Technology And War In Film Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 6 Subject: Technology Type: Term Paper Paper: #94413824 Related Topics: Technology, Love, War, Nuclear War
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Technological developments have characterized the modern world and play a critical role in communications. Given their impact on communications, these advancements has also influenced the creation of war movies. However, war movies have existed for a long period of time. While modern technological developments are significantly different, technology has also been traditionally linked with war. One of the ways with which technology has been linked to war is through film. This is evident in the fact that various movies or films have been created to depict and emphasize the relationship between technology and war. This paper seeks to examine this relationship through evaluating films that have attempted to link the two concepts. This evaluation is based on a comparison of two films i.e. Dr. Strangelove and WarGames.

Brief Overview of Dr. Strangelove and WarGames

Dr. Strangelove and WarGames are examples to films or movies that have been made to demonstrate the what-ifs of a nuclear war. These two Cold War American films portray the Cold War era in terms of the probability of a nuclear war. The producers made these films at a time when it was unclear if and when a nuclear fallout could emerge. The creation of these films came at a time when there were fears that the Cold War era could result in a nuclear war that would ultimately trigger the Third World War. During this period, there were concerns and fears that a nuclear war could emerge between the United States and the Soviet Union and potentially kill millions of people and destroy properties across the globe without advance warning.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was produced in 1964 by Stanley Kubrick following the Cuban missile crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union.[footnoteRef:1] Army General Jack Ripper commands B-52 troops to bomb Russia on the believe that the Soviets contaminated American water supply using fluoride. The commander believed that this contamination of American water supply was a plot by the Soviets to destroy the American populace through poisoning. General Ripper seeks to deploy a clandestine nuclear attack on Soviet Union without his superiors’ knowledge and approval. To protect his attack, General Ripper shut down communication within Burpelson. However, RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake believes he knows the recall codes if he can communicate to the outside world. On the other hand, key people in the Pentagon War Room including Dr. Strangelove are looking for avenues to stop the attack or mitigate its ability to blow-up into a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. As Soviet Premier Dimitri Kisov is brought into the Pentagon War Room, Americans in this room learn that the Soviet Union has an unannounced Doomsday Device to detonate nuclear weapons if any of their major targets are hit. The Americans decide to work on the situation to their ultimate objective whereas one of the B-52 bomber pilots seeks to deploy his bomb to any enemy territory if he can’t reach his target. [1: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, directed by Stanley Kubrick, performed by Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, Columbia Pictures, 1964, film.]

WarGames was written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and produced in 1983. This American Cold War science fiction film portrays how a young man finds access to a military central computer through the back door.[footnoteRef:2] After gaining access, the young computer savvy kid inadvertently connects into a classified super-computer that completely controls America’s nuclear arsenal. He decides to use this for a game between the United States and Russia to an extent that he even starts the countdown to the Third World War. However, the young computer wizard faces a challenge of attempting to convince the computer that it was a game rather than a reality. When he was arrested by FBI on suspicion of working with Russia, the threat of global nuclear war and destruction was still evident as the War Operation Plan Response continues with this strange game. [2: WarGames, directed by John Badham, performed by Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy and John Wood, ProtoVision, 1983, film.]

Technology and War in these Two Films

As shown in the brief overview, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and WarGames emphasize the relationship between war and technology. This films depict the relationship by demonstrating problems in the link between human society and technological systems. Through this process, these movies or films successful raise plausible and pertinent questions on the relationship between technology and society. In this regard, the two films show how technology can be a bad thing to the society if used negatively despite its obvious advantages, especially in relation to improving communications. As part of emphasizing on the relationship between war and technology, each of these films have similar and different means of highlighting this link. While the films were produced at relatively different times with varying geopolitical events, they have some similarities and differences in their portrayal of how war and technology is linked.

Similarities in the Two Films

Automated Response

One of the similarities in how these two films emphasize the relationship between war and technology is automated response. During the Cold War era, the extent with which human meddling could contribute annihilation of millions of people across the globe became evident. As a result, nations started to look for automated response or retaliation in the event of an attack. Making response automatic was regarded as an important measure toward removing human error or meddling in war. This process resulted in the adoption of scientific and technical resources by the U.S. federal government during and after World War II.[footnoteRef:3] The mobilization by the federal government contributed to the development of nuclear weapons, space and radar, which represented new technologies. The use of technology as a means for automatic response or attack is depicted…countdown to World War III is started. Additionally, due to lack of trust, David was arrested on suspicions that he was working with Russians. This implies that the decision to establish WOPR and its potential use in war was influenced by mistrust between the United States and Russia.


Strangelove successfully raises plausible and pertinent questions regarding the relationship between technology and society by highlighting the potential negative impacts of technology on the society. Technological systems can be used as tools for war, which in turn causes significant negative impacts on the society. The film highlights this through demonstrating the dynamics of the arms race. Even though the armament race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was initially a preventive measure, development of technological-based weapons for mass destruction highlighted the potential negative effects of technology on the society. Technology further fueled the arms race and generated numerous security risks as evident in the modern society. As shown in this film, proliferation of arms through capitalizing on technological developments is a threat to societal wellbeing because arms enhance security risks or concerns.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Albert Einstein, “Arms Can Bring No Security”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1950):71]

WarGames successfully raises this questions by demonstrating the inherent security threats to the society brought by technology. In this case, the film shows how machines can be dangerous to the society when allowed to make their own decisions. The fate of the human race would be subjected to the mercy of technological systems if such systems are permitted to make their own decisions.[footnoteRef:9] Even though machine-made decisions could help lessen man-made errors, they could end up being detrimental to the society. This is primarily because technological systems are prone to hacking, which could result in changes to the kinds of decisions made by machines. This film shows how unauthorized access to the super-computer could have resulted in war because such access contributed to poor decision-making by the machine. Therefore, the film shows the need to create restrictions in human-computer interaction in order to avoid the potential negative impacts of technology on the society. Technology enhances security threats by promoting proliferation of arms rather than a retreat from weapon systems.[footnoteRef:10] These security risks are worsened by the ability of technology to automate war processes and weapons. [9: Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”, Wired (2000):245] [10: Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis (New York, NY: The University of Chicago Press), 2003:x]

In conclusion, the link between technology and war is an issue that has traditionally attracted considerable attention. This issue has been the subject of films that emphasize on the relations between these two concepts. Dr. Strangelove and WarGames are examples of films that emphasize the relationship between technology and war. As shown in this discussion, these films have some similarities and differences in terms of how they portray this issue. By highlighting the fears of a nuclear weapon between the United States and U.S.S.R., these films successfully raise plausible and…

Sources Used in Documents:


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Performed by Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden. Columbia Pictures, 1964. Film.

Einstein, A. “Arms Can Bring No Security.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1950).

Hughes, T.P. American Genesis. New York, NY: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Joy, B. “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Wired (2000).

WarGames. Directed by John Badham. Performed by Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy and John Wood. ProtoVision, 1983. Film.

Weinberg, A.M. “Can Technology Replace Social Engineering?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1966).

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