” Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”
~ Albert Einstein
Whereas the quote above could easily be dismissed as the ‘progress-denying’ sentiment of a disgruntled anti-GMO activist, the fact is that it came from a scientist representing the very epitome of Western rationality and accomplishment.
Perhaps Einstein was reflecting on the inevitable existential consequences of the so-called
“technological imperative”–whatever can be done, will be done. Fundamentally amoral and irrational economic and political forces drive technology’s feverish pace, infusing a certain arbitrary cruelty and disequilibrium into everything it touches.
In our continual drive to ‘improve upon Nature’ in the name of much-hyped, ‘life-saving’ biotechnological innovations, the line between humane and inhumane eventually is crossed, and there seems no going back. Biopollution from defective or dangerous GMO genes, for example, is virtually impossible to undo once unreleased into the biosphere; you can’t “recall” a defective gene like you can an automobile. Nor can we remove from our bodies the surreptitious viruses (e.g. simian virus #40 (SV40)) that contaminated millions of first-generation polio vaccines. In many ways our moral fiber suffers from the same susceptibilities. Once we have crossed a certain line – be it theft, lying, or worse, etc., – it is difficult, if not impossible to ‘go back’ and regain our innocence. Such is the human condition. And this is why we must carefully consider the medico-ethical implications of new technologies, whose developments we must
first be aware of in order to guide, regulate and sometimes terminate.