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Technology: The Death of Humanity

      From basic spearheads and the discovery of fire, to firearms and the Internet, the coupling of humanity’s exceptional brain power and technology has led us to be, easily, the most dominant species on earth. Technology has helped us fend off predators, and, in turn, become predators. It has given us the power to harness electricity, travel long distances, and achieve various other feats we now take for granted.  Without it, we certainly would not have become the world’s most dominant species, with the lives of leisure we now possess Yet, while technology has allowed us to become so powerful, it also poses a significant danger to us. It is very feasible that humanity could meet its end as a result of nuclear warfare, artificial intelligence, or climate change.

       Nuclear weapons  could annihilate all life on earth, and several world leaders can control them with a press of a button. There are now enough nuclear weapons, largely controlled by the U.S. and Russia, to blow up the world several times over (Fung, 2013). The fact that our technology has advanced to such a degree that it literally has the capability of destroying all of humanity, along with the majority of earths biota, is terrifying, and nuclear weapons may be used for that very thing. Communications between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have repeatedly involved nuclear threats. In response to one of Jong Un’s threats, Trump retaliated with “Will someone […] please inform [Kim Jong Un] that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his and my Button works!” (Baker, 2018). Why our country has allowed arguably the most devastating form of technology created to be a button’s press away from an arguably insane man is unconscionable and exceptionally dangerous. Nuclear weapons are extremely excessive; one blast could destroy an entire city with ease, and yet there is a robust supply of this technology. These bombs must be dismantled and destroyed before an emotionally irrational world leader presses a button and sends the world up in flames.

      It is also very possible for technology to end the world without any intentional human aid. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly claimed that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. He points out that, already, humans have begun to rely on the intelligence of computers, meaning that if these computers ever became sentient, they could outsmart humanity, and eventually take over the earth (Martin, 2017). Artificial intelligence seems to be on the verge of becoming a reality with the invention of programs such as Siri. It is very likely that a slightly more advanced program could have the capabilities of thinking for itself, which could lead it to rebel against its creators, causing a “Terminator” type apocalypse.

      Another, highly probable cause of human demise, is climate change, which is a result, almost entirely, of man-made technology. The burning of coal and gas has caused global temperature increases, which in turn is causing catastrophic weather patterns, droughts, and various other dangers. As a result of climate change, storms are become more powerful on a regular basis, leading to instant mortality in affected areas. A slower but no less significant effect of climate change is rising sea levels. Sea levels will rise up to four feet in the next eighty years, which could leave many coastal areas, such as New York City, underwater. Contrary, changing weather patterns are causing droughts, which is stripping areas of viable drinking water and agricultural resources, both essential to life (NASA, 2018). While technology has been used to aid human beings, it is also beginning to cause our demise, increasingly rapidly, as a result of climate change. “We’re in the midst of the greatest crisis humans have yet faced” (McKibben, 2017). Action needs to be taken to combat climate change, whether it be through a new form of technology, such as solar panels and wind turbines, or withdrawal from technology entirely. It is clear, however, that the technology we use in conjunction with fossil fuels needs to be eradicated to avoid dire consequences.

      Whether through nuclear weapons, climate change, or artificial intelligence, technology can easily cause the extinction of our species, along with many others. The solutions to these problems have varying levels of complexity. With regard to nuclear weapons, the most straightforward answer is to dismantle all of them immediately, before even one is used in combat. Artificial intelligence is a more complicated issue, as computers provide so much for society. It is wise to continue using computers, but computer scientists and engineers need to institute and control programming to eliminate any chance of AI becoming a reality. Climate change is the most complicated issue to address. Humanity needs to take drastic action to combat these changes, through both governmental policies and renewable energy. However, sadly due to the position we have put ourselves in, that may not be enough to combat all the effects of climate change. 

Literature Cited

Baker, Peter, and Mark Tackett. “Trump Says His ‘Nuclear Button’ Is ‘Much Bigger’ Than North Korea’s.”The New York Times, 2 Jan. 2018.

Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The Consequences of Climate Change.” Edited by Holly Shaftel, NASA, 13 Feb. 2018.

Fung, Brian. “The Number of Times We Could Blow Up the Earth Is Once Again a Secret.”NTI, 2 July 2013.

Martin, Sean. “Humanity’s days are NUMBERED and AI will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking.”Express, 3 Nov. 2017.

McKibben, Bill. “The New Battle Plan for the Planet’s Climate Crisis.”Rolling Stone, 24 Jan. 2017.

How do Kranzberg’s laws apply to the development and usage of the atomic bomb?

Carter Liou

2/13/18

ST112-WA

 

Although most people do not know of Melvin Kranzberg, his work in the field of technology has had a significant effect on the way society thinks of it.  Although the term technology is often associated with computers and other various other electronics, the term correlates to a much wider range of innovations ranging from the modern automobile to the invention of the chair or wheel.  One of Kranzberg’s most well known publication were his 6 laws of technology.  In essence, these laws should be seen as the Hippocratic Oath for those who are trying to develop influential technology.  Although many different technological innovations adhere to a multitude of these laws, very few adhere to all of them; one in particular was the invention of the atomic bomb.  

 

In 2000, Time Magazine released a list of the top one hundred most influential innovations of the the century; at the very peak of their list was the development of the atomic bomb.  The question then is, how does this technology abide by all of Kranzberg’s laws? The first law says that technology is neither good or bad; nor is it neutral;  by this Kranzberg is trying to convey the importance of context.  This is emulated perfectly in the development and usage of the atomic bomb.  By itself the bomb is harmless, it takes the detonation and an urbanized setting for the weapon to become destructive.  Furthermore, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen from both ends of the spectrum; from one end they were devastating and killed thousands of innocent civilians, but from the other they forced the Japanese government to surrender potentially saving millions of lives.  The second law states that invention is the mother of necessity.  Essentially Kranzberg is denoting that with the development of any great technology comes the need for other technologies to aid in its function.  The atomic bomb is no exception; without the redesigned Boeing B-29s, the bombs would have never been able to make it to Japan.  The third law exclaims that technology comes in packages big and small.  Literally, it perfectly describes the atomic bomb, however, what Kranzberg is referring to is the idea of how technology is usually composed of smaller more intricate pieces.  The fourth law states that although technology may take a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.  Kranzberg is saying that the usage and development of technology is highly affected by social factors which placed a lot of pressure on the US government to end the war quickly and without American casualties.    The fifth law states that all history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.  This law in itself is rather straightforward and a statement on which I agree.  Knowing the history how the atomic bomb came to be and how it was used can help explain a lot of history before, World War Two and US-Japanese relations, and after, the Cold War and the US-Soviet arms race.  The sixth and final law says that technology is a very human activity, and so is the history of technology.  This statement is heavily accurate with respect to the atomic bomb.  Although designed for mass destruction, the bomb itself presents no danger without human activity.  This essentially applies for every piece of technology that has been created; its only with the human influence that its purpose is fulfilled and its significance is observed.  

 

Although all of Kranzberg’s laws are important to take to heart, one in this instance surpasses the rest.  That is the fourth law.  While the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible and tragic, their story and the history of the atomic bomb help us to comprehend the power and influence that nuclear warheads possess.  Today, we face a serious predicament with the North Korean government who are threatening to eradicate neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan with their arsenal of nuclear missiles.  To understand the history of nuclear warheads is the understand the present problems that pose a threat to humanity and how we can prevent them.  As George Santayana once said, “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

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