Often I rail against money, or scarcity.  I also rail against injustice served up by free markets.  But I don’t rail against technological tools (like teleportation or power generation) that could be leveraged to evil ends.  What gives?  I was thinking about this because I do believe in the usefulness of tools, and I wanted to speak to what I believe are their moral implications.

Tools are powerful.  I feel like more than any other idea or thing, tools are the means by which humans gain mastery over their environment.  But tools have a secret cost (I mean, in addition to their not-secret costs, like materials or skill) and it’s that they allow us a wider range of choices, and therefore require from us more responsibility when we have the opportunity to make a good choice.  The advancement of technology happens at the speed of science and engineering, but the advancement of reason and wisdom can happen at a different rate.  If we don’t “grow up,” so to speak, at the same rate as we generate more and more powerful tools, then we are bound to screw up and make bad choices that have bad consequences.

It’s troublesome, because often once a tool is created, it is impossible to know who will use it.  Thus the moral cost of the creation of the tool is unknown.  It’s something to keep in mind – are the creators of the atomic bomb (or perhaps more ambiguously, those who figured out it was possible) morally responsible for the deaths of those the bombs have been used against?  I don’t know what my answer to that question is, but it certainly isn’t “definitely not.”

I don’t think we should stop making better tools, but I do think we need to be aware that a tool is only as Good as its wielder.

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