The technological fetishism in Fail-Safe is designed to be more trustworthy than the human element of the given equation. What are some examples of human weakness within this "man versus machine" conflict?

In Fail-Safe, the technology is as weak as the humans who created it. Like the political elite, the machines fail to protect Americans and the world. In another sense, it seems like the humans are competing with the machines to determine who can cause the greatest destruction. The president’s order to bomb New York City could be an example of an attempt by humans to one-up machines.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One example that illustrates human weakness in the man versus machine conflict is the machines themselves. It seems like people forget that machines are built by humans. Like humans, machines are vulnerable to mistakes and missteps. In Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s novel, the conflict arises because the politicians and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

One example that illustrates human weakness in the man versus machine conflict is the machines themselves. It seems like people forget that machines are built by humans. Like humans, machines are vulnerable to mistakes and missteps. In Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s novel, the conflict arises because the politicians and experts don’t realize that they’re not in a conflict with their machines. The “fail-safe” devices are not staging an uprising against them. The fail-safe mechanisms are not functioning in a vacuum. They’re unfolding in a context that was created by humans. They are, in a way, aligned.

Of course, it’s not just the fail-safe technology that’s tied to humans, it’s the planes and missiles as well. Again, if the humans in the novel are so aghast at all of the destruction that their technology and machines are fostering, perhaps they shouldn’t have created such technology and machines in the first place. In other words, the “man versus machine” conflict is something of a cop-out—it’s a way for humans to shift blame and avoid accountability.

Although, in another sense, you might be able to argue that there is a terribly ironic competition or conflict between “man” and “machine." You could argue that the president is trying to compete with the destruction produced by the faulty technology by personally ordering the evisceration of New York City. Although, again, the president’s order could also be seen as an example of the absence of conflict between humans and machines. In the end, they're both deadly and destructive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team