Technology and Genocide: What the Holocaust can tell us about perils of technological utopianism

Welcome back for another episode in the “22 Lessons on Ethics and Technology Series!

In this episode of the series, I speak to Dr. Eric Katz, and we take on the common utopian mythology of technology as inherently progressive, focusing specifically on the frequent slide from utopianism into terror. We talk about the uses of technology during the Holocaust and the specific ways in which scientists, architects, medical professionals, businessmen, and engineers participated in the planning and operation of the concentration and extermination camps that were the foundation of the ‘final solution’. How can we think about the claims of technological progress in light of the Nazi’s use of science and technology in their killing operations? And what can we learn from the Nazi past about how our commitment to a vision of technological progress can go horrifically wrong?


Dr. Eric Katz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy in the Department of Humanities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale in 1974 and a Philosophy from Boston Universityin 1983.  His research focuses on environmental ethics, philosophy of technology, engineering ethics, Holocaust studies, and the synergistic connections among these fields.  He is especially known for his criticism of the policy of ecological restoration. 

Dr. Katz has published over 80 articles and essays in these fields, as well as two books: Anne Frank’s Tree: Nature’s Confrontation with Technology, Domination, and the Holocaust (White Horse Press, 2015) and Nature as Subject: Human Obligation and Natural Community (Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), winner of the CHOICE book award for “Outstanding Academic Books for 1997.” He is the editor of Death by Design: Science, Technology, and Engineering in Nazi Germany (Pearson/Longman, 2006).  He has co-edited (with Andrew Light) the collection Environmental Pragmatism  (London: Routledge, 1996) and (with Andrew Light and David Rothenberg) the collection Beneath the Surface: Critical Essays in the Philosophy of Deep Ecology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000). He was the Book Review Editor of the journal Environmental Ethics from 1996-2014, and he was the founding Vice-President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics in 1990.  From 1991-2007 he was the Director of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program at NJIT. His current research projects involve science, technology, and environmental policy in Nazi Germany.

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