>Hiroshima and Nagasaki are livable, forests have been restored, wetlands have been restored, rivers, and lake cleaned up, species such as the American Eagle and the American alligator brought back from the edge of extinction...need I go on? <
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by single bombs. The incidents stopped WWII, but only because one nation possessed the knowledge for making the bomb. These days, however, nobody drops bombs on each other due to the threat of nuclear retaliation, thereby underscoring the unpleasant fact that too many nations now have "the bomb" (including versions more lethal than the 1945 models). Unfortunately, even that may change now that the Islamic world has been brought kicking and screaming into the Age of Technology. In the Western world, wars were fought for conquest and some sort of net gain ("the spoils of war"). All nuclear-stopgaps go out the window, however, when you've got state-backed religious fundamentalists who seek to destroy for the sake of destruction.
As for eagles and alligators, guess again. A new book - "Monster of God" - explains how virtually all the "alpha" predators like crocodiles, bears, tigers, etc. will be gone from the wild by the year 2050 unless humanity steps in to protect these creatures. Yeah - we can reverse the process, but will we if there's no financial gain? Why did it have to come to this in the first place?
>The Titanic didn't cause herself to sink. Her watch team had a nasty accident where they blundered into an iceberg.<
>The World Trade Center towers didn't cause themselves to fall, and neither did the aircraft that were flown into them.<
True. And this is where the folly of human nature comes into play when new technologies are "thunk" up.
The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that? As many have claimed, if those bulkheads had gone all the way up, the ship - at the very least - would have taken much longer to go completely under, thereby allowing nearby ships to come and rescue the passengers.
The Einsteins who built the Trade Center allowed for an impact from the largest plane then-known - yet completely overlooked the fire what would have resulted from jet fuel (not to mention that it is conventional firefighter knowledge that ANY fire above the 8th or so floor is difficult to control - so why place people in jeopardy in the first place?).
Now - does that mean that buildings could have been built which would have survived the terrorist attacks?
No, because, from the start, jets were - and will always be - essentially jumbo-sized, airborne molotov cocktails. Amazing that it took a Third World mind to notice that.
It seems, then, that - for all the intense thinking and evaluation done by the "great" minds who invent these new technologies - there's always a sucker punch delivered at the most tranquil of moments (a moonless night, a beautiful day).
>inanimate objects can't act of their own volition.<
>The term I used is morally neutral.<
Interesting that the question of morality is brought up here, insinuating that technology kills only when people use it for "bad" purposes.
But what about those times when technology malfunctions?
"Guns don't kill people, people do" overlooks the numerous deaths each year from kids who find guns in the house. Yes - the person owning the gun is responsible; however, just a much to blame is the design of the gun: it allows for the snuffing out of a life in a fraction of a second. Granted, this design is the result of the human mind - nevertheless, it's the momentary absence of a (knowledgeable) human mind which ends up being killing those kids.
Or what about when technology is put in charge of people?
The tag line for Micheal Crichton's first foray into the amusement park drama says it all: "Westworld - where nothing can go wrong... go wrong... go wrong..."
Technology was not the cause of The Titanic and the WTC disasters - but it was directly responsible for the grand SCALE of these events.
Same with the Lusitania (which, btw, is what I consider the true historical equivalent of the WTC - not the attack on Pearl Harbor as so many are quick to identify).
Sure - accidents will always happen and aggressors/terrorists will always strike. But putting thousands of lives in one mega-structure only means that when something fails, the resulting loss of human life will be catastrophic.
For that matter, look at how x-rays were treated upon their discovery: "Healthful", "Rejuvenating".
As the line from "Jurassic Park" goes: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think whether they should".
Or what about those instances when technology gives one a false sense of security?
Sure - Captain Smith was going too fast. But was he operating under the assumption that any collision would not result in the ship's sinking.
Sadly, such erroneous reasoning continues to happen.
Here where I live (NYC), recently, three teenagers took a rowboat out on a lake - in an area which was off-limits because of its known dangers - and ended up drowning. They had a cellphone and called 911, but all the 911 operator heard was "Help - we're out here and we're going down-". 911 didn't respond to the call because it subsequently knew nothing. Later, it was revealed that software which could reveal the location of a phone call was due to be installed in the 911 system but had been delayed for whatever reason. The parents of the victims, naturally, were outraged, saying that if said software had been installed their children would still be alive. My reaction, however, was "who put it into those kids' minds that a cellphone would keep them out of trouble out on open water?"
I am reminded of an exchange between the paleobotanist and the creator of Jurassic Park: "'It's still an illusion!' 'When we have control again-' 'You NEVER have control, John! That's the illusion!'"
>All this is way off the topic though. <
Believe it or not:
"Morally, of course, the owners and builders are responsible, but at present moral responsibility is too weak an incentive in human affairs - that is the miserable part of the whole wretched business - to induce owners generally to make every possible provision for the lives of those in their charge; to place human safety so far above every other consideration that no plan shall be left unconconsidered, no device left untested, by which passengers can escape from a sinking ship. But it is not correct to say, as has been said frequently, tht it is greed and dividend-hunting that have characterized the policy of the steamship companies in their failure to prvide safety appliances: these things in themselves are not expensive. They have vied with each other in making their lines attractive in point of speed, size and comfort, and they have been quite justified in doing so: such things are the product of ordinary competition between commercial housees.
Where they have all failed morally is to extend to their passengers the consideration that places their lives as of more interest to them than any other conceivable thing. They are not alone in this: thousands of other people have done the same thing and would do it to-day - in factories, in workshops, in mines, did not the government intervene and insist on safety precautions. The thing is a defect in human life of to-day - thoughtlessness for the well-being of our fellow-men; and we are all guilty of it in some degree. It is folly for the public to rise up now and condemn the steamship companies: their failing is the common failing of the immorality of indifference."
- From "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley
>Getting back to the topic: Will We Look Like That to the Future -- I think Bob is on to something. ...we still are enthralled by all the things we can do, without asking ourselves too deeply why we do them, what is the purpose, what are the possible consequences. <
Bob is always on to something.
Here's the bad news:
Our current society - everywhere, from West to East, North to South - and in fact the entire Age of Technology - are all based on a simple but critical premise: gas and oil are cheap and easily obtainable fuel sources. Take a look around you: nearly everything you see - buildings, furnishings, food, etc. - was either manufactured or transported - or even both - courtesy of hydrocarbons.
Now then, in about 100 years (as the title of this thread ponders), all oil and gas reserves will have been depleted. That's when the real fun begins. Yes, there are alternative energy sources (solar energy, gasohol, coal, etc.), but all of them are substantially more expensive than oil and gas.
What will the economics of the future be? How cheap and easy will it be to ship food and consumer goods to city stores? Will gasohol be a viable fuel for jets? What will be able to deliver the power needed to make possible mass public transportation?
I shudder to think how a society grounded in the idea that energy is cheap will make out in the future.
Thanks to technology and innovation, we have become incredibly spoiled (not to mention obese in many cases).
Prior to 8/14/03, the cry around NYC was "Close the Long Island Nuclear Power Plant! It's a potential terrorist target!". After 14 inconveniencing, powerless hours in the dark, however, the same voices changed their tune: "Maybe that power plant should stay?"
So then - what will we look like to those 100 years in the future? Taking all of this into account, we'll probably be viewed as having been extravagant with regard to energy, in much the same fashion as the Edwardians were extravagant when it came to making their own lifestyle possible (e.g., they had cheap labor, we have cheap energy).
>Unless one thinks that it might be better to go back to the trees and take our chances with plagues, drought, famine, and Leo the hungry lion. If that's your idea of paradise, you're welcome to it.<
Oh - have I confessed to everyone that I live in a nudist camp? (Right now - the only thing I have one is the computer.)