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Fix-It Faith and Technocracy

Tonight at dinner I ~~started~~ got into an extended argument about technocracy, during which it was asserted to me that whatever faults I might find with our government could be quickly resolved if only we started electing really brilliant people to office.

This not uncommon belief that enlightened technocrats and politicians could easily solve complex problems demonstrates what the New York Times calls Fix-It Faith:

Americans have long had an unswerving belief that technology will save us — it is the cavalry coming over the hill, just as we are about to lose the battle. And yet ... over the past month it became apparent that our great belief in technology was perhaps misplaced.

This is a refreshing admission from the Times. I bet they're referring to the panoply of unintended consequences that are turning up in the (based on science) Health Care Reform bill they advocated for.

Wait, did I say the article was about politicians? I meant to say that it was about deep sea drilling:

“We’re pushing the envelope, but I personally believe that the technology, in terms of equipment and processes, will be able to keep up with what we’re doing — though this experience may slow things down,” said Stefan Mrozewski, a senior staff associate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, whose research involves projects like drilling boreholes in deep water to study chemicals under the seafloor.


He said the blowout on the rig and the apparent failure of the blowout preventer was “beyond the realm of expectation,” most likely a combination of unimaginable human and mechanical error. Noting that rigorous planning precedes deepwater drilling, yet “the risk is still not zero,” he said the accident last month would encourage designers and engineers to improve the technology and procedures, so that a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon explosion could not happen again.

Nonetheless, with his science background, his faith that "improved procedures" will surely stop the next disaster, his demonstrated facility at writing off unexpected consequences of risky projects as "beyond the realm of expectation," and his inability to imagine errors, he totally could be a technocratic politician.

If only they'd thought to ask whether he has any really clever ideas on financial reform or carbon rationing.

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