Of the three laws of prediction formulated by Arthur C. Clark in his essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in 1962, the third one states that: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Another legendary sci-fi writer , Robert Heinlein, stated that: “One man’s magic is another man’s engineering. ‘Supernatural’ is a null word.”
Yet despite such forward-thinking and scientific views, mankind seems to have an innate penchant for resisting change. And with every new major thing that revolutionizes some aspect of life, there will be quite a few of those who will warn against the grievous dangers to which we are exposed.
Let’s make a quick time-jump and look at 7 now everyday things feared in the past.
Yes. Novels were feared for warping peoples’ minds and giving them a false representation of reality by anti-novelists in the USA not long ago. They were compared to drugs (like opium, which was popular at the time) and even poison, with the same mind-shattering capabilities that these substances had. Some of the worst offenders of the pack were considered to be the romance novels which might encourage the use of seduction or letting one be seduced. There were even proposals to monitor the novels that women read (supposedly because men were not prone to read such rubbish), in order to save them from expecting too much from a marriage.
2. Riding a bicycle (mostly women)
Although this highly scientific criticism applied in some respects to men as well, it mostly focused on women. Whom in the late 1800s were warned and encouraged to avoid riding bicycles at all, if possible. The risks they were exposing themselves to were many, non-existent, and included: depression, heart problems and the onset of a “bicycle face” characterized by exhaustion, tightened lips, stiffened jaws (and the consequent wrinkles) not to mention a funny looking demeanor with the eyes bursting out of their sockets. If this sounds like misogynistic propaganda to keep women as limited, home-bound and with a lack of confidence as possible, you might just be right. Oh, yeah, and they were supposed to always have their sewing kit with them when riding, among other such rational rules.
Surely many people are familiar with the American-Indian tribesmen’s early belief that photographs steal a person’s soul and that trains are big deadly metal buffalo roaming on the plains. But before you condescend the “savages” like most of the pioneers did, hold on to your seats for this revelation: those same Caucasian pioneers’ relatives and ancestors in all of the Western World were equally alarmed by the new technology when it first umm… picked up steam. Physicians (among which those in the Royal Bavarian Medical College) were quick to declare that the abnormal speeds at which the trains traveled (about three times that of the common horse-drawn carriages of the time) were ripe to cause madness or a brain fever called “Delirium furiosum”, the latter of which could even be contracted by those who watched a train pass by!
Once this invention started being used in private settings by the masses, a slew of negative societal side-effects were presented as serious concerns to be guarded against. One of them which was legitimate was the invasion of privacy (initially people had to use public telephones which meant conversations were held in public among one’s peers; and then even in the private setting, call operators could listen in). The others revolved around the breaking of the fabric of society starting with the home/extended family and ending with friendships (because people would be discouraged to visit) and culminating in the loss of moral values. As such, sending invitations by phone and receiving phones while dressed for bed were considered unacceptable.
The fact that you can die from electrocution (and really fast at that) is something to rightfully fear and do your best to avoid. But that’s not the only reason people feared it in the past. They also feared it for it causing (as part of urbanization and the stress of modern-life) the disease called “neurasthenia”, discovered and named so in 1869 by George Beard and characterized by: tiredness, premature aging, weakness, depression and other varied symptoms. The good news? Neurasthenia was said to also be cured by electricity, via electric shocks.
It’s a fluffy, adorable, harmless toy, right? Of course not! Ask the NSA. Its ability to repeat things (when prompted), within about 100 words in the English language, by use of its limited artificial intelligence is in fact a sham. And the toys themselves are a powerful tool to spy on people and record their conversations, or repeat them some later time. Which, naturally would be a bad thing for NSA employees who work with lots of secrets. Which, also naturally, explains the interdiction that NSA placed on its employees on bringing Furbies to work. But that’s just the NSA. There were also opinions that Furbies are on their way to learning how to drive, that they could launch space shuttles etc.
7. The Emo sub-culture
It stands to reason it’s challenging to be an outcast. But in Russia in the latter half of the 2000s, it was even harder. Because the state decided that the growing group of Emo adherents were at risk of spreading the depression, antisocial behavior and almost certain risk of suicide that characterized this musical genre/cultural movement (in the legislators’ opinion) to the whole nation, up to a possibility of there being no-one reliable left to govern Russia in as little as a decade. A legislative proposal banning Emo was drafted. Protests ensued. It was dropped.