Posted on 31st Oct 2015
In talking with my friend last night about the idea for another post, the topic of my last one came up: whether or not technology is "natural". Whereas in my last post I came to the conclusion that there is too much gray area between what society considers artifical versus natural and that every result is therefore just a consequence of nature (highly debatable), my friend saw a difference when considering large distinctions between natural and artificial things. Something that was brought up was the recently constructed Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam in the world. The dam is so large that, at maximum capacity, the high water level shifts the position of Earth's poles by 2 cm. This may not seem like much, but when you consider that it would take roughly 600 billion people (about 85x our current population) all standing in the area of a couple square miles to achieve this effect, the magnitude becomes apparent. Also, just a slight shift in the rotation of the earth can have enormous consequences on everything from weather to tides all over the world. No other species on Earth has the ability to cause such a massive change to our planet - that is "unnatural".
Another example of drastic changed caused by human activity was reported in the New York Times this week. Based on current predictions, by the year 2100, large parts of the Middle East will become simply uninhabitable due to such high temperatures. This research presupposes a belief in the magnitude of the contribution of humans to climate change; however, I think it's safe to assume that the majority of the population now accepts this as fact. Due to the impacts of this climate change, an entire region of the world where people can live perfectly fine today will become uninhabitable to those without air conditioning or those whose professions require that they work outside.
It is the magnitude of these events caused by humanity and our technology that led to my friend's counterargument against my last post. While it is hard to argue definitions, it does seem after a deeper look that these changes really are unnatural. As scientific achievements keep progressing, our power to control our environments and the repercussions for these actions will both continue to grow. I still by my conclusion in the last post that the important thing to consider with these ever-evolving technologies will be a respect for ethics and morality in regards to our own species and our planet.