Trope of the Week: Technology is Evil

“durr hburr technology is bad fire is scary and thomas edison was a witch”

A touching quote by anonymous. In science-fiction and horror especially, technology is treated as the root of all evil. It is through the vein-like wires that Satan’s evil seeps through and devours all mortal souls. “Today, we’re simultaneously more connected and more alone than every before,” says the Facebook philosopher. Sometimes technology is described as a “necessary evil,” something we require for our continued survival, but it’s our great hubris that comes with developing technology that ends up being our downfall. So of course in fiction, many a protagonist has been warped, maimed, slain, or otherwise harmed by the sins that are our electronics.

WARNING: Spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why this can be bad: There’s an element of truth to the fear people have of technology. Our teenagers “overindulge” on screens, and some say that social media is “sabotaging real communication.” When you add issues about the surveillance state and artificial intelligence, technology can look like a real boon to society. When addressing these issues in fiction, a lot of authors choose to go hard on the evil route, suggesting that anything that came into being after the refrigerator is a source of evil and must be destroyed. The idea of “going back to our roots” comes up a lot. However, these writers tend to exaggerate the technological climate and ignore a lot of the really good things that tech can do: learn any bit of knowledge you want with a Google search, talk to someone from another country, get news on protests happening half a world away. While technology may take away from “the moment” of a special situation, it can also be used in other contexts to keep in touch with friends, educate yourself, and find new life experiences.

How you can fix it: If you’ll be writing about some kind of evil technological entity, be sure to show a good aspect of it as well. Age of Ultron is a great example. Arguably, Ultron is evil and wants to destroy all human life. But Jarvis-turned-Vision is the result of similar AI, and he acts as a shining force in the Avengers to the point that he can lift Thor’s hammer — which is only able to be lifted by those who are “worthy.” In this way, Vision acts as a foil to Ultron, and they bring out the best and the worst in each other. The idea of a foil does not have to be limited to characters, however. If your story concerns a surveillance state watching and dictating its people’s every move, you can also provide examples of how that technology is turned against itself and used for good. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is a perfect example of how this can be done. Fight fire with fire, like they say.

Bottom Line: Create a foil for your technology to better encapsulate it.

One comment on “Trope of the Week: Technology is Evil

  1. jbgarner58 says:

    Reblogged this on J. B. Garner – Musings of a Starving Author and commented:
    It’s time for Paige’s Trope of the Week!

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