Why the magic bullet?

Technology is […] a queer thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other.’
CP Snow, New York Times (1971)

Magic bullets, by their very nature, are reductionist. By simplifying problems within the complex systems that we live in – the biosphere, the economy, society itself – means that, more often than not, the systemic nature of challenges are overlooked. So, by focussing on just the symptoms of a problem – these magic bullets, pretty much always miss their target.

Worse still, not only do they miss their target, they also have a malevolent habit of shattering into an unpredictable number of pieces, causing a cascade of often more severe problems in their wake. And, if that wasn’t enough, the final destination of the shrapnel often fails to reveal itself until too late. Knowing this, then why do we seem to seek solace from the promise of a magic bullet?

My future posts will aim to explore this question, in addition to exploring the history of magic bullets and the current faith in them to deal with contemporary challenges such as inter alia climate change, resource scarcity and energy insecurity.

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  • February 2010
    M T W T F S S
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