The God That Limps is a provocative analysis of the role of science and technology in a world economy that has undergone fundamental changes in the past few years. Colin Norman, a journalist and former senior researcher with Worldwatch Institute, argues that the mounting problems confronting rich and poor countries alike make technological change more and more urgent. But at the same time, they make the social impact of new technology more complicated. Sponsored jointly by Worldwatch Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme, The God That Limps challenges much of the conventional wisdom about science and technology. Norman demonstrates how the world's $150 billion per year investment in research and development is more suited to the military needs of the fifties than to the social needs of the eighties, and he argues that current policies in countries such as the United States are making the situation worse.
From the Worldwatch Institute and the UN Environment Programme - a smooth compendium of socially-responsible commonplaces about the current global effects of technology: "the God that limps" - after Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and metal-working whose limp made him the one imperfect Olympian. Norman's point, accordingly, is that technology is neither good nor bad, but merely a reflection of the economic and political forces in modern society. For technology, he reminds us, the 1970s brought some new realities: the end of cheap energy and raw materials; worldwide inflation and a sagging global economy; a social environment critical of unfettered capitalism. The technological initiative, however, still rests with the industrial nations: the US, USSR, Europe, and Japan jointly account for 97 percent of world research-and-development; the preponderant US R & D military budget, moreover, yields small returns on the investment dollar, generates few jobs, and ties up scientific resources to the detriment of basic research. Also, to meet competition from rapidly-developing nations in traditional economic sectors, the industrialized countries must encourage the growth of "high-technology, knowledge-intensive industries such as computers, microelectronics, and biotechnology." Taking the computer industry as a bellwether, Norman avers that more computers eventually mean fewer jobs and an acceleration of the present job shift out of industry into the tertiary sector (finance, insurance, government, etc.). The less-developed countries, meanwhile, are adversely affected by dependence on imported, inappropriate technology - to be countered, preferably, by technological cooperation among them. One cannot fault Norman's general desiderata - whether the involvement of industrial workers in the introduction of new technologies, or "the participation of people at all levels in the planning and execution of development programs." But none of this is visionary at this date, nor is it incisive (for an acute, sophisticated analysis of the technological/military symbiosis, see Mary Kaldor's The Baroque Arsenal, p. 989). So it comes out as a bland catch-up and consciousness-raiser - for students, chiefly, and other novices. (Kirkus Reviews)