“Good enough” science & technology

In past readings of Schumacher, I hadn’t paid as much attention to the education chapter — or at least didn’t remember it as  well. I was struck by the hard line he draws between the humanities and the sciences. There’s no doubt that those distinctions still exist, but I think there’s a strong trend towards increasing dialogue between disciplines — at least in academia (and to some extent in the general public sphere). Schumacher says:

The sciences are being taught without any awareness of the presuppositions of science, of the meaning and significance of scientific laws, and of the place occupied by the natural sciences within the whole cosmos of human thought.

I think context has become pretty important here — as has a tacit understanding that technological and scientific progress can both enrich and detract from life.

My second point arises from my work in household energy and health in the developing world. There’s been a lot of attention (for us, anyway) on “clean” cookstoves as a way of mitigating exposures to health damaging air pollutants. Many of  the newest of these interventions are centrally engineered, metal stoves with many parts — not exactly “appropriate” technologies as originally defined. These have come to market in response to the failure in many parts of the world of the locally developed interventions to (1) meet technocratic goals and (2) satisfy the needs of the end-user (in this context, Schumacher’s rural poor). I wonder about this tension — between providing adequate service to end-users, meeting national and international heath and energy goals, and between scale — scale of technologies, distribution, organization, and impact. Any thoughts?