Saturday, February 21, 2009

Technology :: Power :: Corruption (Option 2)


tricia said...

Technology has granted the human species a great degree of power. Over the centuries, through our advanced methods of communication and discourse, we’ve had the opportunity to build on knowledge from our earliest ancestors. This ability sets us apart from other plants and animals, and over time has gifted us many useful technologies. In human theory, power can be used for good or evil. However, in human nature it’s much more likely that power will corrupt.

Technology in its simplest forms allowed us power over our situations: fire set us apart from every other species. We could now cook, create heat and light, and provide warmth for our masses, not to mention keep predators away. This is our evolutionary inheritance. Instead of being fitted with thick fur to stand the cold or hibernating for the winter, we are fitted with jackets and furnaces and left to our human endeavors. Even in this human-centric and seemingly positive light, our technology-enabled power has corrupt. We now stand on the brink of the sixth mass extinction, more likely than not caused by the hand of humans.

Ani DiFranco in one of her brightest moments drew a lyrical line between humans and other species, “…animals take from this world only what they need to survive.” Humans, on the other hand, take what they need to have power. Mary Stonecraft-Shelley carries this theme of corruptive power all the way through Frankenstein. Victor has technology in the boldest sense of the term; he can create new life. After having done so, his monster is banished to the wilds to live with animals and fend for itself. The beast lives on meager, raw portions and resides in handmade shacks or caves or in the open. The beast has no technology and seeks no power, until it learns to read and speak. At the onset of this ability, this technique of communication, it recognizes its own power. The monster has the technology to make a demand and, in the instance of denial, to wield its power against its creator. Frankenstein utilizes the same technology in his denial to alleviate the suffering of the creature, which he so shortsightedly created.

Take into account the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. 24 undergraduates were assigned randomly to be prisoners or guards: all of them ‘internalized’ their role, including Philip Zimbardo, the psychology professor running the experiment. Power itself is a technique, and possibly lies at the base of all techniques. Like in the Stanford experiment, humans may react based on their access to technology. The prisoners, who were systematically stripped of their individuality, maintained the role even after they had been released from the experiment. One third of the guards, who applied the techniques that stripped the prisoners of individuality, were determined to have exhibited genuine sadistic behavior. These students were selected for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities. These were not sadistic humans before they were given the ability to strip another person of his or her identity. At the inception of their power, the guards became corrupt.

It is not to say that all technology leads to a type of corruption. However, human nature is unable to compete with all that power entails. The ability to control, the ability to come out on top is as basic to humans as it is to any other living creature. Humans have used their technology to bring themselves to the top and now looking down can see the havoc that our earned, but blind, power has wreaked.

Adam Johns said...

I think your introduction is very broad; you make several big claims before you even get to your argument. We'll see where this takes us, but I'm very likely to tell you to focus more.

You're still writing your introduction for the next two paragraphs. I suspect the real introduction is the third paragraph - it's more precise, more interesting, and more engaging than what has gone before.

Now, let's talk about your introduction of the experiment. The idea is very good, but you introduce it awkwardly, and you seem to be a little unsure about what, exactly, you're saying. My take is that your argument is something like this: "In Frankenstein we see that technology leads to absolute corruption; this is the case in the real world also," where the experiment is your first (and hopefully not last!) piece of evidence. It's a big, ambitious topic. Can you find something more focused within it?

For instance, you could develop an argument about how we can (or cannot) regulate ourselves in such ways that our technology would not corrupt us, or that we would insulate ourselves from that corruption. Or you could argue in favor of a complete abandonment of certain technologies.

To reword: Your introduction is far too long, your body is just getting started, and I'm very interested in - but totally unsure about - what you conclude on the basis of the corrupting power of technology. Where do we go from here?

Megan Schwemer said...

While I think I know what you're getting at (that technology leads to power which leads to corruption), I think your argument could be elaborated on significantly. You introduce a lot of ideas, like a sixth mass extinction, that you never explain or mention again. I think if you wish to leave them in, you should explain them; otherwise, it might be best to cut them out. I also think you could use to explain your examples of Frankenstein and the prison experiment. Who has more power, Victor or the monster? Why? What 'technology' did the guards have access to that the prisoners did not? I think you might want to clarify your definition of technology in regards to the experiment. I also think you could use to draw some parallels between the two examples. Is Victor (or the monster) like one of the guards or the prisoners in the experiment? Your conclusion does not seem founded based on the few examples you give, and your wording seems somewhat convoluted. I think it might be a good idea to add a few more examples, particularly of how technology leads to corruption. Are more technologically advanced societies more corrupt than less technologically advanced ones? Is mankind growing more corrupt as technology advances? Or are we simply becoming more effective at exercising our drives for power? There are many directions you could take your argument, and I think have stopped short. By delving deeper into your examples and adding more, I think you could come to some interesting conclusions.