Technology: Human or Technical

December 11, 2007
Over the summer, my family decided to adopt a new addition to our happy family of five; as if we did not have enough members already! The name of this new component: World of Warcraft. Every night our new addition emits a grotesque, green luminescence that casts a spell, capturing even the strongest of boys and men. The siren song seeps from the speakers casting an infallible spell on my brothers. Hour after hour their virtual addiction hammered away at the bridge separating a world of pixels and graphics from that of flesh and blood. Thankfully, my parents reading their bloodshot eyes as a sign of too much video-gaming, stepped in and slapped an ironclad parental lock on the game, forcing the boys to participate in the family. Upon this and previous instances with gaming systems and high-definition devices I arrived at my convictions: technology in itself does not present the danger of detachment or the prospect of progress; rather it is the level of consciousness about the device’s potential and our ability to regulate its power.
Without human involvement, technology remains unfeeling and neutral, needing the initial push by its creator to propel it into action. Therefore there resides a much more “human rather than technical side” to technology (Vonnegut 7). In Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle Felix Hoenikker, a quirky and playful scientist and “father of the atomic bomb” makes the revolutionary discovery of ice-nine, an isotope of water which upon contact turns “infinite expanses” of water and muck “as solid as [a] desk” (Vonnegut 131, 43-44, 46). Hoenikker’s refusal to accept his responsibility to humanity by ensuring the safe containment of ice-nine leads to the abrupt ending of the world and all mankind (Vonnegut 269). This same slapdash approach presented itself through the illuminated desktops and glazed eyes of my vegetative siblings. Sixty seconds, one minute, sixty minutes, one hour, the pattern continues until precious hours of daylight are consumed by a gluttonous night. My brothers, clinging to the computer like life support, refused to respond to the sharp barks of my mother or even the pleading aromas of supper, which left our world at 7 Wiltshire Ct. ravaged and in constant conflict. The problem was not the computer, but their failure to recognize the destructive power of a growing addiction.
In Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut rejects the age-old battle of good and evil and focuses on something much more devastating: human stupidity. When Felix Hoenikker dies, his three children quickly “divide the ice-nine among themselves” carelessly using their share to buy them desired security and happiness (Vonnegut 51). Ultimately this abuse of ice-nine leaves them alone and in an eternal winter wonderland. Such a devastating turn of events provokes the reader to wonder “[w]hat hope can there be for mankind when there are men such as Felix Hoenikker to give such playthings as ice-nine to such short-sited children as almost all men and women are?” (Vonnegut 245). Similar to the Hoenikker siblings, my parents naively made the decision to pay the twenty dollars per month to subscribe to World of Warcraft, thinking they could channel the boys’ attention and regulate the game time with ease, yet were sadly mistaken. Mankind’s quintessential ignorance together with its technological aptitude paves the way for mass devastation in the lives of family and of the world.
In the final moments of the novel, Vonnegut writes, “[w]hat [c]an a [t]houghtful [m]an [h]ope for [h]umankind on [e]arth, [g]iven the [e]xperience of the [p]ast [m]illion [y]ears?”; the answer is this: “[n]othing” (Vonnegut 245). Vonnegut does not denounce technology, rather the human disregard and naïveté with which it is made and distributed; zeroing in on the sheer destruction of idiocy and abandonment of human liability. If future generations continue “to receive honors…while escaping human responsibility” their lives will become like a “cat’s cradle” of “human futility” through the use of the quintessential World of Warcraft and ice-nine’s of the day (Vonnegut 225, 164).

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