Contemplation: The Cain Effect

In yesterday’s blog post I propsed the idea of something that I call the Cain Effect (albeit briefly).  After having written the post I expanded upon the idea of this Cain Effect on Google+.  I’ll post here my stream of comments from Google+ for further posterity purposes.

I want to propose a theory which I will call the Cain Effect, which is the effect whereby a potential for constructive purpose is bastardized into a potential for destructive purpose. The name is obviously in reference to the Biblical Cain, the first murderer. I would suggest that this effect applies primarily to tool usage, in that, most tools have been developed for beneficial constructive purposes, however, many (all?) tools eventually are used in destructive and malicious ways. By destructive I would say it is generally internal to a species (a human harming another human(s)) as well as being intentionally destructive (not an accident). This “destructive” potential would contrast a “constructive” potential, which provides some form of benefit, again, internal to a species and intentionally. Discuss.
So the basic rough idea is that constructive potentials become destructive potentials.  This change in a potential from constructive to destructive is the Cain Effect.  Continuing on:
Let me discuss this further. Let’s take a kitchen knife as an example (though knives as a category might be a difficult one, but bear with me for a bit). The constructive potential for a kitchen knife would be using it to cut up food. With the Cain Effect applied the destructive potential for the knife becomes using it as a weapon to cut or kill somebody. In theory (now taking knives as the whole category of tools) the originally ones were developed some long time ago in our past with a general constructive purpose (to cut stuff that needed cutting), but at some point, probably fairly early on, the Cain Effect occurred, and knives began to be used for their destructive potential.
In addition to this I have considered that there could be “Initial” and “Subsequent” Cain Effects.  An initial Cain Effect would occur when a constructive potential is first ever changed into a destructive potential.  This is the historic Cain Effect in essence, the first time somebody demonstrated that a knife could be used as a weapon to harm somebody else.  After the initial Cain Effect, there is knowledge of a destructive potential, but that does not mean that all the potentials need be destructive now.  Subsequent Cain Effect occurs any time there after an initial Cain Effect that a potential is used in its destructive form.  Knives are still used constructively very often, and many knives, like kitchen knives, are created with an entirely intended constructive potential (food preparation), however, a subsequent Cain Effect can occur which allows for the use of a destructive potential (the kitchen knife is used as a weapon).  Here is more:
I tried to stress the importance of “intentionality” above, because I believe that the potential for either constructive or destructive purpose cannot be by accident. These potentials may be discovered by accidents, but the actual use of the potentials must be purposeful which cannot be accidental.

Furthermore, I discussed internal to a species in regards to the constructive or destructive potential. This isn’t to mean that these potentials cannot be used on other species in a constructive or destructive way, but instead that they originate internal to a species, and that their constructive or destructive uses are used in a sense of relation to that internal to the species use. For example with the kitchen knife above: The knife’s constructive potential is to cut up food. It’s initial constructive potential is to cut up food for humans to use, but it could also be used to cut up food for a dog. The knife’s destructive potential, as mentioned above, would be to cut or kill people. This destructive potential could be turned onto the dog. However, we have to be careful here, because, if the knife is used to butcher the dog because a human is going to eat it, then the potential is still considered constructive (because the dog in this case is regarded as “food”). If the dog is killed by the knife, without the human intention of consumption, then the potential would be destructive, in a manner that the tool was used destructively against the dog much as it could be used destructively against another human.

Pretty self-explanatory?  Here is some more:
In regards to the broad category of knives (not just kitchen knives) it can be assumed that there have been, and still are, knives made solely for the purpose of causing harm to other humans. They are weapons and their intention is a such. I think that this demonstrates the long-term effects of the Cain Effect. consistently applied the Cain Effect can result in a weaponization, in which the soul potential of a tool becomes its destructive potential and that the odd usage is applying a constructive potential.
Weaponization is whereby a tools destructive potential from the Cain Effect becomes the primary desired effect of the tool.  It isn’t to say that the tool could not still be used in a constructive manner, but instead,  that the intended manner of use is one of destructive purpose rather than constructive.  Continuing:
I consider “tools” in this sense in very broad terms. Certainly these can include physical objects (hammers, knives, etc.) but I also think that they can include general ideas and concepts. Writing is a tool that can have both constructive and destructive potential. The Internet is another tool more than capable to be used constructively or destructively. I would say that the Cain Effect is less concerned about the specifics of the tools, as it is the change of potential from constructive to destructive.
Tools need be broader than just physical objects in the sense of the Cain Effect.  While a physical tool like a knife is a good example of how the Cain Effect can be applied, if we do not consider non-physical, metaphysical, and conceptual tools, then the effect looses some of its importance.  Things like language, religions, rhetoric, science, etc. can all be applied with the Cain Effect, in which these broad ideas have an origin of use for constructive potential but have all, at times, been used destructively.  Certainly physical tools used in a destructive way present a unique potential for harm (specifically the possibility that they will kill) but this does not mean that something like science or religion used destructively has any lesser impact on humanity as a whole.  Here is the last bit I wrote yesterday on Google+:
I am curious, historically and theoretically, if there have been instances of Reverse Cain Effect, essentially that a destructive potential predated any constructive potential, and only at a later time was this possible constructive purpose determined. I think this is an important consideration, because, if it turns out that there are no instances of destructive potential predating constructive potential, then it would suggest that innovation is driven by constructive desire first and foremost, and that destructive effects are an aftermath. I am not suggesting this is true. It is entirely possible that there have been innovations that were first and foremost intended for destructive purpose, only to later be used constructively, but if these do exist I’d be curious what they are.
I keep thinking about this last thing I wrote yesterday and think that it is very important to the overall idea of the Cain Effect because it speaks levels to innovative potential and purpose, and the corrupting of potentials to a destructive cause.  I thought a lot and I cannot really think of anything that was initially developed as destructive potentials.  I found some things that I thought of that might appear as if they were created as destructive potentials first and foremost, but I think it is illusory because they are actually just a presented destructive potential of early constructive potentials.  For example the atomic bomb.  While one could say “how could the atomic bomb be anything other than a single destructive potential purpose?”  However, I’d have to point out that the underlying principles of the atomic bomb is the ability to split atoms and create vast amounts of energies.  This original potential was not destructive, but constructive in the furthering of our knowledge of the universe and as a means to generate more electricity.  The atomic bomb is a destructive potential of atom splitting after an applied Cain Effect.   So I am curious whether there have been truly and originally destructive potentials that only after the fact were applied constructively.
The example of the atomic bomb is worthwhile for another reason, in that it demonstrates that a destructive potential from the Cain Effect may not always appear all that similar to the initial constructive potential from which it is born.  I would say this is yet again another aspect of weaponization, in that, in an effort to make a potential more purposefully destructive, the tool upon which it is applied can be changed drastically.  A sword, in essence, is a long knife used as a weapon.  Swords do not make very efficient kitchen knives (they could be used this way, but it would be awkward).  The Cain Effect, and subsequent weaponization of knives have created significantly altered tools in the forms of swords.
I can’t claim that this theory of the Cain Effect holds much water or value as anything other than some thoughts I have been having, but I have enjoyed writing about it.  I like it as a lens to applied in a kind of ethical sense, looking at tools and trying to determine their constructive and destructive potentials.  I don’t know that this is necessarily a basis for determining good or evil; right or wrong.  However, I do believe that it can provide a perspective of how innovations can be changed to become harmful things.  I think that I will contemplate on it further.

~ by Nathaniel on September 21, 2011.

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