The Labyrinth of Technology


476 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8385-4
DDC 303.48'3




Reviewed by Jeffrey Moon

Jeffrey Moon is head of the Documents Reference/Data Centre at Queen’s


Most of us never look at the technological trappings that surround us in
terms of their total burden on the world we live in. Willem H.
Vanderburg describes how science and technology, driven by economic
imperatives, has created a “labyrinth of technology” with associated
environmental and societal burdens. In this labyrinth, these burdens are
mitigated only when required by law, and “then in ways that rarely get
to the root of the problem.” In the most common scenario, problems are
merely transferred “from one place to another.”

As the scale of economic activity has increased, we have grown in our
awareness of environmental impacts, but have not progressed as far in
our understanding of parallel societal impacts. This book proposes a
thoughtful and well-researched set of preventive approaches to these
concerns. Vanderburg skilfully blends technological insights from the
social sciences and humanities with his own experience as a professional
engineer to formulate a “prescription” for improving the situation.
Fundamental to this prescription is a reformulation of formal
engineering education to include “a sense of foresight” about the
environmental and societal impacts of technology.

At over 450 pages, this is a substantial work. It is richly referenced
and well indexed. Real-world examples and practical analogies are used
to illustrate concepts. The book’s strength lies in the successful
marriage of the “hard” and “soft” sciences to argue for a new,
forward-thinking approach to the technological problems facing humans,
individually and collectively. Proponents of technology with a
conscience—and this should include us all—will find The Labyrinth of
Technology a fascinating read.


Vanderburg, Willem H., “The Labyrinth of Technology,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,