Jeremy Bentham, the founding father of utilitarianism, would have been delighted by technology assessment. Contemporary health policy planners are, unwittingly, aping the great man's felicific calculus, as they attempt to discern the efficacy and safety of magnetic resonance imaging or cardiac bypass surgery or extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. They try to design methods to calculate the effects of these technologies on mortality and morbidity and to compare the costs of one to the costs of alternatives. In recent years, the methods of technology assessment have been refined, but they remain, in essence, a copy of Bentham's proposal to plan and effect a rational course of action and to create a rational world.
The great philosopher and social reformer is, of course, still with us in a dessicated form. He bequeathed his body to the fellows of University College, London, and to this day his mummified figure is encased in a glass box, sitting in his favorite chair, dressed in his own clothes, his waxen face peering out with a bemused smile.