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Technology May Succeed By Taking The World Apart

We live in a system that clearly doesn’t always work. Humans are far from perfect, and yet we will be striving for perfection until we cease to exist. Our civilization has only recently entered this critical junction in human existence, but this transformation started far before any of us were born. The natural world could never satiate man’s appetite for creation. With industry, humans were able to reconstruct nature in their own image. Molding it to fulfill their desires, with more ease than ever before. Now we live in a world of modifications, or as Langdon Winner likes to call it, “one of artificial resynthesized products” (p178). One where, everything used, seen or heard has been gouged from the earth and wrought into the products bought by people in stores. We have claimed and repurposed boundless amounts of our planets resources in order to bend nature to our will. Unfortunately there has been and continues to be gross negligence regarding the consequences of the removal, relocation and subsequent re-synthesis of natural resources. This in turn has exponentially increased the deterioration of the state of our planet. The fact that, if every person on earth lived like an American we would need four earths to provide enough resources for all of them, speaks volumes regarding our current unsustainable lifestyles.

However, this is not the end of our story. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we are at a crucial moment in our civilizations existence. Technological advances have brought us into a new era that is rational and aware. It is now up to us – we have the opportunity to let technology either save humanity from itself or let it run itself into the ground. The premise of technology is to make new tools that enables humans to perform actions they couldn’t otherwise achieve by themselves. We have created radios, cellphones and satellites to help us communicate over long distances, lights to let us see at night, and weapons to protect us from others. Technology, however, truly succeeds when it shakes the world to its core, assesses what is necessary and puts it back together in a more efficient manner. As Winner says, “a new kind of community is forming before our very eyes” (p184). If humanity can harness technology to devise sustainable methods of living, bridge the language barrier, alleviate the burden of waste on our planet, the containment of greenhouse gasses and efficiency maybe we stand a chance against the inevitable end of society as we know it.

As we see in Dr. Strangelove, it is painfully obvious (to us modern day viewers) that there is a plethora of ways technology could have assisted the characters in the film. Communication was a major issue throughout the movie –from problems with chain of command and language to radio communication and electrical systems. Wouldn’t one think that some of our modern day tech could have helped them out? Set in the 1960’s, the world was still struggling with the cold war and becoming a technologically integrated society. Terror strikes, when an unhinged United States Air Force general decides to wage a one man war against the USSR with the United States’s toys. This doesn’t bode well for anyone. What unfolds is what Winner would call apraxia. “If a significant link in a technical system ceases to function, the whole system stops or is thrown into chaos” (p186). In one case, the technical system could be the humans who make up nations and institutions. In another, we see the term could be used to describe what happens when the bomber is hit by a missile, causing it’s electrical systems to malfunction. When one piece breaks, the entire system becomes dysfunctional.

We have come a long way since Dr. Strangelove. Technology, on all fronts, advances faster than ever. The final toll for our progress has yet to be revealed, but it seems technology might just have the potential to propel us into a future when broken pieces can’t break us so easily. Technology waits for no man and yet I can’t wait to see how we use it.

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