“What could possibly go wrong?”
The more I read and learn about science and technology, the more often I think that we don’t give enough attention to that question: What. Could. Go. Wrong.
Most technology is dangerous in the wrong hands, and as technology becomes more powerful, the what could go wrong is only escalating.
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favourite authors (of course he is – Slaughterhouse Five is life-changing) and Cat’s Cradle is about what goes wrong, when scientists go ahead and do their best (or worst as the case may be).
(Spoiler alert: Everyone dies.)
The novel, aside from being a masterclass in wit and language mastery is a warning we should take seriously with regards to all the marvellous technology we are currently exploring, from CRISPR kids to immorality, to autonomous weapons, to sentient robots.
It also reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld character, the genius scientist and inventor, Leonard of Qurim, who is kept locked up in an attic by the Patrician – for his own good, and for the good of humanity, to stop his marvellous inventions being used as weapons of mass destruction, rather than for the benign purposes poor naive Leonard intended them for.
If there is an apple on a forbidden tree in the garden of Eden, someone’s gonna eat it.
If there is a red button that will end the world, someone’s gonna press it.
In other words, (spoiler alert): We’re all gonna die.