The Social Control of Science and Technology

Michael Baram, Boston Univeristy School of Law


S CIENCE and technology increasingly work changes in the complex matrix of society. These changes pervade our ecological systems and our physical and psychic health. Less perceptibly, they pervade our culture, our values, and our value based institutions such as the law. In turn, our values and institutions shape the progress and utilization of science and technology.

As we know, science and technology have provided society with enormous material benefits and a higher standard of living and health. But we now realize that this process has been accompanied by alarming rates of resource consumption and many new hazards to ecological systems and health.

Social response to these unexpected problems has been of a remedial nature - e.g., how to diminish pollution through regulation and technology. But it must be repeated that our values and institutions shape the progress and use of science and technology, and therefore the fundamental social response must be of a preventative or a priori nature to the extent that this is possible.

This important task can be described as the need to formulate coherent and humane social controls on science and technology.