Descartes and Fukushima Daiichi

Listen to the commentaries on the problems surrounding the nuclear plant Fukushima Daiichi. There is a disguised philosophic debate here–the cryptic nature of it adding some unintentional comedy. The Cartesian engineer remains convinced in the ability for instrumental reason to master something as complicated as nuclear power. If somehow all our foresight fails, we simply need to think a little harder or hire a bit smarter of engineers. On the other side are those (like myself) who do not believe that it is ever possible to make technology foolproof, and that attempts to think such matters through create a catch 22: ever more complex attempts to plan for every potentiality themselves make unanticipated failures more likely. It is thus it is foolish to build machines whose downside, no matter how unlikely, are so catastrophic.

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