Anti-ScienceGuest Bloggers

Nanocyborgs vs Savages

What’s the harm in believing weird things? I’ll let Lucy from Skepchick’s sister site Escéptica tell you a terrifying story.
___________________

It is common knowledge that scientists are evil by nature. You just need to browse through your comic book of choice, or if your feeling adventurous you can watch an El Santo movie (a 1950s Mexican lucha libre wrestler turned superhero in a series of 50 Ed Wood-type movies where he battles everything from Dracula to the Mafia), to know that getting your Ph.D. is the first step to becoming the archenemy of a courageous superhero who is bent on ruining your plans of World domination. All right, I admit that I can sometimes let my imagination run a bit wild, but apparently I’m not the only one. In the 2007 Survey of the Public Perception of Science and Technology in Mexico carried out by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT) in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), 49.8% of the participants agreed with the statement that “due to their knowledge, researchers have power that renders them dangerous”, and 46.5% of them thought that “technological discoveries will sooner or later destroy the planet”.

The lack of basic scientific knowledge (approximately 35% of the participants thinks the Earth circles the Sun once a month) and the negative attitudes towards science and technology represent, in my opinion, a big obstacle to the economic development, and the health and well-being of the population of Mexico. Sometimes, however, the lack of information and incorrect perception of science go one step further, resulting in situations that could be considered ridiculous or absurd, if their consequences were not so dire. This is the case of the terrorist attacks perpetrated by an anarchist group that calls itself Individuals Tending to Savagery who, on August 8th, sent an explosive package to the director of the technology park at the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico, Armando Herrera Corral.

The device, which contained a 20 cm-long dynamite cylinder, failed to go off properly, and only injured Herrera Corral and his colleague, Alejandro Aceves López; I stress the word only because the police estimate that the package contained enough explosive to take down part of the building, had it worked as intended. Last April and May, the same group sent similar packages to professor Óscar Camacho of the Polytechnic University of the Mexico Valley (UPVM). There’s contradictory versions about what happened then, but it appears that in one of these instances the home-made explosive device was not activated, whereas in the other one, a maintenance employee was hurt (some sources actually say that in both of these occasions the devices failed to detonate).

What did these professors do to provoke the wrath of these individuals? We can cross off our list the usual suspects, since none of them perform medical research with animals; they do not work with stem cells, nor are they looking to clone cute and fluffy sheep. In fact, Herrera Corral, Aceves López, and Camacho worked in computing, robotics, and nanotechnology, respectively. Huh?

In the blog Liberación Total, this group of savages (by their own denomination, although I have to admit this is the only point in which I agree with them completely) said the attack was in retaliation to the boost that has been given to nanotechnology, which they believe will lead to the creation of nanocyborgs that will cause the downfall of mankind…really, I’m not making this up. These are some of the most memorable quotes from their manifesto (I’ve translated them as faithfully as I can, since I don’t want to ‘discredit’ their colorful prose):

“Nanotechnology is the most advanced [field] that has existed up to this point in the history of anthropocentric progress. It consists of the complete study, the scrutiny of the manipulation and the domination of everything that is minute, invisible to the naked eye. With this, human beings have achieved the control of everything, absolutely everything from climate change to the smallest atomic molecule. Civilization not only threatens our freedom as Individuals, that of Animals, and of the Earth, but now its threat has shifted to a scale of less than a micrometer.”

“…the Earth and everyone who resides in it will have become an enormous gray matter, where the intelligent nanomachines will rule.”

“Many will say that technology has helped medicine become more effective, and will deem us inhumane […] but then, you would be falling into one of the many traps of the system.”

Well it was about time; I was wondering when the elusive system would be blamed for the demise of humanity. But really, someone has to tell these individuals that Asimov and psychotropics do not mix.

Beyond the attacks in Mexico, the authorities mentioned that the ITS has become known for attacks to facilities and professionals dedicated to the development of artificial intelligence in other countries like Spain, France, and Chile, although I was unable to find additional information regarding these attacks.

It is difficult to overlook certain inconsistencies that this group falls into, like the fact that they use blogs and social networks to happily spread their message, yet they denounce the evils of technology as a whole, and of the internet in particular, which is the means by which the system achieves “the daily overproduction of automatons that blindly serve it in maintaining the prevailing order”. Or the fact that they use the technology they claim to hate, to make their explosive devices. I cannot help but to think that if these people knew a little bit more about science and technology, they would be capable of building more effective devices; I guess that is the silver lining.

However, regardless of how absurd this group’s rhetoric is, it is necessary to take the threat that they pose to researchers seriously, as professor Gerardo Herrera Corral, brother of one of this group’s targets, mentioned in his commentary to Nature. After all, this organization is not striving to cause minor damages to research facilities; these individuals have created a black list of scientists, particularly nanotechnologists, proclaiming that their objective is to “mutilate and even kill these scientists, researchers, professors and similar scum that are reducing the Earth to mere urban waste”. “Logically we will continue with these actions, those scientists and other technotrash shall pay the consequences of their actions, and who better to do it than savage terrorists like us?”.

Finally, I would like to go back to the survey I mentioned earlier in this post, which tells us that 91% of the participants agree that “scientific discoveries are neither good nor evil, it is the use that we give them what matters”. However, just when you think you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel you scroll down the survey to find out that 54.8% of them also think that “scientists are ultimately responsible for any misuse of their discoveries by other people”…ok, I give up!

About the Author:

Born in Mexico, Luciana has always been into science. Showing an uncanny
ability to withstand self-inflicted pain, she has navigated the murky waters
of academic life for the last decade, fiddling with diverse topics that go from
materials, to nanotechnology, and her latest fad, biotechnology. Between
immersions into the obscure world of experimental research, this lab rat will
try to come up to the surface to catch her breath and hopefully gain some
perspective while writing for Escéptica.

Tags

Daniela

Born and raised in Mexico City, Daniela has finally decided to abdicate her post as an armchair skeptic and start doing some skeptical activism. She is currently living in Spain after having lived in the US, Brazil and Italy. You can also find her blogging in Spanish at esceptica.org.

Related Articles

16 Comments

  1. If these people are so adamantly opposed to technology, then why doesn’t someone do them a favor and remove their evil, evil website for them, so they’re finally free of its techy-evilness? Maybe cause their evil, evil computers to crash as well.

    It means they’ll have to look for a more low-tech means of spreading their message though. But why should that be OUR problem?

  2. Bombing scientists is a terrible (and ineffective) response to the problems technological developments can cause.
    But what is not ridiculous is being concerned about the possibility that “technological discoveries will sooner or later destroy the planet” – assuming by “destroying the planet” what they really mean is making it uninhabitable by humans.
    This belief is not incompatible with an awareness of how much good technological advances have done, but only I thought climate change skeptics think we’re not responsible for the potentially disastrous results of our use of technology.

    1. assuming by “destroying the planet” what they really mean is making it uninhabitable by humans.

      If anything, it’s probably technology that is going to be able to save us, because unlike humans, thechnology has no problem with impulse control, desires and quota.
      (i.e. we continue to drive cars and emmit carbon into the atmosphere despite knowing there’s too much of it and it’s bad, while a non-feeling entity would just unrelentingly close the tap when the limit is reached no matter how much we plead and complain).

      As long as people are unwilling to give up certain luxuries, the future looks rather bleak …

    2. Just to clarify, I never said that we are not responsible as a society for the disastrous results of our use of a technology; I did imply, however, that a scientist cannot be considered personally responsible for all the potential uses other people can make of his/her discoveries, among other things, because you cannot always foresee all its future uses. I personally do not think it fair to blame Alfred Nobel for the actions of these individuals, for example.

  3. Also, re. their use of the internet which they claim to want destroyed: just because someone wishes to eliminate a perceived wrong from the world does not mean that person must personally avoid being part of that wrong while it’s still around.
    If I were to decide that a dictatorship would be an improvement on our current democratic system, I would be perfectly justified in using my vote to bring an end to all voting.
    To argue otherwise is a fallacy, requiring personal moral purity that would prevent one from actually achieving the desired change.
    Again, these so-called anarchists are deluded and despicable. But this posting does not castigate their actions in a fair or reasoned way.

  4. Of course let’s not forget that it isn’t just the scientifically illiterate claiming that nanotechnology will Dramatically Change Absolutely Everything Very Very Soon. This is, to some extent, a predictable reaction to people actually believing the things being prophesied by those singularity people.

    1. Ha! Absolutely. This isn’t just a byproduct of the “Science and technology are evil” myth, it’s also a byproduct of the “Science and technology are magical and can do anything! Just like in the movies!” myth.

  5. This is yet another symptom of a society that is so poorly educated in science and critical thinking that they can actually believe science is an institution that is bad (rather than a process that is neutral).

    We are seeing this everywhere in the U.S., as well. For example, that idiot Ben Stein said on Television, “I think science leads to killing people”, and no one challenged him on it.

    We see it everywhere in our Religious Right, too. The don’t understand what science is, or how it works, but they feel perfectly comfortable sneering at it and claiming it is bad for us.

Leave a Reply

Close