The Sisyphean Cycle of Technology Panics

Paper by Amy Orben: “Widespread concerns about new technologies – whether they be novels, radios or smartphones – are repeatedly found throughout history. While past panics are often met with amusement today, current concerns routinely engender large research investments and policy debate. What we learn from studying past technological panics, however, is that these investments are often inefficient and ineffective. What causes technological panics to repeatedly reincarnate? And why does research routinely fail to address them?

To answer such questions, this article examines the network of political, population and academic factors driving the Sisyphean Cycle of Technology Panics. In this cycle, psychologists are encouraged to spend time investigating new technologies, and how they affect children and young people, to calm a worried population. Their endeavour is however rendered ineffective due to a lacking theoretical baseline; researchers cannot build on what has been learnt researching past technologies of concern. Thus academic study seemingly restarts for each new technology of interest, slowing down the policy interventions necessary to ensure technologies are benefitting society. This article highlights how the Sisyphean Cycle of Technology Panics stymies psychology’s positive role in steering technological change, and highlights the pervasive need for improved research and policy approaches to new technologies….(More)”.