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Technology In Our Lives Essay, Research Paper

Technology nowadays constantly seems to seep its way into our daily

routines. Everything we do is somehow connected with technology,

whether it be working on a paper in the computer lab, taking the H bus

to class, or even eating dinner at Brower Commons.. Without technology,

life would be more difficult than it already is, knowledge would be

limited and more difficult to achieve. The task of technology is to

create a better, and easier living for ourselves and for the world;

it’s intentions are only positive, unless looked on in the subject

matter of destruction, warfare or terrorism. Biotechnology goes down

deeper than the computer chips and electronic devices that people think

about when discussing technology. Biotechnology deals with the

concoction of technology and life, which brings up various moral issues,

yet at the same time acts positively for our world. It has been

practiced by human society since the beginning of recorded history in

such activities as baking bread, brewing alcoholic beverages, or

breeding food crops or domestic animals. Biotechnology in the case of

Monsanto is a step forward in the field of technology, and a step

forward for us. Without technology, our nation would not be where it is

today, and I hope we continue to push technology to its outer limits, if

that is, those outer limits do actually exist. Like most technological

advancements and breakthroughs, problems arise depending on the

willingness and readiness of us humans to accept the new form of


Biotechnology can be broadly defined as: using living organisms or

their products for commercial use. The company Monsanto, specializes in

biotechnology both in the pharmaceutical and agricultural fields. The

article “Playing God in the Garden”, written by Michael Pollan discusses

the topic of biotechnology in the field of agriculture, and touches

greatly upon the New Leaf Superior, one of Monsanto’s agricultural

products which focuses on potato farmers. This New Leaf Superior

product is basically a super-form of a potato. This super potato was

genetically engineered by scientists in Monsanto’s St. Louis research

lab to automatically repel any Colorado Potato Beetle – a potato farmers

worst enemy. The intent of this New Leaf Superior is to assist farmers

in farming potatoes, and as Monsanto states on its website

(http://www.biotechknowledge.com/primer/newleaf.html), it is clearly

having an effect on farming. “[The New Leaf Superior] is more effective

against potato leaf roll virus than any insecticide program, and it also

prevents rotting and internal defects. As a result, it reduces

insecticide use by over 80 percent, increases processor throughput,

reduces inputs, protects yields and improves quality.”

I asked myself : “Why does Monsanto only allow farmers to grow one

generation if they are trying to help them out?” The answer took some

thought but I came to a conclusion after Pollan explained the “software

metaphor”. Monsanto acts like a computer software company, only that

the company does not revolve around a computer like a software company

does. The company revolves around life. This company releases

“software” which assists us in completing tasks, gaining knowledge, and

succeeding. Like all computer software companies, Monsanto includes a

“CD key”, so that reproduction and piracy would not be possible. This

“CD key” is a gene added to the plant by Monsanto’s scientists for

identification purpose. After all, Monsanto did discover the New Leaf

Superior, which obviously took a lot of research and development.

Those against technology and it’s advancement are most likely opposed

to biotechnology as well. Included in the Unabomber’s manifesto is his

stressed position on technology and biotechnology. “Search the

Unabomber Manifesto and you find the word ‘computer’ frequently used in

conjunction with ‘control’ and ‘technology.’ The serial bomber blames

technology, especially computers, for a vast variety of social ills: the

invasion of privacy, genetic engineering, and ‘environmental degradation

through excessive economic growth’” (Heim 27). It is clear to say that

the Unabomber would most likely be against the New Leaf Superior because

of the fact that it is genetically engineered. Yes obviously, the New

Leaf is genetically engineered, rendering it artificial, but there is no

real proven problem posed here. All of the problems with the New Leaf

come from theories and ideas, which were never proven to be true.

Pollan explains a telephone conversation with Andrew Kimbrell, the

director of the Center for Technology Assessment, explaining a fear that

the Unabomber most likely shares:

“‘Biological pollution will be the environmental nightmare of the 21st

century, ‘ he said when I reached him by phone. ‘This is not like

chemical pollution – an oil spill – that eventually disperses.

Biological pollution us an entirely different model, more like a

disease. Is Monsanto going to be held legally responsible when one of

its transgenes creates a superweed or resistant insect?’” (Pollan 4)

Yes, Monsanto will be and should be held responsible if this

happens, but my belief when touching upon technology is that we are

always superior to it.

A computer runs off of mathematical algorithms and binary code,

which are both fabrications of man, putting the computer on a lower

level than the programmer, as Heim describes, “The computer is a

subordinate device.”(Heim 33). Using the algorithms and binary code, a

programmer is able to create anything he/she wants to within the

boundaries of the computer. The same concept applies for biotechnology;

man being the programmer and nature being the computer.. “One way to

look at biotechnology is that it allows a larger portion of human

intelligence to be incorporated into the plant itself” (Pollan 3)

Biotechnology will always be subordinate to us because of the fact that

we are the ones behind it. Like seen in many science fiction movies,

when technology is able to expand itself on its own, is when we lose our

position above it. If a resistance does happen, and the beetles do

become resistant, Monsanto will be able to mend the problem, using the

same research and technology they used while developing the New Leaf. In

the world of computers, when a virus comes up, experts go to work

dissecting the code of the virus to understand what it exactly does to

the computer. The programmers then go on to make a counter program

which contains the code that will contradict the pattern of the virus,

thus mending the problem.

The term artificial comes into the picture when discussing the

potatoes that the New Leaf plants create. These potatoes are

artificial in the sense that their natural growth and makeup were tapped

into and modified by man. Many see this as a health problem and are

afraid to eat the them.

“Last summer, biotech food emerged as the most explosive environmental

issue in Europe. Protesters have destroyed dozens of field trials of

the very same ‘frankenplants’ (as they are sometimes called) that we

Americans are already serving for dinner, and throughout Europe the

public has demanded that biotech food be labeled in the market” (Pollan


In fact the potatoes are as safe to eat as organic potatoes,

according to the FDA, which evaluated the nutrition and safety of the

New Leaf product a numerous amount of times. “Monsanto, for its part,

claims that it has thoroughly examined all the potential environmental

and health risks of its biotech plants, and points out that three

regulatory agencies – the U.S.D.A, the E.P.A. and the F.D.A. – have

signed off on its products” (Pollan 4) Obviously, these potatoes were

required to undergo numerous tests before they were open to consumers

and farmers for purchase, which I believe is a worthy endorsement that

the potatoes are safe to eat and grow. The new leaf potatoes fall into

the same category as the artificial communities discussed in paper #3.

An artificial, virtual community functions as a community, and delivers

a sense of community gratification to users, such like the New Leaf

Superior potato was developed by man, yet easily replaces an organic


Morality and ethics are also introduced when discussing the New Leaf

and biotechnology. Individuals believe that humans are not in the

position to meddle with nature, are not in the position to play god, yet

some in the past and present, including myself, place technology before

morality and ethics “Seventeenth century rationalists like Gottfried W.

Leibniz and Rene Descartes pushed computation and mathematical physics

far ahead of ethics and feelings. The Cartesian revolution in

philosophy put mathematical physics at the top of the list of priorities

while ethics became the incidental victim of skeptical reasoning.” (Heim

34) In Heim’s terms, Monsanto is the idealist, those opposed to

biotechnology, such as the Unabomber and the protesters in Europe are

the na ve realists, and I, myself would be an optimist.

I share the same view as Descartes and Leibniz, where technology

comes before ethics and moral issues. Yes, I do have moral principles

and I do think about them, but I believe that technology is essential to

the advancement of man now and in the future. I would place Heim, the

Unabomber, and those completely against technology in the category of

those who are not willing to accept and who oppose the fact that our

world is going through major technological advancement. The change is

quite evident, from the typical forms of communication to the new forms

such as fax, email, and chat. The typical forms of agricultural

development are now being moved in upon by technology. Like the

Internet and many other technological advancements, biotechnology is

being rejected by the whole. We need technology to learn more, to make

more happen. Biotechnology, such as the New Leaf and other forms of

genetic engineering aid greatly in the survival of the human race,

although it is not noticed now, it may be noticed in the future.

Technology is responsible for where our world is today. Knowledge is

power, and there is indeed, much knowledge through technology.

Technology is a powerful tool, which we have complete control over.

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