I wrote the following a while back when I was in a philosophical mood
once. At the time, I just felt I had to write it, and it all came out at once, although I wasn't sure what I was trying to say
. You can be the judge....
(As long as I agree with your judgement, anyway)
War, Technology, and the human race
An age of optimism that began with the Industrial Revolution ground shockingly to a shuddering halt, drawing with it into its oblivion the hopes and dreams of an entire planet.
The Edwardian Age had it good. So Britain didn't have an Empire any more, but no one cared. The panacaea to all Man's problems was a few short inventions away. Poverty, hunger, unhappiness, and inconvenience were all to be swept away in the rush of technological advance. A Golden Age was just around the corner; the fruits of six million years of evolution were ripening, almost ready to be plucked. And the pluckers would reap the rewards of six million years of patience.
By 1950, all food would be in pill form; we'd wear tinfoil suits in our Buckminster Fuller domes and watch cine pictures on silver ovals in a living room that would look like it was grown, not built. The workers at Moonbase Alpha would mine valuable minerals and expeditions to Mars would bring back news of the technologically-advanced Martian peoples, extra-terrestial fashion finding its niche among the cultural diversity of the United Earth.
So what went wrong?...
By 1912, humanity had reached the pinnacle of evolution. Nothing dared stand in the way of Invention's advance... not even God. Specifically, the Old Grey Widow-Maker had finally been tamed. For millenia humankind had stared with wonder at the rolling ocean, wondering how many of his ancestors had the all-powerful sea claimed to her whims, womdering if he was to be next... no more. The unrelenting advance of Science had produced a device capable of thwarting the wickedest schemes even of God's elements. No longer need Man be in fear of the sea.
And the name of this remarkable device? Titanic.
The Titanic disaster was more than the death of 1,500 people. It was the death of the hopes of a race. Maybe we were still not masters of all we surveyed. The shock of this realisation - and it was shocking, and terrifying - was almost wearing off, to be replaced by a shadow of humanity's former hubris - two years later, when a student shot a duke and flung the race into its first ever World War.
Four years of mud, bombs, machine-guns, gas, death and mud. The brutality and mass destruction of the 'Great' War had never been seen before. Never before had it been possible to kill a hundred men at a stroke. Never before had it been necessary to do so. But with the startling new advances in the scientific field of bringing about death, it was possible to set mankind, tooth and claw bared, mere yards away from his mortal enemy and allow him free rein with powers hitherto reserved for the most wrathful of deities.
"The War To End All Wars" they called it. But it wasn't, and it didn't. Before you could say "over by Christmas" another petty squabble had erupted into a conflict covering half the globe. Once again humanity had almost forgotten the all-encompassing power of its more bestial instincts, and airships were planned to carry passengers who danced to Jazz bands in palatial dining halls across the Atlantic in mere days. It was not the Nazis who started the Second World War, it was mankind's darker side feeling the time ripe to rise to the fore once again.
And how did that one end?... a boiling conflagration of energy itself allowed free rein, brighter than ten thousand suns, and thirty years of terror in case it could ever happen again. Humanity never reacted in quite the same way to the Second World War as it did to the First. Perhaps somewhere deep in our collective soul a part of us realised that we weren't infallible, that perhaps this was bound to happen. Perhaps it was merely some form of denial. But the shock that accompanied the realisation that Man could do that to his own cousin wasn't quite as pronounced. Perhaps we were just becoming blase to man's inhumanity to man, to the banality of evil.
And now, so we're told, that same Mankind has the power to destroy every form of life on earth several times over. And in the midst of this unstoppable onrush of the Advancement of Science, people still go hungry, there is still no cure for cancer, and tinfoil suits are never seen away from certain Milanese catwalks.
Today, technophobia rules. The Bomb will destroy us all. Computers will take our jobs, our lives, our humanity, and finally our planet. Last week your author spent ninety-six hours solidly in front of a computer screen, swearing at it. Who was in charge?... the Man or the Machine?
Technology has always promised us a better world. A Utopia of work-free, carefree living, nothing beyond our grasp, has always been almost within reach. Several times now we have prevented the dream becoming real by our own stupidity, bestiality and greed. Maybe the trick is to learn who's really in charge, and let them take charge. Let technology rule. It's doubtful that it could do a worse job.
I didn't have a point in writing this when I started. I don't now. I just hope to have helped you think about something that is a real concern in the world of today, the world we have created for ourselves.
(See also The Voice of the Guns)