Solutionism, as presented in Morozov’s piece, read for class last Thursday, is presented as a simpleton’s idea of the world, a mentality accused of “reaching for the answer before the questions have fully been asked” (6). He goes on to use an example of a “smart kitchen,” ultimately tearing it down for the “more fruitful, more humanistic and more responsible ways to think about technology’s role in enabling human flourishing” (14). Is there really a way for us to quantify and judge what is more human and responsible, though? The quick fix, bandaid mentality is seen as a menace to other solutions, but for some problems, a solutionistic approach works.
Take Parkinson’s disease, for example. Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that causes tremors and stiffness that get worse over time, and is currently uncurable1. The direct cause is unknown, and while research for Parkinson’s is being funded, it could be many years before we even fully understand the disease, let alone cure it. As a result, one “bandaid” solution presented from Lift Labs is a camera stabilized spoon, which balances in the hand despite having tremors. In the video attached, it’s clear that this small gesture helps the patient feed themselves, allowing them more autonomy2. Is this a solutionistic answer? In the context discussed in class, yes. It doesn’t touch on any deeper causes or present huge results, but it is a small thing that makes someone’s life easier. Perhaps this is where solutionism fits in our society; as the bridge between understanding the symptoms and not understanding the causes.
I’m biased against Morozov’s mentality, primarily because “the will to improve” is the basis of bioengineering (my major). Many of the medical devices created today would be considered solutionistic technology, such as pacemakers (they don’t cure heart disease!), and insulin pumps (you’re still diabetic!). It might just be because of our time period, but we’re able to offer solutions that, while they don’t fix the cause, they fix the symptoms. As much as Morozov’s tirades against the idea that technology can fix everything, for some people, it allows them to keep living, and live a “normal” life.