Alvin Weinberg and the promotion of the technological fix
Johnston, Sean F.
- Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
‘The term “technological fix", coined by technologist/administrator Alvin Weinberg in 1965, vaunted engineering innovation as a general technique for circumventing problems commonly conceived as social, political or cultural. As a longtime Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, government consultant and essayist, Weinberg actively promoted the hubristic notion as a tool for science policy and societal improvement. \ud \ud Self-described as a “Progressive" early in his career, Weinberg’s activities demonstrate a lifelong attention to science and technology for the benefit of society. His neologism “Big Science" captured the competitive funding environment associated with national goals after the Second World War. Big Science reoriented towards Technological Fixes, he argued, could provide a new “Apollo project" to address social problems over the decades to come.\ud \ud This paper traces the genesis and promotion of the concept by Weinberg and his contemporaries. It argues that, through it, the marginal politics and technological confidence of interwar scientists and technocrats were repositioned as a mainstream notion closer to the heart of Big Science policy. \ud \ud By consolidating ideas circulating within and beyond his career networks, Weinberg became a seminal spokesperson for this evolving environment of practice. He was an active voice in nascent Science and Technology Studies, and his ideas – summarized, anthologized and disseminated in wider culture – have channelled confidence and controversy ever since, most recently echoed in the Silicon Valley idea of “solutionism