Tony Stark is Not a Real Dude

The world that has emerged from the imagination of Stan Lee and his Marvel Comics colleagues is great fun. In recent years, DeadPool has become my new favorite superhero, with Wolverine close on his heels. Today, however, I want to talk about another Marvel superhero—Iron Man—or more specifically about Tony Stark, the man encased on that high-tech armor.

It’s important that, when we consider fictional characters like this wealthy high-tech entrepreneur and inventor, we clearly distinguish fantasy from reality. Tony Stark isn’t real. Furthermore, no one like Tony Stark actually exists. You know this, right? Our best and brightest high-tech moguls—Bill Gates of Microsoft, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and even the late Steve Jobs of Apple—don’t come close to the abilities of Tony Stark. No one does and no one can. Even if we combined all of these guys together into a single person and threw in a top scientist such as Stephen Hawking into the mix, we still wouldn’t have someone who could do what Tony Stark not only does but does with apparent ease.

What am I getting at? There is a tendency today to believe that high-tech entrepreneurs and their inventions are much more advanced than they actually are. High-tech entrepreneurs and their inventions are buggy as hell. Most high-tech products are poorly designed. Even though good technologies can and do provide wonderful benefits, they are not magical in the ways that Marvel’s universe or high-tech marketers suggest. Technologies cannot always swoop in and save us in the nick of time. Furthermore, technologies are not intrinsically good as their advocates often suggest.

We should pursue invention, always looking for that next tool that will extend our reach in useful ways, but we should not bet our future on technological solutions. We dare not allow the Doomsday Clock to approach midnight hoping for a last second invention that will turn back time. We must face the future with a more realistic assessment of our abilities and the limitations of technologies.

Earlier today, in his state of the nation address, Vladimir Putin announced the latest in Russian high-tech innovation: nuclear projectiles that cannot be intercepted. Assuming that his claim is true, and it probably is, Putin has just placed himself and Russia at the top of the potential threats list. A bully with the ability to destroy the world brings back frightening memories of my youth when we had to perform duck-and-cover drills, trusting that those tiny metal and wooden desks would shield us from a nuclear assault.

There is no Tony Stark to save us. Iron Man won’t be paying a visit to Putin to put that bully in his place. As I was reading the news story about Putin’s announcement in the Washington Post this morning, an ad appeared in the middle of the text with a photo of Taylor Swift and the caption “Look Inside Taylor Swift’s New $18 Million NYC Townhouse.” A news story that is the stuff of nightmares is paired with celebrity fluff, lulling us into complacency. If the news story makes you nervous, you can easily escape into Taylor’s luxurious abode and pull her 10,000 thread count satin sheets over your head. Perhaps we have nothing to fear, for our valiant and brave president, Donald Trump, will storm the Kremlin and take care of Putin with his bare hands if necessary (after the hugging is over, of course), just as he would have dispatched that high school shooter in Parkland, Florida.

We have every reason to believe in his altruism and utter superiority in a fight, don’t we? Anything less would be fake news.

Ah, but I digress. I was distracted by the allure of Taylor Swift and her soft sheets. Where was I? Oh yeah, Tony Stark is not a real dude. If we hope to survive, let alone thrive, we’ll need to focus on building character, improving our understanding of the world, and making some inconvenient decisions. Technologies will play a role, but they aren’t the main actors in this real-world drama. We are.

One Comment on “Tony Stark is Not a Real Dude”

By Martin Rudnick. March 7th, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Real talk. Enjoying blog! I am also not a fan of serious news paired with silly “human interest” stories/ads. Definitely dulls the impact and caters to those of us with concentration issues. For the record, I believe Christopher Reeve makes a much better superman and would have made a better commander in chief

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