Fear of the Unknown

Air pumps and electrical machines may seem trivial in the grand scheme of society and government today, but they are the foundation of scientific achievement. Throughout history and still today, these machines bring together the brightest minds and collaborators on earth. I think that governments fear these machines because of what they symbolize and mean. In Johnsons book he says, “If they had reason to ‘tremble at an air pump’, they had even more fear from a steam engine”(Johnson 168). I think this shows that it’s not necessarily the air pump that is feared, but rather the powerful, intelligent groups of people that get together outside of the government and collaborate to create these machines. The fear is in the unknown of what is next. What machines may be created, what other ideas do these philosophers have? Maybe these philosophers and inventors powers become greater than their governments power.

Johnson talks about gunpowder, and its impact on society. He talks about wars being won because one side has the more powerful gunpowder. I think this is directly relatable to today, and the scientific achievements made to further our own success in wars. Gunpowder was the first most influential technological advancement adapted for war, and it didn’t stop there. We have been devoting substantial amounts of time and resources to creating new ‘gunpowder’ so to speak ever in the form of tanks, and then fighter planes, then GPS guided missiles and robotic drones.. the list goes on an on. Just like the gunpowder in Priestley’s era held social and political consequences, the evolution of that gunpowder into much more powerful tools of war today hold the same social and political consequences.

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