A Window on the Universe Essay Question and Sample Answer
A Window on the Universe Essay 4
According to the stories in this collection, what role does technology have in the future?
In A Window on the Universe, technology is presented as helpful to humans, but also potentially dangerous and threatening to humanity.
In most stories set in the future, authors speculate about the ways in which technology might assist our lives. This collection of stories is no exception. Several authors suggest that technology will help humans with everyday household tasks, such as the robotic chef in ‘Human Is’ and the food-delivery tubes in ‘Zero Hour’. There is also technology to assist with communication, some of which has come true since the stories were published, such as the “audio-visor” in ‘Zero Hour’, which seems to be similar to a video-phone. One author suggests that machines will completely take over many of humanity’s jobs. In ‘Who Can Replace a Man?’, machines have many roles, apparently taking over the need for humans to do any agricultural work at all.
However, technology is also a potential source of danger and fear in the future. In ‘Stitch in Time’, scientists develop amazing time-travelling technology. However, the potential related dangers are implied when Thelma’s love story is ruined by this technology; the man she wished to marry, and who was her true love, is prevented from marrying her because he is taken by this machine. Technology interrupts a truly human emotional story of love. Another story in which technology poses a danger to humanity is ‘The Sound Machine’. Klausner is driven mad by what he discovers with new technology: the sound of apparent pain made by plants when they are ‘hurt’. Because of his inability to comprehend the sounds beyond their human implications – irrational anthropomorphism – he assumes that the plants are crying out in agony. By the end of the story, he acts extremely irrationally, requesting that the doctor apply human medicine to the tree, which is technically incapable of feeling pain. His appearance at the end of the story is that of a mad axeman: a stereotype of a violent, unstable person. This story highlights the potential for technology to provide us with information or abilities which could lead to our own destruction. In a more direct way, some stories, such as ‘Zero Hour’, hint at frightening alien technologies which could assist other species to attack Earth.
In this collection of stories, technology has the capability to both assist and destroy humanity. It could help to make life easier, by removing the need for humans to undertake physical and mental tasks. However, it could also contribute to our destruction.