The Hoe and the Arrow
When we are at the cottage in the summer, Maria and I listen to the radio a lot. Since we don’t have the cable, we have only one TV channel. We also have very limited access to internet. We cannot watch videos on YouTube or even read the news online. That’s how we discovered that there are a lot of very interesting programs on a great variety of subjects on the radio. The other day, I was listening to a program about technology. In the first part, they were talking about a company, I think from somewhere near Chicago, which offers its employees the possibility to have a microchip implanted under the skin of one of their hands. This technology makes it possible for them to enter the building, log into their computers, and even buy stuff from the vending machines just by swiping their magic hand in front of a sensor.
The second part of the program was about how the development of DNA related technologies will, in a not so distant future, enable parents to customize their babies by choosing the colour of their hair and eyes, their height and so on. You won’t see too many short men like me in the future. Who would deliberately pick short for their male offspring when it will be possible to make sure that all boys will grow up to be tall men. That’s pretty much what the radio program was about, but it made me think of something else somewhat related to those topics that I had heard or read before. It was about the possibility of using the same type of technologies to cure hereditary diseases and prevent birth defects, and even to reprogram the criminal minds or addictive personalities of unborn children.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Everybody will be beautiful, intelligent and healthy. There won’t be any more criminals, sexual predators, alcoholics, compulsive gamblers and other people behaving badly and irrationally. Not so fast! Before getting excited about the positive effects of those new technologies, let’s ask ourselves how the bad people are going to use them. A long, long time ago, someone found a way to extract minerals from the soil, and by using the energy of fire, to extract metal from those minerals, and then use that metal to make objects. A smart guy saw that, and used that technology to make a hoe to grow food more efficiently. Another smart guy, but also wicked and very lazy, after seeing what that guy had done, used the same technology to put a piece of metal at the end of an arrow, and used a bow to kill the poor farmer and steal his crop.
Whenever there is a new invention intended to improve everybody’s quality of life, there is always someone who finds a way to use that invention in a bad and evil way. Let’s just look at internet. It’s a great invention, no doubt about it! We can use it to make friends, look for a job, do online banking, find a recipe for pancakes, learn a new language, plan a trip, listen to music, watch movies, play Scrabble with other people from all over the world, or, like me, share the articles that I put on my blog with a few friends and family members. But there are also all the scammers, thieves, crooks, cyberbullies, sexual predators and extremists of all kinds who use internet to steal and cheat, attract and groom their victims, recruit vulnerable and unstable young people for the jihad, plan terrorist attacks, or spread their Nazi and white supremacist hatred online. And there is something called the dark web where you can buy and sell all kinds of arms and drugs, find recipes to cook your victims if you’re into cannibalism, where you can buy a sexual slave, watch children being abused by monsters like you can’t even imagine exist, where you can also find a hitman to kill your husband or your wife.
Now, let’s consider the technologies I mentioned at the beginning of this article in that perspective. If criminals know that you have a microchip implanted under your skin with a bunch of information that could be useful to them, what do you think they’re going to do? They’ll cut off your hands off if they think that’s where they’ll find the microchip. If they don’t find it there, they’ll put you through a meat grinder or a shredder to find it. When criminal and totalitarian regimes like the one in North Korea, for instance, learn how to custom make people by modifying their genes or DNA before they are even born, what do you think they’re going to do? They are not going to make more beautiful, healthy and well balanced people. They’re going to create an army of blood-thirsty giant frigging zombies with a switch that only they will be able to turn on and off. Forget old Frankenstein! That will be a lot scarier.
Technology doesn’t really change people. It changes the way they live and communicate but not what they are. Since the beginning of civilization, the combat between good and evil has always been at the core of our individual and collective lives. That’s why we keep going back to those old religious writings for answers, and why those fantastic and simple stories still have a ring of truth to our modern ears. That’s why what was written so long ago by the ancient Greek philosophers and authors is still so meaningful to us today. That’s why Shakespeare, even with his English so different from the way it is spoken and written today, because it depicts in such an accurate way that struggle between good and evil, still resonates so well in our modern minds and souls. Internet and the new technologies are only a new battlefield where that confrontation is taking place.
If you want to listen to the radio to learn interesting things about a wide variety of subjects, you should stick to the public radio stations. There are two in English and two in French. Two of them, one in English and one in French, are mostly talking with a little bit of music. The other two, also one in English and one in French, are mostly music with a little bit of talking. The beauty of it is that there is no publicity.