Monday, August 10, 2009

Newsweek calls Germany "techonophobic"

In a rather uninformed article, Newsweek says that Germany suffers from technophobia, mainly because it rejects genetic engineering and nuclear power. The article makes it sound like Germany is no longer on the cutting edge of technology.

You would therefore not expect Germany to actually produce more patents per capita than the United States, but in fact all of Europe clearly outperforms the US in this respect, at least according to these figures.

Newsweek basically completely misunderstands the mindset over here by attributing opposition to certain technologies to a general fear of technology overall. In fact, Germans are the leaders in certain areas, as the article itself points out:

German companies remain world leaders in information and alternative-energy technologies, and the hurdles they face have more to do with a lack of venture capital than technophobia.
But the article's conclusion does not follow:
Already, a small but rising majority of Germans say the decision to shut down nuclear power was wrong.
That is simply wrong. Germany has not opted to "shut down" nuclear power, but rather to decommission its plants after 32 years instead of extending their lifespan to 40 or 60 years, which is being considered in countries like the US and the UK. Furthermore, since the previous governing coalition under Schroeder passed this legislation, Germany has been split right down the middle, such as 46 percent for and 46 percent against the current decommissioning schedule, with eight percent undecided (that is not a majority).

By focusing on a presumed fear of technology, the article fails to realize that the people who are in favor of IT and renewables are the same ones who are against genetic engineering and nuclear. So there is no battle over here between (on the one hand) technology advocates in support of renewables, nuclear, genetic engineering, and IT and (on the other) people who are afraid of all of these technologies. Rather, an informed public -- the likes of which Newsweek probably cannot imagine -- is debating the pros and cons of everything.

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