With The Hindenburg Airship destruction as a hook, Ed Regis explains the Pathology of Technology – Theory Research over Practical Application and human hubris to overscale size and scope of ratio: from Human to the Industrial Scale – To Do for it’s Own Sake – rather than any meaningful existence improvements and without regard to risks or excessive cost to benefit financing.
The Hindenburg was the second to last completed airship – on the Titanic Scale, but serving far less crew and passengers – 76 crew and passengers in the air verse 2,225 at sea – each disaster loosing more than half it’s human cargo.
the hindenburg’s metal slag, itself the remains of a British Airship, was remelted and modeled into the Graf Zepplin II, before it and the partially construct airship Zepplin 140.
Germany tried to use the airships in wartime, but they were not controllable flight and often, when they did deliver bombs they were never on target and they were far too vulnerable – usually killing their German operators than anyone else.
To be a pathological technology – it has to meet criteria:
- Project serves more symbolic than practical function
- Poor Project management being overly optimistic and oversized in physical scale while ignoring obvious risks and lack of control/management.
- Balloon Budgets – extreme expense to society for marginal benefits for few
- Fanatical Experts as Personality Cult leading a group of enthralled engineers
It’s not just physics and engineering, it happens across the sciences, often because the early development of a science area has no professional ethics or legal oversight – just financing – and the society ethics of the day are for the masses, not the academic elites, right?
Partly leading to the Access to Information and what is private vs professional correspondance – when peer to peer review is an established norm – and being able to proof of concept, design stages and the very math – to see what was missed.
until we built these big things to test the limits of medium (air, water, land travel) and available building materials – stone, wood, metal and then metal alloys – understanding energy from fire to electricity to nuclear reactions.
Which is the other pathology of technology – if it only has destructive war applications, it’s pathological by purpose.
Let’s be clear – there is no peaceful purpose for a gun or bow and arrow – it is to kill what it is aimed at.
Whether it’s at non-human to eat it or at a human for whatever rational the gun wielder has justified – survival by crime, in defense of others in a situation, or in uniform as boots on the ground.
Nice way to dehumanize and support the troops, reduce them to equipment.
Often for that symbolic us vs them, our smarts vs their smarts or our sheer might vs their sheer might.
Anyway, I am glad we didn’t use nukes to build instant harbours or canals across continent, what’s the point of fast build when we couldn’t use them for centuries – better to build conventionally and not destructively.
An excellent book that describes how national pride sweeps a population and sensibility it lost, and the problem of balancing the leading edge of science, resulting in technologies, and the need to consider the broader implications.
Psychopaths and predators do not tend to worry about consequences to others, eh?
Something the book didn’t touch on was the amount of money wasted on apparently harmless stuff and the social harm it does to population health and education to resist false science because of desperate hope.