Moto X is a cheap phone that sells a lot in Mexico whereas Iphone is not so popular. Therefore, this reason seems not creating a lot of unfairness.

Generally, it is hard to say who is right or wrong since I did not deeply look into government policy about supporting foreign countries' R&D or market size of different income/interest population (I do not think Woodhouse did as well). The point I wish to make in this post is that how reasons can bounce back and forth in these controversy, and it is important to be open-minded and to carefully examine many aspects before making conclusion.

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