I came across two tidbits of news yesterday that seemingly covered different areas, yet I couldnâ€™t help but put them together in light of stuff Iâ€™ve been thinking about lately.
The first was a story about the controversy surrounding AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company I wrote about a while back that has genetically engineered a super-salmon. The companyâ€™s fish, which grows faster than regular salmon, is on the verge of being approved for human consumption in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.
There are many people protesting this, of course, for all sorts of expected reasons: the fish are untested, they could contaminate wild salmon stocks, theyâ€™re a travesty against nature, etc. As the Mother Jones article says, the latest concern is that the salmon - because they have genes from other fish - could be more allergenic.
The second story that piqued my interest was a report by the Pew Research Centerâ€™s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which studied how the media covers technology news. Thereâ€™s a ton to digest in the report, but here are the parts that really got my attention:
The biggest single event or storyline during the year involved the perils of technology: the hazardous yet compulsive practice of texting while driving. Nearly one-in-ten technology stories were about this subject, more than five times the coverage of either the U.S. plan for broadband access and six times the coverage devoted to the debate over net neutrality…Â
…The findings suggest that in the mainstream media, particularly on front pages and general interest programs, the press reflects exuberance about gadgets and a wonder about the corporations behind them, but wariness about effects on our lives, our behavior and the sociology of the digital age.
That relates directly back to the protests surrounding the AquaBounty fish. While new technologies certainly should run a gamut of tests before being unleashed on the public, there does come a time when we need to chill out and let things happen. New technologies do bring unintended consequences, but the defining characteristic of the human species is our ability to adapt to such events. If the genetically engineered salmon really do provoke more allergies, scientists will either fix that with other technology or weâ€™ll figure out a way to deal with it. If we - and the media - continually worry about what might happen, nothing ever will happen.