"Can Technology Replace Social Engineering?" by Alvin M. Weinberg (in Thompson, pp. 41 - 48)

[Compiled by Gordon Ziniewicz]

1. According to Weinberg, had the focus of government shifted from technological problems to social problems? Do you agree with his assessment for 1966? What is the situation now?

2. How do social problems and solutions differ from technological problems and solutions?

3. Why do social problems exist? Do you agree with his explanation?

4. What is the aim of social engineering (p. 42)? What does he presuppose about the relation between individuals and society?

5. What do you think Weinberg means by "forcing people to behave more rationally"?

6. What is technological engineering simpler than social engineering?

7. What does he mean by a technological quick fix? Can social problems be fixed without removing the causes of the problems?


8. How is Marx's solution to the problem of poverty "typical of the approach of the social engineer"? (p. 43)

9. According to Weinberg, what has been the technological quick fix for poverty? Do you agree that it has worked? To what extent?

10. What is the traditional (and Chinese) solution to the problem of war?

11. What has been the technological quick fix for war? Is the peace achieved this way more than just "terribly fragile"?


12. What is the technological quick fix to the problem of birth control (or over-population)?

13. According to Weinberg, what or who is to blame for environmental problems, such as the shortage of water?

14. How does the social engineer view the age-old practice of "stealing water"?

15. How does the water technologist view the practice of trying to convince people to conserve water?

16. What technological quick fix does Weinberg offer for the problem of water shortage?

17. Would this solve the water shortage problem for everybody? Has Weinberg's prediction come true?

18. What other benefits, including environmental ones, does he see as deriving from this technological solution?


19. What quick fix does he foresee for problems in education? What quick fix does he foresee for traffic deaths, riots, and unhappiness?

20. What are some shortcomings of technological solutions to social problems?

21. How could problems causes by nuclear threat to smaller or poorer nations be resolved?

22. How would nuclear desalination solve problems between haves and have-nots, even in the Middle East? What do you think of Weinberg's view?

23. According to Weinberg, will technology replace social engineering? Why or why not? What contribution can technology make?

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