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Have others noticed that real disasters are often preceded by widespread fears about imagined technological catastrophes which do not materialize, but in fact provide an indirect premonition of things to come? The Y2K worry that massive system failures would result from our computers getting confused about which century was beginning did not  come to pass; however, the year 2000 ushered in the Bush regime, whose mission was to return our political and legal systems to the year 1900.
This September many feared that the Large Hadron Collider would produce a black hole which would swallow up the planet. In the event, the Large Hadron Collider melted down without doing anyone much harm, but the subprime crisis created a black hole which swallowed up our economy.
Could it be that a collective sense of foreboding not only predicts a disaster, but even something of its essential quality, but needs to shift the blame from humans to machines?

Originally posted to Perry the Imp on Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 09:46 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A pair of the most tenuous of connections does (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not a convincing thesis make.

    •  more tenuous connections! (0+ / 0-)

      Well, yes, I was hoping to spark people off to provide more examples of this. To be honest, I don't have major thesis ambitions. It's more of way of trying to engage in some diverting speculation in the midst of all encompassing gloom.
      Thanks for the 1+, btw. This diary number 1 for me, after lurking since 2002.

  •  The LHC didn't melt down, part of it broke. (0+ / 0-)

    It's being repaired and will be back on line soon.

    And no, a sense of foreboding doesn't predict a disaster. Reality doesn't work that way.

    Furthermore, what does this have to do with technological conservatives?

    •  how reality works (0+ / 0-)

      Arken, you are quite correct, it didn't literally melt down. I used that phrase loosely, recalling that the part that broke had to do with preventing it from overheating.
      As to how reality works, that is exactly what the LHC is supposed to tell us, right? I am actually speculating about how human psychology, or the spread of ideas in a society works, more than material reality, which I agree is not subject to clairvoyance,
      I titled the diary the technological correlative, not conservative. That is a reference to "the objective correlative," the notion put forward by TS Eliot that emotion can be expressed indirectly by reference to material things.
      Or were you joking about "conservatives"?

  •  Trouble is Where You Find It (0+ / 0-)

    There's always both major technological disasters and major political ones to notice, especially within a window as large as, say, 1/1 - 11/7 2000, and a magnitude of "disaster consciousness" that runs from Y2K down to LHC. What you are seeing is simply your effort to make correlations between them. To test your theory, what tech terror preceeded Reagan/Bush's 1980 victory? Nixon 1968?

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 10:22:24 AM PDT

  •  I think you've got a point (0+ / 0-)

    Namely that when there's widespread public unease, particularly in regard to expectations of what the future is going to be like, it often manifests itself as very specific fears about unlikely scenarios. Sociologist Jeffrey Victor wrote about this in his book Satanic Panic; in the 1980s many parents were scared to death that their children would be kidnapped, raped and murdered by members of Satanic cults that had infiltrated themselves deeply into the structure of society. Many police departments took those fears deadly seriously and a whole industry arose to train law enforcement how to deal with these cults (the absence of any evidence that such cults existed was viewed as an indication of how powerful they were).

    Victor's argument was that at the time, parents had many very realistic fears about their children's future (primarily economic worries) but that they were fairly vague and non-specific. This vague "free-floating anxiety" would sometimes "crystalize" into highly-specific fears of unlikely or implausible events. I think part of the reason for this is that the vague fears deal with matters that most people feel they have no control over, whereas the specific but implausible fears involve things that in principle could be controlled by applying enough force.

    So I think it's not just a fear of technological disasters that implies an apprehensive public mood, but a fear of Big Bad Things in general.

    I do like conducting hearings in an actual hearing room -- John Conyers

    by ebohlman on Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 10:46:43 AM PDT

    •  that's the tree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that I was trying to bark up!
      I.e. hoping to gain insight into human nature rather than literally asserting some sort of precognition or causation.
      Maybe it's that we expect Big Bad Things to emerge from dark places we don't understand, whether supernatural or technological. The world of urban legends often reflects this phenomenon, but these don't always rise to a society-wide level of belief.

      Thank you for the Jeffery Victor reference; I'll check that out.

  •  No. (0+ / 0-)

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