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The curse of Frankenstein: visions of technology and society in the debate over new reproductive technologies

Research output: Working paper

Published

Publication date2003
Place of publicationLancaster University
PublisherThe Department of Organisation, Work and Technology
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameOrganisation, Work and Technology Working Paper Series

Abstract

At each successive moment in their development new reproductive technologies have provided the occasion for virulent argument about the role of technology in human affairs. And more generally, technoscientific knowledge has long been held both in awe and suspicion, with the latter acting as a kind of counterbalance to the continuing cultural investment in the image of scientific knowledge as empowerment, as the motive force of beneficial change. Given this cultural ambivalence the paper focuses on media representations of cloning and the 'designer baby' (with the latter enveloping a debate that has run for almost a decade now) and explores the ways utopian images of a world rendered ever more amenable to human desires have been closely shadowed by just as compelling dystopian visions which are nevertheless constructed from the same cultural material. Figures of occidental folklore such as Frankenstein (or Jeckyll or Brave New World), thus function as something of a convenient shorthand for articulating unease with the direction and pace of technological development, or even voicing loss of confidence in the modernist technoscientific project of instrumental control. In these circumstances, the chimeric notions of the 'designer baby' or the human 'clone' appear Janus-faced, concurrently representing the powers of human creativity as well as the monstrous progeny of an excessive epistemophilia. They are in this sense potent metaphors for the biotechnological revolution's declared power to re-shape both nature and society - for 'good' or 'ill'.