Monday, July 25, 2011

The Demolished Man

The tragedy in Norway last week has me thinking of one of my favorite books, “The Demolished Man”, by Alfred Bester (1953).  Without spoiling this old science fiction novel for those who haven’t read it, I just want to say that an important idea in the novel is that destructive power capable of ending humanity may ultimately lie in each and every human’s hands.  The author suggests that with the knowledge of this power, we may find ourselves developing a sense of responsibility for all humanity.  Perhaps that sense will allow us to each do the right thing, and to act in a way in which every person assumes responsibility for every other person, and protects all humanity from an ultimate demolition. 

Or, perhaps not.

As technology development speeds up in our reality, the capability for immense violence and destruction by individuals grows.  Terrorist attacks, shooting sprees and the prospect of the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by fanatical extremists are all examples of this fearful trend.

Soon, the fanciful prospect laid out in The Demolished Man will be our reality.

What will we do, I wonder?


  1. Simple. Work to eliminate religious fundamentalism. This will only happen if moderates agree to help. They haven't, however, demonstrated any real effort to do this. Maybe they are not moderate enough. Maybe they are too blind. Perhaps if they begin this endeavor they will encounter the weakness of their arguments. This is what they possibly fear. Or perhaps they are simply too lazy.

  2. @Greg H: I agree that eliminating religious fundamentalism is necessary. I believe it is not sufficient. There are other kinds of absolutism, including specific kinds of mental illnesses, that have no religious component. What does one do with a "true believer" in anarchism? Genocidal racists?

    I think that any kind of belief system that is not tempered with both skepticism and deep empathy can result in this kind of violence.