The Watchmaker

Albert Einstein...
Albert Einstein...

About a week before the unprecedented disasters began unfolding in Japan, I finally got around to updating the little "This and That" blurb on the right side of my webpage. I chose a quote from Albert Einstein, a personal hero of mine. While he may have been speaking primarily of atomic bombs, the message is still relevant: We are creating technology which we are not wise enough or mature enough to use wisely.

We forget that we are not that far removed from the caves.

We forget that we are not the masters of our world, we are guests and we exist here at the pleasure of the host, our Earth.

Over the course of human history, our planet has from time to time effortlessly wiped whole human cultures from its surface. Altantis. Pompeii. How many others, I wonder? How many times have humans found themselves on the wrong side of Mother Earth's temper?

But now, perhaps for the first time, we have a trump card in the deck of disasters. We have cracked the power of the atom, and we are not ready for the responsibility that comes with it. As evidence, witness the continuing folly of building reactors in fault zones. We may build reactors we think can handle anything the planet throws at them, but it's the unexpected that trips us up. In Japan, the reactors shut down as they were supposed to when the earthquake struck. But the ensuing tsunami damaged the cooling systems, and now a nuclear disaster is unfolding as well. The reactors were built in a fault zone, within the potential reach of a tsunami.

Folly, thy name is mankind.

Einstein mused that perhaps he should have been a watchmaker. I don't think it would have helped. We are an innately curious, bold and immature species. Someone else (or a number of someones) would have done Einstein's work. It remains to be seen whether we can survive the greatest threat to our existence: Ourselves.

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