The immediate lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are pretty obvious – we (or at least somebody) messed up! But what about the less-obvious lessons – especially those concerning technology innovation and how it’s handled? The Fall 2010 issue of Findings – the University of Michigan School of Public Health Alumni magazine – contains a short piece addressing just this question. As is increasingly becoming my habit, here’s an earlier draft of that article. As well as providing a little more information that the published piece does, it allows an interesting comparison between a good draft (what I think works) and an expertly edited final article (what the editor thinks will work). As usual, I was more than impressed by how a good editor can sharpen a piece up. In today’s increasingly crowded, interconnected and resource-constrained world, we are more dependent on technology innovation than at any previous time in human history. By 2050, over nine billion people will be placing unprecedented demands on the earth’s resources – a demand that will only be met through developing and using new technologies. Yet technology innovation comes with its own challenges. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico provides a sobering reminder of what can go wrong when we trust in technology without investing sufficiently in the future. Devastating as this disaster has been though, it is only one small example of the challenges we will face as a global society as resources become scarcer, demands become greater, and our technological reach threatens to exceed our ability to handle it safely.
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