, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 89-94
Date: 03 May 2011

Energy, Risks, and Metatechnology

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Technologies lower constraints and expand affordances. By doing so, they continuously redesign the feasibility space of the agents who enjoy them. The more empowering or enabling technologies become, the more likely they are to change the nature and scope of the risks that they may bring, both in terms of undesirable outcomes (possible damages or losses) and in terms of missed desirable outcomes (potential benefits or opportunities). As a consequence, technologies, by their very nature, tend to redesign the corresponding space of risks in which agents operate and interact. Like a string of paper dolls, it seems that technologies cannot shape actual constraints and affordances without also shaping the corresponding risks, both positive and negative.

A risk-free technology is therefore an oxymoron, as recent disasters and crises affecting the energy industry have painfully reminded us. Nevertheless, the intrinsically risky nature of technologies should not be reason for despair, for techn ...