We Can’t Afford To Just Move Fast And Break Things Anymore

Greg Satell
6 min readFeb 5, 2022
Image credit: Pixabay

On July 16th, 1945, when the world’s first nuclear explosion shook the plains of New Mexico, the leader of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Clearly, he was troubled by what he had unleashed and for good reason. The world was never truly the same after that.

Today, however, we have lost much of that reverence for the power of technology. Instead of proceeding deliberately and with caution, tech entrepreneurs have prided themselves on their willingness to “move fast and break things” and, almost reflexively, casually deride anyone who questions the practice as those who “don’t get it.”

It’s hard to see how, by any tangible metric, any of this has made us better off. We set out to disrupt industries, but disrupted people instead. It wasn’t always like this. Throughout our history we have asked hard questions and made good choices about technological progress. As we enter a new era of innovation, we desperately need to recapture some of that wisdom.

How We Put The Nuclear Genie Back In The Bottle

The story of nuclear weapons didn’t start with Oppenheimer, not by a long shot. In fact, if we were going to attribute the Manhattan Project to a single person, it would probably be a Hungarian immigrant physicist named Leo Szilard, who was one of the first to conceive of the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction.

In 1939, upon hearing of the discovery of nuclear fission in Germany he, along with fellow Hungarian emigre Eugene Wigner, decided that the authorities needed to be warned. Szilard then composed a letter warning of the possibility of a nuclear bomb that was eventually signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Roosevelt. That’s what led to the American development program.

Yet after the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many of the scientists who worked to develop the bomb wanted to educate the public of its dangers. In 1955, the philosopher Bertrand Russell issued a manifesto signed by a number of scientific luminaries. Based on this, a series of conferences at Pugwash, Nova Scotia were convened to discuss different approaches to protect the world from weapons of…

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Greg Satell

Co-Founder: ChangeOS | Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Wharton Lecturer, HBR Contributor, - Learn more at www.GregSatell.com