The Neutrality of Technology

The bolt spins into the mounting hole with precise rotations as blood seeps up from the skin under the neural interface computer. Max Da Costa, former car thief and ex-convict turned factory worker has a powered exoskeleton suit fixed to his body giving him super-human strength. In the dystopian Los Angeles of 2154 life is hard despite the existence of advanced technologies and the alluring paradise space station, Elysium, in orbit far above in which sickness and aging are eradicated. When armed humanoid robots police the neighborhoods of slums and the poor barely survive while the rich thrive in their orbital colony, fate seems to work against the inhabitants of the polluted and overpopulated Earth, including the technologies engineered by their fellow humans.

But technology is not the culprit. Technology is neutral, or rather indifferent, since without consciousness, our tools do not make decisions based on right and wrong or a moral code, but upon the set of instructions or purposes intended by the creator or user of the technology. No technology is good or bad, only its use by humans can be judged as good or bad. The use of technology by both Elysium’s ruthless Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (and her bloodthirsty mercenary Kruger), and by our hero Max and his cohort, demonstrates that the same technology can be used both in malice and in benevolence.


Kruger and Max face off in combat with their exoskeleton suits, giving Max strength more equivalent to his fierce opponent.


Medical pods limited to citizens of Elysium prevent other humans from using them to heal their ailments, unless the definition of ‘citizen’ is re-designated.


Robot guards that usually harass the downtrodden population on Earth’s surface later refuse to detain or harm Max’s cohorts after clever re-programming of Elysium’s core software systems. We see examples of existing technology in our world today, used both for nefarious and benevolent purposes.


(Result of atomic weapons; Peaceful use of atomic technology)

Controlling the power of atomic forces allows both the annihilation of entire cities, or provides them with energy to last generations.


(MQ-1 Predator with missile armament; NASA RQ-4 Global Hawk re-configured to conduct climate science research above dangerous hurricanes)

Controversial air-to-ground strikes are made by unmanned military aircraft. But similar drone technologies are entering the civilian world through science applications, aerial photography and surveying, communications and emergency response.

Since our creations are indifferent to their use, we must be careful as to how we’re using them. The creators of new technologies must consider their own intentions and how that translates into a technology’s design. Greed, shortsightedness and lack of understanding may lead new technologies to be used in dreadful activities, whereas forward-thinking, compassion and communication enable technology to help humans and improve our world.

Originally written for (Oct. 26, 2013)

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