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Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was written right around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The world had a strong appetite for scientific progress and overall quality of life was beginning to improve dramatically. It was a time period where technology greatly accelerated and penetrated practically every field of science and revolutionized economies.

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Frankenstein and Scientific Regulation

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is an outstanding novel in the science fiction field. Not only for its thrilling content, but for its underlying messages about the dangers of technology. While curiosity is often considered a good thing in science, Victor Frankenstein took his natural curiosity too far when he decided to create life.

This novel shows the need for regulation and moral codes in scientific and technological fields. In the medical field, doctors take an oath to first do no harm. This is an important code that doctors must adhere to. It is a guiding principle that helps them make decisions in their day to day life. Since lives are at stake, it is important that they have rules and guidelines to help them make important decisions. When Frankenstein was making his monster, lives were also at stake because he was creating a new life in an unnatural way. Since he did not have any sort of rules, he left the monster to suffer. He was disgusted by his creation so he ignored him. Due to his treatment, the monster felt scorned and miserable. This forced him to go on a rampage where other people got killed. Obviously, Frankenstein’s actions had consequences on human life, like a doctors actions do. Therefore, when it comes to science’s involvement of human life, scientist should have to take a similar oath to that of doctors.

This has relevance today too. Science is responsible for keeping thousands of humans healthy. Scientists are responsible for important research about new ways to treat and prevent diseases. Scientists can also use their knowledge for not morally sound actions too. For example, they have the ability to make new chemicals and diseases that are able to hurt people. This is evident with the invention of chemical weapons. Since these scientific creations have to ability to hurt and kill people, scientists should be held to the same standards as doctors today.

 

Frankenscience

In Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein uses his knowledge of technology and science to attempt the unthinkable by creating life. By attempting to create life he is not only attempting the impossible, but is also creating danger. In successfully creating his monster, Victor Frankenstein realized that not all science and technology is beneficial.  Continue reading

Frankenstein’s Statement on STS

While Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is known for being a perfect representation of gothic literature, it also presents a technological crisis that still applies today. Victor Frankenstein represents the forward-thinking nature of humans, and while his scientific discovery was incredibly remarkable, the project was a too large of a scale for society to handle, therefore displaying a scenario where the progression of science can be dangerous if it is too rapid. The monster was also created out of an unnatural phenomenon, which isolates him from society. But this raises a question that we must consider today: should we accept someone created in a lab the same way we treat naturally-born humans? This is a concept that we, as a society, have not yet faced, but it seems as if we are approaching this ethical dilemma.

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A Lesson From Frankenstein

One message conveyed by Frankenstein is the danger that lies with considering the negative consequences of science and technology after-the-fact, instead of before. More generally speaking, when people neglect to consider the potential negative impacts of their actions, it is a form of willful ignorance. On the other hand, being risk-averse is tricky because predicting the future with complete accuracy is impossible. Although Frankenstein was written in 1818, the unintended effects of science and technology still plague society today.

In chapter three, a chemistry professor M. Waldman encourages Victor to pursue a broad education, which inspires Victor to gain knowledge on the secret of life and eventually create Frankenstein. I see a parallel in the often well-intended interests of people in scientific fields and the encouraging relationship between M. Waldman and Victor. Google started as a project by two PhD students with the goal of analyzing the relationships among websites.1 Yet, Google’s use of user’s privacy data in the last decade has lead to controversy about its “freemium” model.2 In order for Google to adequately fund its business operations, many critics have asked if it is moral to sell customers’ private data. It is a difficult question to answer because on the other hand, Google provides a host of free services that many educational institutions and their students benefit from. Much like Victor’s creation of Frankenstein, Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s creation of Google has sparked many issues regarding the ethics behind their technology. It is unlikely that Victor and the creators of Google could accurately predict the long-term impacts of their creation. However, some level of risk estimation is not impossible; Victor could have considered what to do if Frankenstein misbehaved and the creators of Google could have considered other ways to become a profitable business without data infringement.

“Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.”3

The novel also address the shortfalls of creating Frankenstein and in a broader sense, the negative impacts of science and technology in a cynical and destructive manner. In the above quote, Robert Walton recounts Victor’s warning on the dangers on ambition by “[seeking] happiness in tranquility”. In the context of the novel, this disposition is sympathetic to Victor’s character and his experiences creating Frankenstein. However, when placed in the context of modern science, this disposition will lead to laziness and further destruction. This quote sheds light on the cynical side of humans in face of immense scientific and technological discoveries. Many people today are like Victor and feel overwhelmed and defeated by the consequences of science. With global warming, for example, our society is divided on how to deal with high greenhouse emissions. Some people are indifferent and are not proactive about lowering their carbon footprint. As a result, these people are living in “tranquility” and following the negligent advice of Victor.

“From The Garage To The Googleplex,” Google, accessed September 24, 2018.  https://www.google.com/about/our-story/

Freemium is any product that provides a service for free while additional services can be purchased for money.

3 Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.

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