Solving Problems but Only Reactively? Engineers, Laws, Corporations, and Technological Risk
The paper will use a number of stories drawn from the history of the automobile, from the 1930s to the 1970s, to illustrate examples of engineers’ relationships with technological risks. The paper will first use conference proceedings and other published sources as empirical evidence for the claim that engineers react to technological risks. Their work on reducing risk greatly increases around the passage of major regulatory legislations, as is evident in the published record. This claim, it should be noted, is supported by information that is digitized and searchable using tools that emerged only in recent years. Second, the paper considers a number of explanations for the paradox, including the idea that engineers are culturally prone to playing up the positive aspects of technology and downplaying negative aspects. The most powerful and convincing explanations suggest that corporate executives, rather than engineers, set technological prerogatives. Finally, the paper ends with a meditation on what these reflections entail about the relationship between technical communities, the law, and the ways that engineers understand themselves and the societies they seek to control.
See more of: AHA Sessions