Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future (Inside Technology Series) The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome
As far as natural catastrophes not caused in part by human action are concerned, this is an important book well presenting complex issues in ways understandable to the non-professional. But when moving into catastrophes caused, at least in part by human action, the book misses a lot.
There are also some oversimplifications and exaggerations. Thus, on pages 38-39 the author states "all the great reefs will be dead and gone within 50 years...obliterated by warmer seas just so that some of us can continue to live, or strive for, lives of conspicuous consumption." With due appreciation for the great reefs, it is hard to regard their disappearance as a "catastrophe" in line with those discussed in the book. And to explain the warmer seas in terms of conspicuous consumption is a gross oversimplification, to put it delicately.
As the author takes up humanity-caused global warming and its repercussions, some of which may indeed by catastrophic as rightly pointed out in the book, then other anthropogenic (caused by human action) possible and in part likely catastrophes should have been extensively discussed, such as resulting from biotechnology, robotics and nano-technologies. But these are not taken up, though their probability is much higher than that of a large comet hitting earth which is discussed. This reduces the comprehensiveness of the book.
Also missing is serious discussion of the socio-political requirements of effective counter-measures. Given the overall mood of the book, with which I largely identify, sudden unwarranted optimism came to me as a surprise. On page 41 very naïve trust in rather worthless efforts to reduce emission of green-house gases reveals lack of understanding by the author of the power and interest dimensions of the issue. Instead, he should have taken up the need for essential decisive globally imposed measures - which are unlikely before catastrophes strike, but should be thought through in advance.
Still this is an important book as far as it goes, which should be on the reading list of all decision makers.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem