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Good-bye bad genies

- By David Barash & Ward Wilson After seeing the movie, “Oppenheimer,” a friend recently commented, “I certainly don’t like them [nuclear weapons], but what can we do? We can’t put that genie back in its bottle”...

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Good-bye bad genies

By David Barash & Ward Wilson

After seeing the movie, “Oppenheimer,” a friend recently commented, “I certainly don’t like them [nuclear weapons], but what can we do? We can’t put that genie back in its bottle.” Those of us eager to get rid of nukes hear this a lot and at first glance it seems true; common sense suggests that we’re stuck with Oppenheimer’s genie because after all, it can’t be disinvented. But this “common sense” is uncommonly wrong. Technologies have appeared throughout human history, and just as the great majority of plant and animal species have eventually gone extinct, ditto for the great majority of technological genies. Only rarely have they been actively erased. Nearly always they’ve simply been abandoned once people recognized they were inefficient, unsafe, outmoded, or sometimes just plain silly.

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