Inderscience Publishers

Chapter 4: three industrial revolutions

The management and prevention of technological risks and failures pose various industrial, political and theoretical challenges. This is due to the fact that the increasing complexity of technological systems invariably leads to increasing risk, especially when scientists and engineers are constantly pushing the limits of technological knowledge, harnessing vast forces of nature without full knowledge of the nature of the forces or the risks involved. To fully understand and manage technological failures one must analyse the causative factors that lead to failure. An analysis of causative factors alone, however, is inadequate, and will not yield an adequate theory of technological failure. One reason is that an exclusive focus on analysing causes does not give us a sense of the growing urgency concerning the increased danger of high technology. An historical analysis can reveal the cumulative effects of technology and the interrelationship between history, human progress, technological development, and the ever-increasing magnitudes of technological hazard. When one turns to the history of technology, it becomes increasingly evident that with each developmental revolution in technology, the potential hazards become more dangerous.

Keywords: technological failure, technological risk, industrial revolutions, technological history

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