Progress or Alienation

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Progress or Alienation

Our society has alienated itself far from the reality of the way things are and the way they should be, through the use and misuse of scientific knowledge and technology. Science is defined as, “a logical organized method of obtaining information through direct, systematic observation.” Sometimes science does not seem organized, in fact it seems like it opens us up to a different realm of possibilities that have consequences far beyond our wildest dreams. Scientific knowledge is something that sometimes cannot be controlled or monitored, but needs to be for the sake of the greater population. Those with the most power, for example political leaders and corporation giants, are often allowed privileged information that could jeopardize the safety of all of us. Now whether or not this information is taken in good faith, or for the almighty dollar doesn’t mean its right, nor does it mean that we should not explore scientific possibilities. Science stimulates our minds and forces us to use critical thinking and analysis based on our previous knowledge. Not all scientific information is wrong or incurs consequences, but like all data there is a right and a wrong way to distribute it.

Scientific progress on the other hand is what has helped out society gain the knowledge and insight to live better lives through the advances in medical technology, the strategy of war, and the exploration of space. Not all scientific knowledge is misused, and it’s only brought to our attention when it has been. When this occurs people often question the validity of scientific work which leads to criticism. Some scientific progress will bring with it disruptive change in our society, but with change comes progress and the hope that we can better our lives.

In the two stories I will present in this paper, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Catherine Asaro’s “The Veiled Web,” they discuss the negative consequences of the actions from people who try and offer good insight to the scientific community and the general population. In both stories, two men take it upon themselves to manipulate science for the good of mankind. Both believe that good will come from their actions but neither consider the consequences of failure. The men in these stories are intent on their work and do not realize that others will turn it against them for destructive purposes. In “Frankenstein“, Victor Frankenstein realizes the destructiveness of his behavior, when it’s too late, and regrets it immensely.

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In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” the main character, Victor Frankenstein seeks new and revolutionary scientific advancement and knowledge. He wants to be the first to try a new scientific method of creating a human being. His goal was to “be the first to bestow animation on lifeless matter.” (POO 231). But instead he fails to realize his true potential and creates a hideous monster. “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath: his hair was lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost the same colour as dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips” (POO 235). He becomes horrified and disgusted with his work and leaves it, “the moment it’s brought to life” (POO 233). In the creation of his monster Frankenstein, Victor sees the true consequences when one misuses science. He is also reminded that he truly does lack the wisdom to play God. Victor’s experiment went out of control and he was so caught up in his work he failed to realize it. In Victor’s case science was too powerful for him to control once it was finished.

Scientists hold a certain power called knowledge that enables them to discover as well as create things that affect the greater population. Sometimes without realizing it, they create havoc within a world that isn’t ready for such great scientific advancement. Scientists are motivated by the government, the medical field, and various other social structures to create something that will make life easier, relieve pain, or invent better war technology. There is a lot of pressure in this field to be the first as well as the best inventor of new things or ideas. As it is true in the “real” world, so it is true in the scientific world, no one wants to be second best. Usually people don’t remember who perfected a model, just who thought of the idea first.

Good motivations sometimes lead to negative consequences when this knowledge is misused or misguided. For Victor Frankenstein, he had good intentions of creating a human being from lifeless matter. But he did not stop to consider the consequences of creating human being with feelings that would have to live and interact with others in order to be seen as successful and not a monster. Victor’s story leaves behind an important lesson to those scientists who immerse themselves in their work without thinking of consequences. “If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no ally can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.” (POO 233).

In Catherine Asaro’s “The Veiled Web,” the main character Rashid Al-Jazari has invented a revolutionary new internet program that enables virtual reality and artificial intelligence. This novel is set during the twenty first century and seems like a warning to scientists to be aware of all consequences of their work…good or bad. In this novel, Rashid deals with ethical struggles because he knows that if this type of technology came into the wrong hands the affects could be devastating. He also struggles because he is aware of the positive impacts this technology could have on saving and improving lives. In the beginning he felt that the positive aspects outweighed the negative and he thought he could control the negative if the need arose. “ The jazari suit (virtual reality mechanism) took abstract problems to a new level. Chemists could submerge into a molecular universe and directly manipulate the chemicals, wrestle with them, go inside molecules, do whatever they wanted. It would enhance learning, perhaps take the human intellect to a higher level of development” (Asaro 203). The positive aspects of this technology could also empower individuals. For example, the medical field can use it for complicated medical procedure, and the military can use it for military training and spy games. “The synthesis of those technologies would probably have a greater impact on the world than the telephone, transistor or even personal computer” (Asaro 222). In other words, this changing technology and how people define reality is going to change. Virtual reality as explained in “The Veiled Web,” enables people to take on different personas in order to gain information about a subject that’s linked to the internet. It leaves the door wide open for destructive behavior that would affect everyone. “They could compromise the military in any country connected to the internet. Affect connected businesses. Monitor scientific and technological progress. Manipulate stock markets. Sabotage, advance, control, compile dossiers, or destroy the life encompassed by the net, which in this century includes almost the entire population of earth” (Asaro 292). This novel shows the reality of what can happen when ignorant individuals seek to control a technology they no little about. This misuse of knowledge can have devastating effects on all of society.

“The Veiled Web“ ends just as “Frankenstein” did; with a man not fully realizing the true potential of an invention. Ambition is not a negative attribute, in fact it has lead to many positive things being created. But it is important to realize as a scientist that they do not have the power to play God and some things must be left as the are. I don’t know who will decide what needs changing but the forces of nature and laws of physics are to be studied and maybe aren’t meant to be manipulated. The decision about who has the power to decide which technologies to use and which are dangerous must come from both scientists and members of society. The scientists themselves must make it their duty to keep the public informed on technological advancements that will affect them. It would be impossible to monitor every scientist and analyze every piece of data. But through teaching and understanding about the consequences of science,

There seems to be no limit to what the human imagination can come up with. The quest for knowledge that encompasses bigger and better things can never be monitored regularly and it will never stop. One cannot put a cap on imagination, and scientific knowledge will always be questioned legally and ethically but it cannot stop scientists from realizing their potential. We can only hope that we do not alienate ourselves from a concept (science) that seems to be contributing to the well being of society for the most part. Scientific progress will continue to prosper as long as there are those out there who seek infinite wisdom.

Works Cited:

Asaro, Catherine. The Veiled Web. Bantum Books, New York 1999.

Ruszkiewicz, John J. & Lunsford, Andrea A. The Presence of Others: Voices and Images that Call for Response. Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston *New York 2000.


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