Apocalypse: Looking Through the Lens of Fear

Looking at different books and films of the apocalypse, there seems to be a significance of truth to these concepts. The idea of an apocalypse does not necessarily mean that the world is ending or that the world will be in desolation, but it could just mean an end to an era. The word “apocalypse” is used fairly loosely in describing what one thinks the world will be in the future.

In examining the film World War Z,[1] it is clearly evident that a world epidemic is happening in New York City resulting from a viral outbreak, thus leading to zombies. As the characters scramble for a cure, those infected with the virus try to infect others to spread this disease throughout the world. We can look at this from the perspective of fear; we, as humans, fear a disease that could potentially wipe out the human race, and we strive to keep our species alive. It’s applicable that this type of apocalypse seems appealing, not only from the point that it is fictional, but also because it has some minor truth to it. Advances in modern medicine and genetic engineering has caused many to fear what would happen if a virus got out of a lab somewhere. So, there is a direct relationship in today’s society why this apocalypse is relevant today.

When analyzing the film Book of Eli,[2] we see a correlation between why that apocalypse happened and why it is a significant study today. The idea in this film is that the earth was scorched by a world war, nuclear warfare, which created a world of scarce food and water. The characters struggle to find fresh water, and find things like Chap Stick to be very valuable. The world they live in looks to be a desert ruin, covered with deserted cars, while trying to survive the raids that gangs will perform for any kind of supplies. If we take that apocalyptic world and apply the significance to today, we see that a nuclear war is not far off. During the Cold War, it was literally fighting for who could make the biggest bomb, so this movie idea was not far from actual truth in the fact that people were concerned that one country was going to destroy the world just to prove a point. Even today with laws and restrictions governing that there will be no arms race, it is still evident that other countries are still making these nuclear weapons. So, the fear is very real, no matter how fictional an apocalyptic world may be.

There are many films to examine; however, I will draw attention to one last film, and that is The Planet of the Apes.[3] In this film, obviously from the title, we can gather that the world is run by apes, who treat humans as if we treat apes now (experiments, zoos, etc.). This type of apocalypse is different from the others in that there is very little truth in it. To us, apes could never gain the intelligence to outsmart humans, but what’s is interesting with the newest films of this type is that the apes could not come up with the intelligence themselves, that it was originally a trial for a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, but that actually made the apes intelligent. So, even though this idea is little more fictional, it still has the same concept as a viral disease would, but instead of infecting humans it infects primates.

In conclusion, it is interesting to think through different lenses when discussing how an apocalypse may or may not happen, and how valid these ideas are in today’s views. There is a correlation with fear and the apocalypse and that there is a truth to all these concepts to a certain extent, whether it’s a topic on Global Warming, Zombie Apocalypse, or a planet run by apes. When thinking about each concept, it’s important to think about how these different ideas came to mind in the writers; there is a simple truth to all of them and looking at the time in which they are written can show why “this” apocalypse is more appealing than another.

[1] World War Z. Dir. Marc Forster. Perf. Brad Pitt. Universal Pictures, 2013. DVD.

[2] The Book of Eli. Dir. Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes. Prod. Joel Silver and Denzel Washington. By Gary Whitta. Perf. Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis. Warner Bros., 2010.

[3] Planet of the Apes. Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner. Perf. Charlton Heston. 1968.

Bitcoin and Artifact Politics: Through the Lens of Langdon Winner

Bitcoin is the first virtual currency of its kind: completely conducted through the Internet and transacted anonymously with the use of a peer-to-peer network. But who controls bitcoin? What central authority regulates its value and production? The unique thing about bitcoin is that it lacks a governing body. Without a company to oversee it, bitcoin operates solely through users and their computers, and value is based on demand and how often bitcoins are being “mined.” The question which arises with this system is whether or not bitcoin will be sustainable without a central organization to monitor and guide it. Langdon Winner, in his work The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, offers insight into the political aspects of such advanced technologies, and the necessity for either an authoritative power or government regulation.

In Winner’s writing, he analyzes how new forms of technology serve as “political artifacts.” Many advanced technological forms serve as a way to build order in our current society.1 Winner explains that “Consciously or unconsciously . . . societies choose structures for technologies that influence how people are going to work, communicate . . . and so forth over a very long time.” Bitcoin as a virtual currency can similarly be analyzed. Because currency is traditionally maintained by the government in order to ensure security and stability, there is debate over whether bitcoin should be federally regulated. In fact, some users have confidence in bitcoin specifically for its separation from the government. It offers an alternative for those who mistrust the money supply stability and fear an abrupt and purposeful inflationary period. If bitcoin continues to grow in popularity, it could signal general dissatisfaction with the management of U.S. currency.

The social form of many technological systems can be a major determinant in its effective function. In The Whale and the Reactor, Winner discusses a specific study in which it was found that routine operation of many systems requires “a large-scale centralized, hierarchical organization administered by highly skilled managers.”1 This hierarchy specifically relies on executives to keep track of and coordinate responsibilities. Bitcoin, however, does not have a central authority and is therefore run by no single person or organization. This also means that there is not a “contractual relationship” between the people mining bitcoins and the initial creator of the system. 2 According to the previously stated theory, bitcoin would consequently not serve as an efficiently-working system with a proper social organization.

Some may argue that the solution to this lack of central authority is simply government regulation. The anonymity of bitcoin transactions creates an additional fear of its use for illegal activity and money laundering. However, some inherent characteristics of bitcoin make regulation difficult. Primarily, its existence as a virtual currency, rather than a physical coin or paper, prevent it from regulation as a “community currency,” or any medium of exchange that is not the national currency.­2 Additionally, an injunction or other action to terminate the use of bitcoin is impossible, given bitcoin’s lack of a central company against which to act. According to Winner’s The Whale and the Reactor, bitcoin’s nonexistent principal authority and resistance to government regulation classifies it outside of the structure of traditional technological advancements.

1Langdon, Winner. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986.

2Kaplanov, Nikolei M. “Nerdy Money: Bitcoin, the Private Digital Currency, and the Case Against its Regulation.” Loyola Consumer Law Review 25:1 (2013). Web.