The physicist, Richard Feynman, experienced a serious depression (more than a decade long, I believe) after the atomic bomb was dropped on actual people, killing and mutilating them. His mathematics enabled the creation of the atomic bomb with the Manhattan Project. Later, he publicly introduced and discussed the exploration and development of nanotechnologies, a development we have already witnessed.
So while war thunders on in Iraq and Lebanon, I decided to read up a little on this most destructive of subjects that continues to interrupt any realization of its opposite: peace. (Why aren’t we spending millions developing methods to inspire peace?) I’m fairly fearful of the long-term consequences of creating civil strife and supporting it (note well: Ms. Rice isn’t due to arrive in Israel until tomorrow, thus providing that country with an unofficial license from the ‘world’s peacekeeper’ — that’s us — to continue rampant bombing in the poorer areas of Lebanon for days and days now). I wonder if that film, “Syriana,” is worth seeing on this rainiest of days?
An excerpt from Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida by Giovanna Borradori notes the possible misues of nanotechology in terms of war. The following words are Derrida’s and were recorded on October 22, 2001:
To say it all too quickly and in passing, to amplify and clarify just a bit what I said earlier about an absolute threat whose origin is anonymous and not related to any state, such “terrorist” attacks already no longer need planes, bombs, or kamikazes: it is enough to infiltrate a strategically important computer system and introduce a virus or some other disruptive element to paralyze the economic, military, and political resources of an entire country or continent. And this can be attempted from just about anywhere on earth, at very little expense and with minimal means. The relationship between earth, terra territory, and terror has changed, and it is necessary to know that this is because of knowledge, that is, because of technoscience. It is technoscience that blurs the distinction between war and terrorism. In this regard, when compared to the possibilities for destruction and chaotic disorder that are in reserve, for the future, in the computerized networks of the world, “September 11″ is still part of the archaic theater of violence aimed at striking the imagination. One will be able to do even worse tomorrow, invisibly, in silence, more quickly and without any bloodshed, by attacking the computer and informational networks on which the entire life (social, economic, military, and so on) of a “great nation,” of the greatest power on earth, depends. One day it might be said: “September 11″—those were the (”good”) old days of the last war. Things were still of the order of the gigantic: visible and enormous! What size, what height! There has been worse since. Nanotechnologies of all sorts are so much more powerful and invisible, uncontrollable, capable of creeping in everywhere. They are the micrological rivals of microbes and bacteria. Yet our unconscious is already aware of this; it already knows it, and that’s what’s scary.
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.