When the atom was first split and the idea of nuclear power eventually reached headlines, newspapers worldwide were excited about the prospect. In addition to the possibility of a nuclear powered future, citizens of many countries all over the world were excited in the wake of World War II with the idea that war may be over forever. But then public perception changed, and the public lost its love for nuclear power. And one professor says one of the bigger reasons was the portrayal of nuclear power in James Bond movies.
Believe it or not, energy has been a concern for nations all over the world for a long time. Prescient prognostications about an enduring energy crisis and a lack of combustible fuel sources has long been on the minds of world leaders since before the end of the second world war.
There has always been a general understanding that fuel may not always be available, but it didn’t really gain the public’s attention until the 1967 Oil Embargo finally forced the question of where oil would come in the future into the average household. Six years later in 1973, after a brief return to normal lines were once again forming outside gas stations as the nation desperately attempted to wrest control of major oil production facilities.
And while the distribution to the public was limited, there were still many power plants that ran off of petroleum. Additionally, petroleum products were used extensively for plastic production as well just when plastics were really taking off as a material for household goods.
But with an energy crisis like this, why would the public be apprehensive to undertake the goal of adopting nuclear power? The answer according to Professor David Philips, president of the Royal Society for Chemistry, is that the media helped to play a role in the formation of public opinion over nuclear power and research.
And while incidents like the Soviet Chernobyl disaster would one day tear at the fabric of a nuclear future, problems were already arising in the early days with films like James Bond’s Doctor No. The 1962 film depicted an evil multimillionaire with his own nuclear power facility driven to world domination and the destruction of the human race using a machine depicted as an uncontrollable and dangerous force.
By the time the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Incident occurred, the public’s opinion of fission as a fuel source had deteriorated rapidly.
Just as the science fiction writers of yesterday drove humanity to explore new possibilities and interesting ideas with the works of Jules Verne and HG Welles, futurist fiction can also serve as a cautionary measure – ensuring technology is respected and understood as a tool – to be used as responsibly or dangerously as the civilization adopting it.
The debate going on today about early portrayals of nuclear power may one day soon become subjects of interest in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and space travel. And just as much as the public’s opinion was shaped about nuclear power in these early James Bond films, we may one day see initiatives against AI or robotics based on the cautionary Aasimovian tales and Skynet of the Terminator series.