Summary of "The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism"

 

Summary of

The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism

By Charles Piller

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff


Citation: The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism, Charles Piller, (U.S.: Basic Books, 1991), 277pp.


The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism is an examination of the growing concern about modern science and industry including: new biological capabilities, biomedical research and the prospect for democratic decision-making about science and technology.

The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism will be of interest to those who seek an understanding of the growing public concern about American technology. The first chapter examines the change from heavy reliance on and optimism about technological solutions to distrust toward technology. The chapter discusses the NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome and risk factors. The second chapter discusses the relationship between lack of public control of science and the evolution of public fears. Toward this end the author examines governmental controls, the concern about checks and balances, and the basis of a technological culture.

The third chapter is devoted to an examination of the concerns about radiation at Rocky Flats. In this chapter there is a lengthy discussion of the community reaction to the storage of radioactive materials at the Colorado Front Range site. Included are consideration of the NIMBY syndrome in this context, and the local activists who opposed this storage. Chapter four discusses the so-called ?new biology'. Specifically, the safety of and commercial applications of biotechnology such as advanced genetic sciences.

Chapter five examines biomedical research specifically addressing the Laurel Heights Campus of the University of California at San Francisco. Additionally, the chapter considers animal rights concerns. Chapter six is an examination of the far-reaching impact of NIMBY activism. It evaluates the technical dimension, the sources of conflict, and environmentalism. The seventh and final chapter addresses the prospect of democratic decision-making about science and technology. Discussed are strategies for fostering effective public participation, the evaluation of risks, and the new politics of technological choice.

The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism will serve as a foundation for those who wish to pursue the topic further.