History of a concept. Geolocate hunters using an application and thus avoid stray bullets when walking in the forest; capture carbon emissions using giant fans; support our tired bodies with exoskeletons to work longer… There is no shortage of proposals in the news to illustrate the idea that technological innovation is capable of solving the social and ecological problems that it has often helped to create.
The notion of technological solutionism imposed itself in public debate in 2014, under the pen of the American researcher of Belarusian origin Evgeny Morozov. In his work To solve everything, click here (FYP editions, 2014), the author highlights the unthought of the Promethean projects of Californian digital entrepreneurs who aspire to “to fix all the problems of the world”in the words of ex-Google executive Eric Schmidt, in 2012. By placing the individual at the center of the stakes, their market-driven technological optimism leads to obscuring the social and political causes of the problems, affirms Morozov .
Although the expression is recent, the work of a new generation of science and technology historians shows that the fascination with technological innovation long predates the creation of the Internet. “Technosolutionism is rooted in a worldview driven by two centuries of economic theory that the market and innovation could allow us to overcome environmental limits”says historian François Jarrige, author ofWe (sometimes) stop progress. History and decline (The Escape, 2022).
From the 19the century and the beginnings of industrialization, while the black smoke from factories aroused protests from local residents, engineers and public authorities competed with technical promises of depollution rather than reducing the production of toxic substances. “The smoke-eating stoves, supposed to swallow the fumes, represent one of the first forms of techno-solutionism in the environmental field”notes the historian.
Another name for ecomodernism
A century later, it was still technological innovation that manufacturers mobilized in the 1970s to respond to the explosion in automobile pollution, this time betting on improving engines and filters. One way to avoid questioning the uses and the explosion in the number of individual motorized vehicles.
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Source: Le Monde