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The silver bullet men: Saving the planet with technology

By Chris Harries - posted Tuesday, 2 August 2011

This is a story about men and their dreams – alchemist dreams. Part science, part magic, part religion. Seriously, it’s about our common future, so listen up!

Much has been studied and written about why women love to shop. In short, this innocent pastimeapparently satisfies a basic and natural instinct: to gather. And this, according to the experts, explains why the ever-popular activity of shopping as a major recreation is particularly female. Men will go and buy a targeted item and then flee the store as quickly as possible, whilst women shop.

Far be it for me to lock in stereotyped behaviour, there are of course many women who shun shopping in favor of more creative and enriching pursuits. But we can’t avoid a logical conclusion that patterns of gender behaviour have something to do with the way our brains are wired at birth.


This brings me to a phenomenon that appears to be much less studied, and it concerns a peculiar wiring of the male brain.

‘Boys and their toys’ (male affinity with technology) is also a well-studied cultural phenomenon. From computer equipment, to power tools, to racy cars, to the latest invention in the market place, we blokes naturally gravitate to technology and most men I know secretly harbor at least one high-tech obsession or possession.

Like shopping is for women, this blokey behaviour is a frequent source of harmless, light-hearted banter and we take it in our stride and carry on because…well…because we are hard wired, so it seems.

But it’s the next level of exclusively male behaviour that has fascinated me for many years. I am talking of certain men whose affinity with technology transcends mere passion, so as to become a quasi-religious experience. I am talking of good earnest blokes so besotted by their chosen technology that no logic, or persuasion, can shake their belief – or their proselytizing ardour.

The technology that excites their passion is literally their church. I am talking of the knights in shining armor who earnestly believe that they have stumbled across the Holy Grail, the one and only salve for the world’s ills.

Anybody who has worked in politics knows these guys well. They are the ones who persistently call and demand an interview, and write lengthy screeds, and complain long and hard that there is a conspiracy to silence them and to suppress the invention. In lowered tones, they confide in you that they have knowledge of the ultimate technology that can save the world, if only the powers that be would damned well listen!


Well, that’s the extreme cases – like burns patients; there are first, second and third degree casualties amongst those afflicted.

On so many occasions when I’ve given public talks and participated in web discussions on energy futures, there is always at least one such guy (this syndrome only afflicts men) in the audience who has in his grasp the triumphant Cornucopian solution – the silver bullet that will herald in a bright future for mankind.

There’s Peter, the cold fusion man. There’s Kim, the solar-power-in-space man. There’s Barry, the nuclear man. There’s Gerald, the hot rocks man. There’s Eddy, the fuel cell man. There’s John the marine algae man. And so it goes.

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About the Author

Chris Harries is a Tasmanian based opinion writer and social advocate, and former adviser to Australian Greens senator Bob Brown.

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