On technology and vulnerability

The first episode of James Burke’s Connections is very thought provoking. It demonstrates the inescapable downside of Adam Smith‘s pin factory: while an assembly line can produce far more pins than individual artisans, each of the assembly line workers becomes unable to produce anything without the industrial network that supports their work.

See this prior entry on Burke’s series

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “On technology and vulnerability”

  1. It’s an excellent episode. Do you agree with Jared Diamond’s claim that farming was the worst invention we ever came up with?

  2. Start four minutes and forty seconds into the episode, for maximum effect. The first phrase you should hear is:

    “New York City, like all the other major high density population centres scattered across the Earth, is a technology island.”

  3. Do you agree with Jared Diamond’s claim that farming was the worst invention we ever came up with?

    I don’t know if this is a question that can really be answered. Agriculture was the first enormous fork in human history. The sheer degree of difference between our world and one where it does not exist make it impossibly difficult to come up with a comparison. Without agriculture, we would be more like chimpanzees than like the present form of humanity.

  4. -are you sure we wouldn’t be more like hunter-gatherer societies that exist today?

    Anyways, Connections ROCKS MY WORLD. OMG, I should download some episodes.

  5. Trapped
    April 21, 2008

    This week in the magazine, Nick Paumgarten writes about the lives of elevators, and tells the story of Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator in New York City’s McGraw-Hill building for forty-one hours. Here is a condensed look at White’s ordeal, as captured by the building’s security cameras.

  6. Immaculate Telegraphy

    Could humans at any point in history, given the right information, construct an electronic communication network? To test this hypothesis, Substitute Materials will attempt to build a functional electric battery and telegraph switch from materials found in the wilderness, using no modern tools except information from the internet. The telegraph will be a first step towards an ahistorical internet.

    Full-scale construction of the artifacts is currently underway in Mineral county, Montana.

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