Henry I. Miller
Stanford University

People are afraid of technology, no question about it. Some apprehension about new gadgets or products is just fear of the unknown that can easily be overcome with a little experience. But the “emotional dimension” of concerns about technology’s potential risk and threats to public health or the environment is less readily addressed and can have a profound impact on consumers’ acceptance of new technology. The new biotechnology—the use of precise, state-of-the-art molecular techniques for genetically improving varieties of microorganisms, plants, and animals—is a case in point.

As the government makes decisions about consumer products, fear and intimidation from several possible sources may distort the accurate assessment of risks, benefits, and possible alternatives. This can lead to decisions that are harmful from both an economic and humanitarian perspective. Understanding the emotional dimension can help health and food professionals and scientists to address largely emotional responses by the public and enable them to make more clear-headed decisions free from cynical manipulation. Read more . . .