The (Un)availability of Human Activities for Social Intervention: Reflecting on Social Mechanisms in Technology Assessment and Sustainable Development Research
This article considers human activities as a central but deeply problematic aspect of sustainability. We argue that radical reduction in human activities could be an important lever to counter problems such as climate change. However, instead of pursuing a normative hypothesis that human activities ought to be subjected to specific kinds of sustainability measures, we pursue the hypothesis that human activities are largely unavailable for sustainability measures, because as an aggregated global
... phenomenon they are subject to social mechanisms, which accelerate rather than slow down activities. While social mechanisms are human inventions that render (inter)actions unlikely likely in the first place, they have evolved towards structural and historical embeddedness, which makes them unavailable for any instrumentalized design. The question is, how can we, experts in technology assessment, recognize social mechanisms in strategies to reduce human activities and to achieve a transformative impact on systemic reproduction. Our discussion centers on technical, psychological, and communicative social mechanisms of reproduction, and experiments with ideas of how to utilize social mechanisms and the (un)availability of human activities in technology assessment and sustainable development research.