Beckett and Science

Samuel Beckett. A question that always arose for me when reading Beckett’s works, especially Endgame, was: does technology make people happier? In Endgame, the setting is a bunker after some sort of nuclear holocaust and the protagonist looks outside to see “only grey”.

In the aftermath of the World War II, when this play was written, there seemed to be a deep skepticism among literary and artistic circles of the benefit of technology in society. Having witnessed the massive scale of casualties, it is easy to see why Beckett may have thought this way as well (though he was a recluse and rarely gave interviews, so it is hard to know for sure).

The advantages of technology are obvious — enabling humans to live for longer, fighting disease, spurring economic progress, etc. However, I don’t believe that these benefits address the question as to whether people are happier because of it.

I realize that this is seemingly hypocritical coming from an experimental physicist whose life depends partly on driving technological progress, but I cannot help but face Beckett’s question with uncertainty.

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