Totalitarianism, or Nuclear Destruction - There Doesn’t Seem to be a Third Option.
Technology moves at an exponential rate. For every door we as an advanced society open, three more sit behind it, ready and waiting for each of their respective locks to inevitably, for better or worse, be turned. This rate of furthered understanding goes back as far as the dawn of man. It is, in fact, the very thing that allows us as conscious, thinking beings to evolve so rapidly. Once we solve one problem, we are able to suddenly see the way forwards, and invariably through, so many more. But what happens when there’s a problem that we ought not solve? A problem, whose solution would end in disaster? With this accelerated growth in the wake of our progressing modern understanding of the world, it seems to be inevitable that one such invention, before too long, rear its ugly head.
Consider, for a moment, the standard home computer. You’re probably using one right to read this. This modern invention has been proliferated throughout society at a staggering rate, to the degree that the very notion that your country of residence is in a state of advanced development relies almost solely on that nation's peoples computational literacy. There are, in fact, huge swaths of the planet now, where the idea somebody might be unfamiliar with a computer would be nothing short of absurd. Now, however, I want you to cast your mind back thirty years. What was a computer like then? I won’t go into the specifics, because that’s not the point I’m attempting to make here, but what I will say is this: it was a heck of a lot more complicated than the ones you and I are using right now.
Today, not only is computational literacy a fundamental aspect of our world society, but countless men and women have become veritable experts in the field, being able to, on their own, manipulate a computer's parameters via coding or formatting techniques. In only fifty years, a blink of an eye to the scope of human existence, we have advanced from rooms filled with whirring, blinking lights and plugs to compact, highly efficient, and highly user-friendly machines that are capable of an almost limitless array of utilities.
Imagine now, a nuclear bomb. They are undoubtedly complex, both in their origin and in their actualization - just as complex, perhaps - as those massive “super” computers of the 1960s surely must have, at the time, seemed. Do you think the average Joe had even the foggiest notion of what a computer was in 1962? Of course not. It was a machine that scientists used, to do science. Fast forward to now, and you know where our relationship with personal computation stands.
This technological precedent, alongside the immutable state that is human nature, leaves mass destruction on a breathtaking scale not merely some vague, half-cocked possibility, but rather an irreconcilable fact that we will all have to - one day very soon - come to terms with.
Evil exists within humanity. This is a fact. We need go no further than our own modern history to see plethora examples of wicked deeds, from genocide to homicide and everything in, around, and between. Yes, evil men and women have stained our modern tapestry from top to bottom, but unfortunately, only those truly wicked deeds are to be remembered. How many evil men and women might there be, who never have the chance to act - who were never gifted with extraordinary oratory skills, an unshakable nature of violence, royal blood, or something much the same? The smart guess is on thousands and thousands.
Let’s, for a moment, take a conservative look at the nature of evil. Out of how many Americans, let's say, have the potential to commit an unbelievably horrific act? One in a million? One in ten million? My personal guess would be a percentage far greater than that, but for the sake of argument, lets er on the side of the extreme. One in ten million American citizens would be willing to perpetuate some horrific act of violence, would be willing to, in a single act, take the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children - the population of a large city. There are roughly 300 million Americans. That’s thirty human beings out there, who - in twenty odd years - will merely need to get their hands on what today is the nuclear equivalent of a home computer. And that’s not to mention that - quite frankly - it doesn’t take thirty. It takes one.
So what’s the answer? If the power for one looney toon to blow us all to kingdom come is a mere turn of the proverbial knob, how in the world are any of us supposed to sleep at night, to go about our lives, to raise children and nurture them harboring any semblance of an expectation that their lives won’t end horrifically in a flash of light sometime in the not so distant future? One teeth gritting, eyelid clenching, gut-wrenching word. Totalitarianism.
What else could save us from ourselves besides an ironclad, ruling fist? Twenty-Four-Seven monitoring, Soviet Union esque “neighborhood watch”, vicious, draconian prison sentences meant to deter even the most rudimentary of offenders, lest their intentions wander down a more destructive path.
Suffice to say, many of us might prefer a nuke to something like that. But then, where does that leave us? Waffling back and forth between the two evils, merely awaiting the inevitable day that the wrong person gets their hands on something that could put an end to us all? Every day a new invention is conceived of that will have a profound and long-lasting effect on all of humanity. 3D printing, furthered biological understanding, a proliferation of autonomous drones and other such devices. The story basically writes itself.
It’s not a coincidence then, I don’t think, that we are as a society seeing an undeniable trend towards Totalitarianism. Look no further than your local news, in many areas of the world the right to bear arms is being called into question, freedoms of expression are being denounced, and our public data is being collected at a rate so staggering that something so intimate as our private spending habits are being monetized, and sold to the highest bidder. But what then, is the solution? To allow the steady subjugation of the human condition to persist, to crawl willfully into the cold, steely arms of a tyrannical government? Or conversely, to await the eventual eerie glow of nuclear fallout, as it descends over each and every single one of us like some strange mottled blanket, come to put as all - finally - to a permanent rest? I don’t have the answer. I only know that this is a problem - for all of us.
Hey everyone, thanks a lot for reading! I hope that this essay has promoted you to think about some things that you otherwise might not have, and that you enjoyed your time spent reading it! If you did, please consider leaving and upvote and comment telling me what you thought!
See you next time, @matthewmunseyart