The power of technology has been a huge topic of discussion in recent years; it is feared that our control over technology will not be enough and it may harm us in the end. Ray Bradbury’s futuristic short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” and Carl Sagan’s famed speech “On Nuclear Disarmament” both express this idea in similar ways. They both use tragic examples, whether factual or fiction, to support their ideas; they both warn the reader about letting the power of technology get out of our control; and they both talk about the consequences of losing control: we will harm our own people and, eventually, we could destroy ourselves.
In “There Will Come Soft Rains”, Bradbury sets a tragic scene that seems post-apocalyptic; it is the year 2026 and a family home is filled with technology. There appears to be benefits to all of this, such as the electronic mice that clean the floor or the machine that has breakfast ready first thing in the morning and cleans up after itself. But the reader soon realizes that the family is gone; they have been killed by what seems to be a nuclear explosion and their silhouettes are permanently charred into the wall of the house. The only family member left is the dog, who comes inside only to die in a short while. Carl Sagan also uses tragic examples in his speech, though his are not fiction. Sagan talks about the weapons used and deaths that had occurred during the Civil War and compares them to the advanced weapons of World War II and the larger number of deaths they have caused. He specifically mentions the fiftieth anniversary of war when the surviving veterans gathered in memorial and fell into each other’s arms, sobbing, presumably because of how wars are nowadays.While this is an important connection between the two works, the main point of both seems to be the power of technology getting out of hand. “There Will Come Soft Rains” implies that a family has been killed due to a bomb’s explosion, but that is only one way this theme is shown. At the end of the story, a tree crashes through the kitchen window and spills cleaning fluid over the stove which sets the house on fire. While the house tries to save itself, it only makes things worse, and eventually the house is destroyed, the artificial intelligence is broken, and everything is buried under a pile of debris. One can assume that Bradbury believes that an event like this is inevitable if we continue to allow technology to control us. In “On Nuclear Disarmament”, Sagan describes a scene during the Civil War in which a civilian named Jennie Wade is shot through the two closed doors of her home. He then goes on to explain,
. . . [I]n the global thermonuclear war, almost all the casualties will be civilians, men, women, and children, including vast numbers of citizens of nations that had no part in the quarrel that led to the war, nations far removed from the northern mid-latitude “target zone.” There will be billions of Jennie Wades.
Everyone on earth is now at risk. . . (Sagan).
Perhaps a more pressing problem that both texts bring to mind is that by using these advanced technological weapons, we will eventually destroy not only innocent people, but us ourselves. Bradbury’s short story describes an unsuspecting family whose lives were taken suddenly, but one can assume that the impact also affected the neighboring homes, and perhaps the entire city. Expressing the same idea, Sagan states repeatedly in his speech, “We make mistakes. We kill our own.”
War is inevitable but we must be careful with our choice of weapons. People may argue that these weapons keep us safe, but when all of these people are dying, how can that be true? “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “On Nuclear Disarmament” demonstrate the downsides of using these weapons in very tragic yet real ways that clearly explain what is wrong with the technology we have committed ourselves to. We need to be careful or we will end up letting this technology get out of hand and hurting innocent people and ourselves.