By: Gittan Alicia | Contributing AOJ Journalist
Most technophobia in society has always been unrealistic sci-fi based superstition, however, there has been some technophobia society was right about. Most of us are fixated on how the fear of technological advancement by people in the past has been overexaggerated. We’ve forgotten about the times society was right about fearing the threats imposed by new technology. There have been several times where society was right that the negative effects of technology would outweigh the advantages the technology brings.
The Atomic Bomb
The atomic bomb was first created in the year 1945 with the intent scientific experimentation, however, the first theorems on “Nuclear Fissure” were discovered by Albert Einstein. Before and after the atomic bomb’s completion, several individuals involved in the development and use of the atomic bomb began regretting the bomb’s creation and use. Many were overcome with guilt over the use and plausible future destruction of the atomic bomb.
While there’s no individual “atomic bomb inventor”, there is an individual known as the “father of the atomic bomb” for leading the Manhattan project. Julius Robert Oppenheimer was the “father of the atomic bomb”, but as soon as he saw the first successful trial of the atomic bomb at the famous trinity test site, he began regretting his work in creating it, and such regret progressed as time went on. Years after the first successful test of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer would recall thinking, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” when he saw the trial. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer fell into deep regret over his creation due to the future harm he foresaw. Oppenheimer went so far as to tell president Truman, “Mr. President, I feel I have blood on my hands.” Oppenheimer was referring to blood on his hands from future deaths that could result from the atomic bomb.
Albert Einstein, arguably the most famous scientist and mathematician in history, only made small contributions to the actual development of the atomic bomb. Einstein laid out some fundamental concepts including coming up with the relativity theory and stating that a small amount of matter could release a large amount of energy. Such concepts are the only ways Einstein contributed to the atomic bomb scientifically, but not the only way he contributed to the atomic bomb. Einstein signed a letter to encourage president Truman to develop the atomic bomb. However, Einstein later came to deeply regret supporting the bomb’s development, stating, “”Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would have never lifted a finger.”
Member of the Franck Committee involved in the development of the atomic bomb quickly came to regret their creation when they figured out what the bomb would be used for. At first many members of the committee were eager to develop the bomb to use against Germany, but once the target switched to Japan, they began to protest. Such protests were ignored by the US government, and the bombings still took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The realization by members of the committee and the change of target that they couldn’t stop demonstrates how powerful weapons like the atomic bomb have the potential to cause ruin in ways mankind doesn’t foresee.
The fear and guilt expressed by many towards the atomic bomb was justifiable and still is today. For the first time in human history, a weapon with the potential to wipe out the entire human race was created. Even today, all it takes is one misinterpreted threat from a nation with nuclear weapons to set off nuclear warfare and vast amounts of death. Such has almost occurred in the past several times, for instance, once a flock of migrating Canadian geese was mistaken as a Soviet bomber attack in the 1950’s.
Ham, P. (2015, August 5). As Hiroshima Smouldered, Our Atom Bomb Scientists Suffered Remorse. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/hiroshima-smouldered-our-atom-bomb-scientists-suffered-remorse-360125
Valiunas, A. (2006). The Agony of Atomic Genius. Retrieved from https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-agony-of-atomic-genius
Mental Floss UK. (2015, August 4). 10 Inventors Who Came to Regret Their Creations. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/uk/history/27802/10-inventors-who-came-to-regret-their-creations
“Who Invented the Atomic Bomb?” History on the Net
© 2000-2019, Salem Media.
August 5, 2019 https://www.historyonthenet.com/who-invented-the-atomic-bomb
Marshall, S., & Toma, A. (2012, May 23). The close calls: how false alarms triggered fears of nuclear war. Retrieved from https://livableworld.org/the-close-calls-how-false-alarms-triggered-fears-of-nuclear-war/
Nuclear Power Plants
Nuclear power plants are a cheaper, more efficient, and environmentally friendly way to produce electricity. However, nuclear power plants involve a great deal of risk with their extensive amounts of radiation and the massive amount of energy atoms release. There have also been several nuclear power plant disasters with effects that outweighed the original benefits of nuclear power plants. Effects from such disasters have included radioactive wasteland, the loss of several lives, and the expense from nuclear destruction.
Nuclear disaster Chernobyl is perhaps the most famous nuclear incident to ever occur and has even had a widely popular movie created about it. The incident of Chernobyl occurred in 1986 during a power surge that resulted from a reactor systems test, which caused an explosion and fire that destroyed Unit 4. From this incident, a great amount of radiation escaped and spread across the Western Soviet Union and Europe and 220,000 people had to be relocated from their homes. Such spread of radiation has had several negative effects on the ecosystem, including the death of pine forests close to Chernobyl.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is another well-known nuclear incident. In March of 2011 an Earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. The natural disasters managed to cut off external power to the reactors and disable the back-up diesel generators, thus resulting in the exhaustion of battery power and incapacitating the cooling systems. The result was overheating fuel in the reactor cores that led to hydrogen explosions and radiation contamination in wide areas surrounding the power plant. Over 100,000 people ended up needing to be evacuated and for several years the environment around Fukushima was uninhabitable due to radiation.
There are several other examples that illustrate the dangers of nuclear power plants. But with the two instances shown, one can see how the risks and disasters of nuclear power plants can outweigh their initial advantages. Therefore, it’s important to note that while the initial benefits of nuclear power can be attractive, one must account for the detrimental effects that could result from an incident.
Dadiverina, A. (2016, December 8). Chernobyl effects on humans, animals and nature in area. Retrieved from https://chernobylguide.com/chernobyl_effects/
World Nuclear Association. (2018, October). Fukushima Daiichi Accident. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/fukushima-accident.aspx
Union of Concerned Scientists. (n.d.). A Brief History of Nuclear Accidents Worldwide. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-power/nuclear-power-accidents/history-nuclear-accidents
Chemicals were first utilized as weapons by the Germans in WWI when Fritz Haber oversaw the first use of chlorine gas at Ypres. The chlorine gas would appear in a greenish-yellow gas that smelled of bleach and at high enough doses would kill. From this point onwards, chemical weapons would become widely used in warfare and Fritz Haber would infamously become known as the “father of chemical warfare”.
Despite prohibition, as time progressed chemicals continued to be used and improved upon in warfare. Following chlorine gas was the development of phosgene gas. Phosgene was especially deadly because it was colorless and soldiers wouldn’t know they received a deadly dose until after a day or two when their lungs were filled with fluid and they suffocated, a painful death. Following phosgene gas was mustard gas, perhaps the most commonly used gas in chemical warfare. Mustard gas was a powerful blistering agents that had a potent smell and hours after exposure would cause blistering in moist areas that would pop and become infected. The highest number of casualties from chemical weapons were caused by mustard gas.
Due to the lethality, brutality and immense suffering caused by chemicals in warfare, soldiers were often terrified of chemical warfare. Public outrage built up about chemical warfare and eventually the Geneva Protocol was put in place. However, this protocol had many shortcomings and was generally disregarded. It wasn’t until the Chemical Weapon Convention that chemical warfare was finally brought under control. Even today, people still remember chemical warfare, especially in trench warfare, as a dreadful time.
Scientist Mind. (2018, May 28). Scientists who regretted their inventions. Retrieved from http://www.lbjhs.net/scientists-who-regretted-their-inventions/
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. (n.d.). Chemical Weapons. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/chemical/
Grojek, W., & Coelho, C. (2018, April 22). Chemical Weapons: A Deadly History. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.rferl.org/a/history-of-chemical-weapons/29184063.html
These are just a few of many invention people were right to fear in the past. Even today many of them still pose a threat. With nuclear bombs all it takes is one mistake or miscommunication and there could be full on nuclear war all throughout the world. Nuclear power plants pose a threat today due to their high risk and dangers, all it takes is carelessness from a few employees or a natural disaster and a nuclear power plant accident could take place. Chemical weapons still pose a threat too, they could easily be utilized by terrorists or wrongfully used in warfare by any particular country. These are all potential threats, and due to past and current circumstances, it’s justifiable for people to fear them.