Fantasy fiction is filled with scientists who go too far. The most enduring trope for this kind of hubris is Frankenstein. It’s both the most famous monster story and the most misunderstood.
Bruno Latour, a renowned sociologist of science, has written that the terror of this tale is not the act of creation; it’s the consequence of abandonment. He points out that all new technologies are flawed, and they need sustained care to improve them. It’s not that Dr. Frankenstein went too far. He didn’t go far enough.
“Latour calls on scientists and engineers to cultivate a different kind of relationship with their work,” says Emma Frow, an assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the College of Global Futures at Arizona State University. “The word ‘care’ applies here, but more in the sense of governance than as something emotional. How do you ‘care for’ your ideas and innovations once they leave the lab and enter the complex, dynamic world we live in?”
Frow says parenting may offer a good analogy: it’s a long-term project. How do you best engage? When do you back off? What end are you seeking? She admits that this relational mindset is not always visible in science, where the prevailing perspective of praxis is the disinterested revelation of objective truth.