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Jack Smith

Terms for the fear of nuclear technology seem to be mushrooming all over the place

November 20, 1986|JACK SMITH

Reykjavik has made more poignant the search by Harold Willens for a word to describe what he sees as our suicidal dependence on nuclear technology.

Willens suggested technophilia , which means an abnormal attraction toward technology, and I suggested bombfix , meaning a fixed idea that nuclear weapons will save us.

Willens is wrong to take this short-sighted view of technology, according to W. Ward Nelson of Clovis. Nelson argues that technology has enriched our lives, and that "most of us are willing to accept a few risks in light of the greater good."

He suggests that Willens, in thinking that "runaway" technology poses a terminal threat to humanity, deserves to be called a technophobe , which means, of course, one who fears or hates technology. "Can we fault technology itself simply because certain of the species have chosen to misuse it?"

I have no idea whether our policy in the nuclear stalemate will ultimately destroy or redeem us; I am only trying to help Willens find a word for those who put all their faith in the nuclear shield.

I have had many suggestions.

The Rev. Paul R. Walker of Port Hueneme nominates technonemisis , or technohubris , the first meaning that in technology lies our ultimate defeat; the second that a fatal arrogance is inspired by our pride in nuclear weapons.

Architect Craig Wheeler of Orange offers technolemmingism , a fatal disease thought to have brought about the extinction of the prehistoric, bipedal species Progressosaurus. Symptoms include an uncontrolled, insane rush toward technological perfection, often accompanied by bouts of annihilust and nucallure ."

Frances Russell of Burbank agrees with Willens that technophilia is a "dread disease which afflicts the medical profession as well as the world of armaments. And the love of power is probably the worst disease of all, producing terminal addiction. . . . The profits from manufacturing arms become secondary to the exhilaration of manipulating governments. . . ."

Peg Morell of Buena Park argues that the scientist can't see the truth with his own eyes; that he cannot communicate with us; that he knows little of his own culture.

"But we forgive him. We cater to him because he possesses, we believe, the knowledge that will protect us and shelter us and make us free. Never mind that we cannot learn from him when the next devastating earthquake will occur, or whether a nuclear accident will destroy us, or if our economy will prosper, or even whether it will rain tomorrow. . . ."

Mrs. Morell suggests that the word calcaeologist , from calcaeology , her husband's word for "the art of making something work that actually doesn't," may meet Willens' requirements.

"Here in the far-eastern reaches of civilization," writes Gordon D. Munro, associate professor, department of politics, San Bernardino Valley College, "we have the answer to your quest for a term adequate to capture the essence of our fixation on user unfriendly termination technology.

"It all began millennia ago with the invention of technophilia . In the last century the appearance of the mass conscription army and the machine gun gave us the wonders of nekrotechnophilia . During World War II the Manhattan Project let us advance to nukonekrotechnophilia . With the publication of Hermann Kahn's "On Thermonuclear War," the astute realized our condition to be nekrothermonukotechnophilia. Advanced Reaganite disinformational Orwellian analysis reveals that we have reached the final stage of nukonekro refinement: our terminal disease is nekrotechnothermonukemophilia ."

On the other hand, he observes, the Germans, who are so good at making up long words, have a single term for the disease: Kernangstzerstoererschadenfreudeanziehungskraftvernichtung.

That looks like it, to me.

The Rev. Vance E. A. Geier suggests hellspell , noting that governments often use religious language to disguise satanic acts. "The first atom bomb detonated was dubbed Trinity, and destroying from the air is called flying a 'mission.' A few years ago an attempt was made to name a nuclear submarine Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), but happily that effort ultimately failed. . . ."

"May I suggest technomania ?" asks Ferner Nuhn of Claremont. "It seems to me both more accurate and to have greater impact than technophilia ."

"How about technomania ?" also writes Lynn M. Condon of Woodland Hills.

" Nukemania ," suggests Be Darling of Pomona.

Sam Armstrong of Simi Valley suggests technofrenia, "mental derangement that looks for salvation in technology, particularly in weapons of ultimate destruction." And Guy H. Raner of Chatsworth says the word for our predicament is simple: insanity .

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