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Technology and Ethics as Depicted in Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Vonnegut's Slaughter

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Technology and Ethics as Depicted in Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five


After a cursory examination of present day world politics, it seems there exist no sterling examples of society's progression towards utopia, or even a higher state of tolerance or knowledge. It is not that humanity does not seek knowledge or improvement. It is not a fault that curiosity drives society's scientists to explain and improve the world beyond the realm of the philosophers. The fault lies in how easily this motive can be manipulated by the vices of greed, the propaganda of the mass media, the centuries-old, unwavering human thirst for power. It is this desire for power and profit, not the journey in creating new technologies and deducing the mechanisms of life and the universe, which becomes convoluted and thus halts the growth process, just as a biologist can halt or suspend the process of life, of dividing cells, by a simple chemical treatment of colchicine.

Though the treatment of cells with a solution of colchicine is meant to preserve the cells in a state that can be studied, after this treatment they are no longer viable. They cannot continue their mitotic or meiotic divisions; they cannot continue to reproduce, to be continually studied. Theirs is a one-time-only offer. Even with this simple example some say that moral questions arise. Is it really right for humans to kill other living things, no matter how small, to further their own "understanding"? Or is this simply the price, or penance, humanity pays to be able to explain, in somewhat greater detail than was previously possible, the processes, functions, and malfunctions of life?

This example, being defined only in terms of dividing ce...


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...ime and energy to developing viable treatments for cancer and AIDS, we have scientists who are at the mercy of huge biotech and pharmaceutical companies. We've got scientists developing "The New Pill That Can End Aging" (Reader's Digest, November 2003) along with Viagra and Propecia, pills for impotent and balding men. Do we see a little misdirection of effort? Yes. Aging, impotence, and hair loss are not threatening an entire population with imminent death, like the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Aging and impotence have not stricken the child population like leukemia. We must start to care about what's really important, we must consider all of the body and mind as we improve technology, and we must think about its implications for future generations. At that time, technology will have been put to its fullest use and will easily go hand in hand with human values.


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