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Confronting the Technological Society - The New Atlantis

In March 1962, a group of some two dozen experts met in Santa Barbara, California for a week-long conference sponsored by the editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica . The topic of discussion was “the nature of technology and its significance for human affairs.” A partial record of the conference — including papers written for it, reactions to those papers, and reports of the discussions — was published later that year in a special issue of the journal Technology and Culture , in time for the Cuban missile crisis to confirm the topic’s urgency. In the foreword to the issue, the encyclopedia’s publisher (and former U.S. Senator) William Benton wrote that “no one can take the measure of this time without taking into account the social, cultural, economic, and political impact of technology” and that the accelerating speed of technological change “carries with it promise of reward and threat of danger, each in unprecedented array.” And in the introduction, the conference papers’ editor said about modern technology that “if we are to avoid the disasters it lays open to us and take advantage of the opportunities it presents, we must put it in the control of reason.”