Monday, May 22, 2006

Love and war

Someone recently voiced the old chestnut that we're most technologically innovative as a species during time of war. Of course, the immediate threat of death rather focuses the mind, but there's more to it than that.

You see, you could argue that this means it's human nature to see the worst in everything, to see any potential tool first-off as a weapon.

For example, our understanding of germs and bacteria was just in its infancy - and penicillin still decades away - when mustard gas was being mass-produced for the battlefield. There were scientists testing the affects of atomic bombs even before they realised you'd need better protection than paper-overshoes.

It's the weapons first, then the dreams of atomic motorbikes and travellators that might make life more fun, or the accidental discovery of a mould that cures disease.

The counter-argument, though, is that it's not destruction that motivates us. Man does what he has always done to get by since his days on the savannah - used those tools available to him to give any slight advantage in protecting himself and his family. Those okaying the use of mustard gas or the A-bomb did so, they said, to save lives.

So it is not hate that technology thrives on, but love.

2 comments:

Ben Aaronovitch said...

Actually I think it's because large amounts of resources get concentrated on fewer projects most of which have highly visible effects. Normal safety procedures are streamlined or bypassed. People who wouldn't work together in a million years (just look at the disparate personalities involved in the Manhatten project)and a sense of urgency pervades everything. Also, the technology is tested vigerously and too destruction but...

Following inventions not made in war time...

Powered Flight
Antibiotics
Transistors
X rays
Germ Theory

Anyway I actually logged on to say that I switched computers and my address book failed to follow...

Couyld you email me contact details again.

TTFN Ben

0tralala said...

Damn you and your evidence.

The Manhattan project is an odd one. Have you read "Smoking in Bed"?

It's a book of interviews with Bruce Robinson (who wrote The Killing Fields and Withnail & I), and one chapter is on his script for Fat Man and Little Boy, which got rather heavily rewritten to take out all the stuff about how entirely the CIA did over Oppenheimer. Really fascinating.

I am currently reading the A-bomb bit in AN Wilson's "After the Victorians". It's good, and (like his better Victorians book) suggests all sorts of things and people happening at once and influencing one another.

I find his need to relate everything to the Church of England a bit odd, and he's got that annoying Christian idea that if you don't have God you can't have any morality. But I shall
blog about it more when I am finished.