Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid!

Fear of the unknown. Otherwise known as an unwillingness to undergo change. Why should governments and religions fear the inventions of air pumps and electrical machines? Advances as momentous as these will certainly cause social, economic, and demographic changes so rapid and large, that if a government or religion is in any way unstable, those changes could shake up the very foundations of what makes a government or religion what they are. In his book, Johnson gives the example of the industrialization of Northern England. Due to its abundance of coal, England was able to advance quickly in metalworks, textiles, and other industries. England advanced so quickly in fact, that the government couldn’t keep up with it. Cities in the North became ten times larger than they once were, and England’s once agrarian society switched to one of goods production. Yet for all of these switches in England’s economy, Parliament remained the same. Unwilling to give more representation to the Northern cities. In turn, causing discontent among the populous, and disagreement within Parliament (Johnson, 167).

I would definitely say that Johnson’s work coincides with a lot of new scientific and technological advances that are happening today. For instance, the continuing race to improve, robotics technology (both militarily, and robotics in factories). Robotics have been a science for a while now, and underneath all of the talk of progress and making human life easier that comes with robotics, there is also the fact that improving robot technology means a loss of human jobs. Robots can do the work of ten people at least. That is now potentially ten people who are jobless. Those disgruntled former workers are pretty upset with their companies, and their government for allowing corporations to take away jobs. Those workers might take their anger out on representatives, and they could form protests and riots. It’s happened before in history. Frustrated workers revolted against a low salary, and unsafe working conditions, and now… they might revolt against the robotics industry.


3 thoughts on “Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid!”

  1. you summarize Johnsons points well and give a good example of robotics, though you could have focused more on how robotics affect government and religion then just society in general. Overall it was a good read and excellent title.

  2. Hi Coleen

    First of all, great post! As you mention, Johnson’s work indeed coincides with a lot of new scientific and technological advances. The blue-collar workers losing their jobs to the robots is definitely a negative thing happening with the progress of science and technology. But you can also view this from a different point of view. The wide automation of jobs has also led to creation of new jobs, but the problem here would of course be that these jobs demand qualifications that the blue-collar workers might not have. This advancement has gone way to quick and it certainly corresponds with the advancement of technology that the government couldn’t keep up with back in the days.

  3. I really like your points about political or religious institutions fearing the change brought on by these inventions as well as the point about the instability of said institutiojnss.In Priestleys quote, he specifically mentions specifically,that governments with “anything unsound in its constitution”, are ones who should be fearing this change. Being an incredibly zealous christian, as well as a enlightenment age thinker, I think that Priestley was talking about the moral foundations of these institutions rather than anything economic or political. However, because of the relationship between economics, religion, science and politics, any change in one of these will adversely affect the others, the example you gave of the shift from rural Southern England to industrial Northern England, being an excellent example. I think that Priestley would agree with your ideas on the advent of an automated workforce, in that progress is looked at in terms of the big picture (more efficient production), but it often fails to take into account the many small pictures (the livelihood of the workers).

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