Know the Basis of Your Technology

Jurassic Park is a wonderful movie, but you’re cheating yourself of some fine philosophy if you don’t read the book.

In the original Michael Crichton novel, the mathematician and Jurassic Park skeptic Ian Malcom delivers a fantastic speech on the difference between power gained through science for the genetic engineers of InGen (power handed to them by previous generations’ work) and the power of a martial artist (earned by the practitioner over a long period of training). For the martial artist, the discipline required to get the power remains, ensuring that he uses the power well.

“Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can’t be given away : it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.”

Jurassic Park, Michael Crighton

Malcolm argued that the accumulating knowledge of the scientific community gave the InGen engineers power without discipline. And we all know what happens to Jurassic Park as a result.

I think there is something for us all to learn from Malcolm’s view. Maybe we need to do more of the work to understand our technology and train for it before we wield it.

Imagine learning computer engineering only after learning how to build a computer. Imagine learning how to build a computer only after learning at least a little about how factories and rare metals mining works (or working in one yourself). Imagine learning about that only after learning how to generate and transfer electrical energy. Imagine learning about that only after learning how to dig copper out of the ground and refine it.

You would appreciate that computer. You would understand its place in science and technology. And because you were exposed to the first principles behind the thing, you would have a better shot at using it in new and interesting and non-harmful ways.

Now I know we need specialization to make and do these things, and we can’t all be computer experts, but we also shouldn’t be completely mystified by all the things we live with, and we probably won’t be the wisest users of technology that is simply handed to us without context.

Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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