RE: Norplant as social engineering device?

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue 09 Sep 2003 - 06:13:07 GMT

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    >From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: RE: Norplant as social engineering device?
    >Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 01:32:53 -0400
    >Good example, thanks, Scott.
    >In the mid and late 70s, Technology Assessment (TA) was explored
    >aggressively by the National Science Foundation and other organizations.
    >idea and hope was that by studying secondary and tertiary effects
    >one might avoid the pitfalls that seemed to plague well-meaning social
    >engineering. The Aswan Dam had been a salutatory example, one that
    >could accept because it was a 'Soviet' project. It also became clear to
    >non-chauvinistic Americans that Americans too might make such social
    >engineering mistakes. Demonstration TA projects suggested that even with
    >most thoughtful looks at effects, society was complex enough that
    >the consequences of a social policy (or of a technology) was very
    >Complex models were developed, using the increasingly available computers,
    >to establish base-lines of societal variables, against which developmental
    >scenarios might be assayed and otherwise unidentifiable effects detected.
    >For example, EPA developed the massive SEAS model, which, as far as I know,
    >never rendered a practical result. (If anyone knows different, I would be
    >delighted to know it....) It was an Leontiev input-output model of the US
    >economy, showing material transfers among sectors, and included
    >waste/pollutants. Very ambitious, and a lot of hope was held out for it.
    >If anything, the degree of care that is brought to the consideration of
    >candidate public policies is worse than it used to be. TA seems now to be
    >given short shrift.
    >So I share your thoughts, Scott, on the need to proceed most cautiously and
    >thoughtfully, and with a lot of monitoring of effects, and a willingness to
    >modify the program. And in the light of current experience, as well as
    >past, I would add that the utmost transparency, accurate reporting, and
    >vigorous debate would be essential accompaniments to social policies and to
    >the deployment of new technology. And even with all of that, mistakes will
    >be made, and, sometimes, they will be big ones. But I don't see human
    >giving up on innovation and hope for progress.
    I tend to prefer Karl Popper's take on piecemeal engineering, short term and continually reassessed projects, to Utopian or holistic engineering, which is pie in the sky.
    >And: "hypnopedia"?
    My way of spelling hypnopaedia, which is Huxley's term for "sleep teaching", a means of programming an ideal citizen within the "utopia".
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: []On Behalf
    > > Of Scott Chase
    > > Sent: Mon, September 08, 2003 11:50 PM
    > > To:
    > > Subject: Norplant as social engineering device?
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > I'm finishing up the first read of Patricia Turner's book _I Heard it
    > > Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture_ (1993.
    > > University
    > > of California Press. Berkeley) and in her Epilogue she touches
    > > upon a topic
    > > relevant to recent discussion wrt birth control as social policy for
    > > population control measures. After submitting a draft of her book Turner
    > > noticed the emergence (ca 1990) of rumors that usage of the birth
    > > device Norplant was forced upon black women as a condition for receiving
    > > welfare benefits. Though a rumor she comments on there being a kernel of
    > > truth to it citing some suggestions in popular media that welfare
    > > mothers be
    > > encouraged via incentives (eg- $500 in money) to use Norplant.
    > >
    > > Turner says (page 222): (bq) "In all probability, the rumors that
    > > began to
    > > circulate about these devices [Norplant] were heavily influenced by
    > > attention. Since policymakers *have* suggested that welfare
    > > mothers be urged
    > > to have the devices implanted, some might argue that this
    > > constitutes "real
    > > news" as opposed to "mere rumor"." (eq)
    > >
    > > Focusing more on the kernel of truth here that these suggestions
    > > have been
    > > entertained, though Turner points out the outcry citing critics
    > > arch-conservative Cal Thomas casting this as a new form of
    > > eugenics, I urge
    > > caution about putting forward birth control measures (even
    > > voluntary ones)
    > > as a strategy for population control. Even a benign sounding idea
    > > to curtail
    > > population growth, a situation which putatively leads to people
    > > feeling the
    > > tears of privation and incubating xenophobic "memes", could have
    > > implications, even if unintended.
    > >
    > > Having choices available to individuals needing them is a noble
    > > cause, but
    > > when this becomes an exercise in social engineering, for instance
    > > if someone
    > > were to think that by encouraging certain people not to have children
    > > because their socioeconomic situation might breed a sense of privation
    > > leading to deleterious "memes", that's when we should be a little more
    > > cautious IMO.
    > >
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    > >
    > > ===============================================================
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    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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