Science is so often portrayed as a noble and virtuous pursuit; we glorify the desire to push the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. It is important to remember, however, that although the terms knowledge and possibility carry positive connotations, they are not inherently good. Though increased knowledge of the world and new possibilities alone cannot do harm, they have the potential to do serious damage through their application into technology–there’s a fine line between achieving technological breakthroughs and playing god. Scientific discovery sets the foundation for technological innovation, so the implications of such discoveries must be considered heavily as they are pursued. However, in many cases throughout history, this was not done, and instead science and technology were advanced recklessly without thought of the consequences. This idea, that science should be pursued for the sake of expanding what is known and what is possible, is exactly the kind of thinking that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as the entire discipline of science, technology, and society, questions. As Frankenstein demonstrates, the pursuit of science and technology without regard for societal consequences can have disastrous results.

In Frankenstein, Victor embodies the concept of unrestrained science. He is allured by the power and potential of science from a very young age. In spite of its lack of credibility, Victor develops a strong interest in alchemy, which focuses on harnessing the powers of science for personal gain. When he learns how to animate non-living material, he becomes obsessive, working non-stop to complete his creation and neglecting other aspects of his life in the process. He doesn’t stop for a second to consider the potential consequences of his actions. By the end of the story, multiple people have died, and Victor has gone from leading a happy life to wallowing in his own miserable existence for the entire second half of the book, all because he didn’t stop to think through his actions.

A kind of real-world Victor Frankenstein, Robert Oppenheimer is known for having been very conflicted about his role in the development of the atomic bomb. The scientists of the Manhattan Project probably had an idea of the destruction potential these atomic weapons would possess. When America used atomic bombs at the end of World War II, it was a carefully considered decision, the morality of which is still debated today. Unlike Frankenstein, the scientists and politicians involved in the creation and subsequent use of the atomic bomb heavily considered the consequences of their actions, but they didn’t have the foresight to predict what the more distant future would hold. The invention of nuclear technology led to the stockpiling of these weapons during the Cold War and constant fear of nuclear war in the Soviet Union and United States. Additionally, with many thousands of nukes in the possession of a multitude of countries, we now live with the prospect of devastating nuclear war if one of those nukes is ever used. This technology’s potential for destruction has only grown since its initial creation; there could still be consequences yet to come from nuclear weaponry.

Franken-technologies such as the atomic bomb continue to be researched and developed every day, leading to questions of the ethics and consequences of such technology. Artificial intelligence, climate engineering, and more powerful weaponry than we already have are all possible developments that could have disastrous results if not properly considered before their use. Although Frankenstein and numerous other works offer warnings of technology gone too far, Franken-technologies can and will be created in the future, both to push the boundaries of science and for personal gain. We can only hope that society will be able to adapt to the problems and dangers created by future technology.