Article: Dietrich Neu – Contributor
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle, died last month.
The AK-47 was one of the most culturally significant weapons in history. It’s the choice of guerrilla fighters and trained soldiers the world over, it’s remarkably light, rarely jams, and can cost as little as $200 in markets like Africa and the Middle East.
The gun is so simple, children can learn to assemble, shoot, and clean it in under one hour. The average 12-year-old can carry it, even while extremely fatigued.
Over 100 million AK-47s are in use today. Droves of military analysts speculate it has killed more people than any weapon on Earth.
In a letter published by Russian daily Izvestia, Kalashnikov seemed tortured by regret.
“The pain on my soul is unbearable,” he wrote. “If my assault rifle took people’s lives, it means that I … am responsible for people’s deaths.”
He never intended for his gun to end up in the hands of children, he invented it as a “weapon to protect the Soviet Union.”
He was likely motivated by the thrill of creating the best machine he could, and he was handsomely praised for his achievement by Soviet politicians.
This illustrates a problem in our global society: we blindly drool over advancing technology, and gloss over our moral and ethical deficiencies.
Every new spacefaring rocket is an example of “how advanced society is.”
What about our ability to use technology responsibly? To think responsibly? Where does that fit into how advanced our society is?
Kalashnikov was blindsided by guilt because he envisioned glorious Soviet troops using the AK-47 to defend his homeland; what he got was child soldiers, genocide, and Call of Duty. Einstein envisioned relativity, he got the atomic bomb.
I’m not arguing against technological innovation. Indeed, advancing technology is the only solution to many of our most challenging problems, but even the most “advanced” nations in the world are still rife with homophobia, racism, sexism, and classism. In terms of age, these ideas are medieval.
When was the last time you used a medieval piece of technology other than a wheelbarrow? Have you ever?
Conversely, almost everyone in the world could be found guilty of engaging in the aforementioned “medieval thoughts.” Many people still murder, rape, exclude, bomb, fight, yell, and judge.
We are a race poisoned by archaic thoughts, clutching the triggers of nuclear weapons.
This needs to change. We need to include gains in morality, ethics, empathy, and human understanding in our perceptions of an advancing society.
It’s unacceptable to create technology that has the potential to destroy the world, only to regret it after the Earth begins to burn.
We need to take a break on the gadgets, and start advancing our people.