Tag Archives: Hiroshima

Harry Truman: What We Can Learn From The Man From Missouri [13]

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The Manhattan Project: Truman was curious about having this weapon tested. In June of 1945, the bomb was indeed tested and had worked. George Marshall claimed that a million American’s could be killed in an invasion of Japan, so anything in the arsenal of the United States that could curb an invasion was preferable. Truman believed that the shock value of the bomb would end the war. Okanawa was a battle that had major loses. Japanese kamikaze air pilots resulted in 30 US ships being sunk with over 12,000 Americans killed in Okanawa. Japanese military loses were 10x worse. Civilian deaths on the Island were 150,000. Tokyo was bombed heavily in March 300 B 29s bombed Tokyo killing 100,000 civilians. Osaka was bombed heavily as well. Japanese morale was unaffected. Truman wanted to shock them into action. The Truman Committee believed that no demonstration or warning would work. It would be worse if the bomb malfucntioned so he did not notify the Japanese about the impending bombing. Truman never considered NOT using the bomb. Truman could not say “No” to the bombing.

The Age of Spiritual Machines: Part 4

Attacking Luddites, Cautious Progressivism & The Frankenstein Factor

Kurzweil tries to portray the original luddites as a small crazed movement that was inevitably destroyed. Luddites were originally a movement against textile manufactures in 19th Century England. They didn’t like how manufacturing had led to increased child labour, starvation and mass migration. These are negative, albeit short-term consequences of technology. The problem is that Kurzweil only sees the benefits of technology and believes that these luddites just needed to get other jobs, even if many British peasants ended up in the poor house. Kurzweil implies that this doesn’t matter, technology and change are great at all costs. The atom bomb’s use on Hiroshima is part of that progress. It is important to note that the luddites are a manifestation of the Human Factor. They may have been wrong to destroy the new weaving machines but they represent a broader human response to new technology; that is why the Segway is not a victim a fringe group of luddites but the wider public. Kurzweil goes so far as to demonizes those who might criticize his complete faith in the virtue of computer technology. Kurzweil blatantly demeans those who might criticize his ideas by quoting the most famous luddite of the 20th century: Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”). Kaczynski is a criminal. This is a cheap attempt to associated evil with resistance or even questioning the value of change.

An example of where Kurzweil demonstrates absolute faith in the value of technological advancement despite obvious evidence that there are negative consequences in his theory of economic growth. Kurzweil makes the false claim that technology is fueling the expansion of economic well-being. He is ascribing technological advancement as the source of growth, not the people using the technology, new expansion of resources, changing international prices, changing demand etc. America’s economic growth has been below .5% for the past few years. Should we blame technology for the slow down and then claim technology is responsible when there is major growth? Kurzweil is not academic enough for my liking. Also, most economists point to the 1896 world depression as being caused by increased communication through telephone wires. Product sales increased in 1896 but products could not be delivered at the fast rate of demand causing an economic depression. Technology may trigger some depressions, technology may appears to trigger economic growth. Technology is part of the story not the whole story: something a computer scientist might have trouble believing. Kurzweil even hilariously attributes the fall of communism to technology! (172, AoSM) These claims are dubious.

A more balanced approach should be given to technology then the one that Kurzweil ascribes. This is called the cautious progressivists. They are not luddites. They are just more cautious than Kurzweil and they don’t believe in inevitability. Nothing is inevitable. They take into account the Human Factor and have learned from history that technology is not something to advance for its own sake alone. Everyone knows Frankenstein but few people understand the point of Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein is a harsh warning about the dangers of exploratory science on morality, human wellbeing…you know the people that technology should serve. Humanity is not impervious to disasters that are brought on accidentally by our own faith in technology: Chernobyl, the Titanic, Hiroshima, and yeah…even Jurassic Park. Kurzweil should re-read Frankenstein. This isn’t to say that technology is pure evil, it allows us to share ideas on a blog etc. Some great ideas may not actually benefit humanity in whole or in part, we should know that science is a powerful thing that must be handled with absolute care.

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What We Can Learn From Truman Part XIV

Use Drastic Measures to Defeat Your Enemy: Hiroshima was bombed on August 5th. Truman learned of the complete success of the bombing. Truman was very happy and had a broad smile upon the news of mass destruction. A quick end to the war with the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT was only a positive thing for Truman. Truman explained that an atomic bomb harnessed ‘the nature of the universe’. Truman said that Japan would and should be prevented from waging war. Truman promised to destroy BUT many were terrified by the idea of this new kind of horror. Could the world handle the use of such destructiveness? The aftermath resulted in a 60% destruction of Hiroshima. 80,000 civilians were killed instantly with over 50,000 killed in the coming days. People burning into cinder while standing up, birds were ignited in mid-flight.