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Chapter 35 : Facing the Forces: Science, Technology, and Society
People use all technologies for the same purpose: to change the environment so that the natural world suits us better. Technologies not only alter the environment; they change people. Beneficial technologies that meet legitimate societal needs can also have negative societal impacts, some of which are also unpredictable. The concept of technology encompasses the practices and products humans develop to modify and control nature for sustenance and comfort. As science-based understanding of the natural world broadened and deepened, science and technology began to converge, and progress in one began to drive advances in the other. Some people argue that the economic and social benefits that science-based technology development has provided to some of us are not worth the costs, particularly to the environment, paid by all of us. Not only do science and technology affect society, but societies also affect science and technology development. Knowledge really is power, so understanding something about two of the primary forces that make today's world go round-science and technology makes people less vulnerable to manipulation by others. Finally, and probably most surprising to those who think science has all of the answers, one has to be comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, and being wrong-a lot. Dismissing decisions about science and technology as someone else's concern makes it easy for a handful of people to control the most powerful forces shaping the modern world.