Most of us will never be in a position to wreak destruction on the scale of the $7.2 billion loss that “rogue trader” Jérôme Kerviel at Société Générale apparently has.
But it’s an inescapable fact that technology, efficiency and leverage carry destructive powers of impressive sweep as surely as they carry constructive ones.
This notion captivated mass attention in the “atomic era,” when mutual assured desctruction was not just a risk but a strategy; concerns about the impact of accidents continue to drive opposition to nuclear power in some quarters.
It gets some attention whenever a massive oil tanker like the Exxon Valdez spills, creating more damage than ever would have been possible with less sophisticated vessels.
It commands the full attention of the media industry who sees its business threatened by a global epidemic of digital piracy and the devaluation of media products even as it opens the door to new business models.
The more powerful the technology, the more desctructive power it carries with it. While some champions of new technologies may be reluctant to put the brakes on technologies that promise exciting advances over how things were done in the past, most new technologies are deployed by responsible people with good intentions and safety in mind.
Recent history suggests, though, that despite enlisting safegards against unintended consequences, some will unvariably occur.
It’s the rocky road of progress.