institute with funding from the state. Its goal was not only to produce knowledge of the phenomenon but also to prepare large scale commercial applications. It seemed possible atfirst that cold fusion would revolutionize electricity production and transform the worldeconomy.We know the end of the story. Within a short time cold fusion was discredited and mostresearchers lost interest in it. The institute at the University of Utah closed in 1991 andsupport for further work in this field quickly evaporated (Simon, 2002). These events providea particularly clear illustration of the complexity of the relation between science andtechnology today.The classic but generally discredited account of these relationships holds that science is a body of truths about nature and technology an application of these truths in the production of useful devices. Truth and utility belong to different worlds linked only by the subordinationof the latter to the former. But historians have shown that few technologies arose asapplications of science until quite recently. Most were developed independent of science and,indeed, in cases such as optics had more impact on science than vice versa. Science is evenmore dependent on technology today than in the past. It is true that the 20
century saw adramatic increase in practical applications of scientific knowledge, but this new situationdoes not reveal the essence of the science-technology relationship. Rather, it confounds thecommon sense distinction by establishing the productive character of science itself.
In any case, the classic model does not describe cold fusion. Fleischman and Pons didnot apply any existing science in their work but made an empirical discovery of the sort thatwe associate with invention. They were not seeking to confirm or invalidate a theory withexperiment as philosophical accounts of scientific method would have it, but rather aimed to produce an unexplained (and ultimately unexplainable) effect. Their discovery employed atechnical device that was both an experimental apparatus and a commercial prototype.Accordingly, the two pronged launch of their discovery aimed at both the scientific and the business communities.Cases such as this one proliferate in the biological sciences, where scientific techniquesare deployed in the search for results of interest not only to researchers but also to pharmaceutical houses. Products and knowledge emerge from the laboratory together. The pursuit of knowledge and the making of money are joined in a single labor. The distinction between science and technology appears to break down. Hence the widespread use of theterm “technoscience.”
Distinguishing Science and Technology
Postmodern scholars and many researchers in Science and Technology Studies no longer believe there is any distinction of principle between science and technology. Certainly the boundaries are much fuzzier than in the past. But if we conclude that they are no longer distinguishable at all, what becomes of the associated distinctions between theory and practice, research and application, scholarship and business, truth and utility? Must they begiven up too?The old distinction between science and technology and all these associated distinctionsimplied a value hierarchy. Science, theory, research, scholarship and truth were considerednobler than technology, practice, application, business and utility, in accordance with theancient preference for disinterested contemplation over worldly activity. This hierarchygrounded the demand for the complete autonomy of science. In 1948 P.W. Bridgmanexpressed this “ivory tower” indifference when he said “The assumption of the right of society to impose a responsibility on the scientist which he does not desire obviouslyinvolves the acceptance of the right of the stupid to exploit the bright” (Bridgman, 1948: 70).