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Freedom from Fear
Technology Development for Human Security


Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) Working Group

International Public Symposium on Challenges to Human Security in a Borderless World,  Chulalongkorn University

11 December, 2002


1. The concept: building human security


"The objective of human security is to protect the vital core of all human lives from critical and pervasive threats in a way that is consistent with long-term human fulfillment" (Alkire in Report, 2001).  Aiming for global human security then implies a confrontation with the "menaces that threaten the survival, daily life, and dignity of human beings" and a strengthening of the efforts to overcome the obstacles to security (Keizo in Sen, 2002). Such a wide and formidable mandate will require cultivation of the most pro-social values as well as the best thinking that humanity can offer. Every sphere of human life has a role in moving the world toward security: families, educational systems, trade, media, governance, sciences and arts. Our question here is:  How can technology development contribute to this social contract?


2. Technology as part of the problem


In spite of profound increases in human security deriving from technological development, the history of technology does not inspire confidence that further technological development can reduce fear and want because technology is itself the source of terrible, global threats (McGinn, 1991):

  • nuclear arms; biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction
  • toxic or lethal by-products of industrial and energy-generating processes
  • products that threaten the viability of the ecosystem


The reason for such technological threats lies with the location of science and advanced technology in the global political/economic system. This location has allied technological development with capital thus governments and private corporations are the primary stakeholders in, and beneficiaries of, technological innovation. In the most powerful circles of the western world, corporation-controlled technological innovation is regarded as the leading contributor and sine qua non of continued and enhanced societal well-being (McGinn, 1991). Power bestows ideological legitimacy, making this scenario seem inevitable. Industrial development is equated with sustained economic growth, which is equated with economic security which is equated with human security (Magarinos, 2001). Thus we have a world in which technological development is driven by the pursuit of power and profit, the results of which are then conflated with societal advancement.


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