Thursday, September 06, 2007

Is a [(Wo)]Man not Entitled to the Sweat of His[/Her] Brow?

"No!", says The Man in Washington...

(Back to composing in, due to Dark Room's inherent lack of formatting)

I've recently come across three separate books - via three separate methods of acquisition - which feature at their core a common thread. All address on a large scale the effects of human intervention upon a natural environment, through various means. One is a science fiction novel, one is a nonfiction classic of the 20th century, and the last is the manual for a roleplaying game. Greed is universally cited as the motive for any and all crimes against ecology committed, and it's fairly clear that the reader is supposed to despair at the sins of his or her fellow human beings perpetrated to satiate it.

While I appreciate the ecological sentiment of these books for what it is, the larger theme of humanity's meddling in things which it was not meant to wot of generally bothers me, in that I do not believe there are, nor should there be such things. Humanity's greatest asset is our ability to gain and process knowledge, for from that knowledge we can derive tools, tools which have gradually allowed us to build bigger tools. In the end, our very ability to look beyond the tips of our fingers for aid in accomplishing a mechanical task has conferred upon us the level of advantage which a very few species can match. If some areas of inquiery are made taboo, what tools are we denying ourselves? I am not advocating a lack of all ethical and moral safeguards, in fact I find them to be necessary. But when we are halted by such checks and balances, let us recall that we are stopped by our compassion, and not for our hubris.

If I wanted to put it another way, I would say that "If life happened to be like - say - Bioshock...I would probably be an Andrew Ryan (ideologically, at any rate)". I long for a technological and biological utopia, in which the only barrier to accomplishment is imagination. I long to fly not with crude engines, but held aloft by wings grown from culture, or even memebers of a newly-crafted symbiotic species which may share some part of me in exchange for granting me the power of flight. I wish for the power to use nanoscale machinery to ensure that garbage no longer exists: every bit of material used should be used again, and again, and again to maximize the usefulness output per energy input of extraction and refinement ratio. Weather control, terraforming, Artificial Intelligence... I want the no-holds-barred future, and I want it tomorrow!

Besides the obvious issue of practicality, there is still the sad fact that when given power, a not insignificant number of people will choose to abuse it for their own gain. Clearly, we should never create technology as I have described above...wait, what?? People should be held accountable for their own actions. While certain advances make it easier and easier for those actions to include "inflicting copious amounts of harm", the technology is no more responsible for the transgressions than the Ak-47 (ie. the inanimate rifles themselves) is for the deaths of so many people. Even Kalashnikov himself was simply serving his country. It has been a long and distinguished chain of people who have made the Kalashnikov the symbolic weapon of low-cost killing that it is today, and yet I'm sure there are some who wish the rifle's creator a slow death for inventing it. I, on the other hand, congradulate Mr. Kalashnikov for a most supreme work of design. I curse to death those people who have perpetuated its use worldwide as a weapon of murder and mayhem, however!

Dramatically, I realize that a perfect world that actually works would make for a painfully dull novel or short story. However, the same is not true of a perfect society which comes under attack from without for being what it is. Tragically, resentment of such a society would be a more likely cause of extinction than some grand civil war or lapse into anarchy. People would be jealous of the inequity (and rightly so), and seek to equalize situations in some grand revolution. Look at how the United States, which broadcasts a golden beacon to all saying that it is - more or less - a perfect place in which to live (rich, free enough, etc.) has gathered resentment in the world (although granted its foreign policy hasn't helped it either).

Incidentally, given the global climate (both literal and political), now would be a perfect time for someone to build a circa-1950s underwater utopia into which the world's scientists and artists could escape to avoid death at the hands of terrorists, rising sea levels, or angry, homeless polar bears.

Can I at least have a bathysphere? Pleeeeeeease?

PS. I was tired when I wrote this. I will edit it if I have left out anything, or if I have lapsed in quality. Goodnight.


GoldMatenes said...

Very well said.

But there is of course quite a difference between you and Andrew Ryan.
Idealism versus megalomania.
The difference between "possibilities" and "MY POSSIBILITIES, GORRAMMIT, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!"

I wouldn't mind having a tommy gun.

Loud said...

You know, I'd neglected to think about the Idealism vs. Megalomania divide before you mentioned it. Now that you bring it up, It makes my position a lot clearer. Before, I was wondering where my place was, with all the dreams and somewhat less of the ego of one so self-obsessed as the Andrew Ryans of this world. Idealism is truly the perfect fit for my outlook.

So, one problem solved...

...I still need that bathysphere :P

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