Do we fear from the future?

In the late 1960s, I ran home from school to join my family and millions of others in watching the unfolding drama of the Apollo space missions. By the 1990s, millions made a different technological pilgrimage into the weightless world of cyberspace.

Yet modern, miniaturized technology means the drama of the rise of the Internet was not played out by an elite group of astronauts but by millions of people around the world. We were the drama. Digital media, communications and computer technologies are becoming part of the environment in which we conduct our lives. In the decades to come, genetic technologies and microscopic robots assembled from atoms may well migrate into our bodies. Technological advance can make us feel triumphant and terrified hopeful and alarmed in quick succession. It is perhaps because our lives are so enriched by technology that we worry about becoming dependent upon it, doubt its promises and fear the future it might create for us. Spreading alarm is good business. Fear and terror are as much part of the modern entertainment industry as excitement and sex. Science provides an obvious villain.

Why do we fear the future so much? A century ago, many key scientific breakthroughs were made by lone amateurs working in laboratories at home. Modern societies driven by technological innovation are constantly changing and so can be both exhausting and unsettling. Developed societies invest in change systematically from research and development to fashion and marketing. Our systematic capacity for change means that we are constantly in transit. We live in an upgrade culture, in which our satisfaction with our TV, computer or car is overshadowed by the knowledge that the next big thing is only just around the corner. Science may bring new risks, but it is alarmist to fear that we cannot make technological advance work to humanity’s advantage.

by Charles Leadbeater, The Observer, 2002


1. According to the text, the Internet
A. revolutionized the lives of a vast multitude of people all over the world.
B. impacted upon the lives of a small and privileged minority.
C. became part of a global theatrical performance
D. sent people on piligrimages into outer space

2. The author claims that technological innovations
A. tend to frighten and alarm people.
B. tend to produce a sense of triumph and exhilaration.
C. may both terrify people and give them a sense of triumph and exhilaration.
D. hardly ever affect anyone.

3. A century ago, most major scientific discoveries were made by
A. well – trained experts, who belonged to close –knit scientific communities.
B. people, who lacked specialized professional training and worked in isolation
C. morally committed humanists.
D. none of the above

4. Developed societies in the contemporary world
A. opt for stability over change.
B. have a high potential for systematic change.
C. find it difficult to adapt to technological innovation.
D. discourage scientists from facing new risks and challenges.

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