Technology and Ethics: Arks for Survival in Emmerich’s 2012 Essay

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Technology and Ethics: Arks for Survival in Emmerich’s 2012

            In the movie 2012, populations across the globe suffer from catastrophic events which are mainly geologic or seismic in origin. Disastrous volcanic explosions and massive floods destroy cities worldwide, eventually leading to the ruin of nations and undeniably changing the world from a physical perspective. However, throughout the course of the film, it has been noted that not all hope has been lost as such events have been scientifically foreseen beforehand. As a result, gigantic arks have been built so as to serve as the salvation of humanity when the greatest tsunamis arrive as well as to be able to survive when the sea levels have considerably risen. Albeit such a promising purpose in continuing the legacy of humanity, the arks built are without doubt far from capable of saving all individuals throughout the world. As a matter of fact, the three arks which have been completed on time would only be able to efficiently support a select few. To further explain, aside from notable individuals such as world leaders and intellectuals, those with the capability to spend billions for a single-person accommodation have been the ones initially allowed to board the arks.

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            The arks as aforementioned have been built for the aim of allowing the continuous existence of humanity, to enable survival despite the catastrophic events associated with the end of days. Nonetheless, a distinct ethical issue revolves around the ark as those who would be able to board the ark would be the only ones to survive the holocaust; instead of providing each individual an equal chance for such an opportunity, those who are to be accommodated are a select few who are mainly composed of the ruling class and the wealthy. Eventually though, specifically during the final moments prior to the onset of the greatest tsunami, a resolution was made so as to allow the commoners left outside the arks to board the vessels; leaving the technology intact and unaltered despite ethical disputes. Particularly, the world leaders have made a consensus wherein such individuals would be accommodated as well so as not to associate the survival of humanity with an act of cruelty. As expected though, such a decision did not come easy as disputes between characters have manifested prior to arriving at the humanitarian decision.

            On one hand, the character with a humanitarian perspective argued that all the remaining surviving individuals outside the arks should be allowed to get on-board as the arks have been built for the survival of humanity; furthermore, the character notes that all should have been accommodated as consciously allowing such people to die outside the ark would be an act of unparalleled cruelty and uncharacteristic of the good nature of humans. In contrast, the another central character in the film argues that allowing the people outside to board the arks would only compromise the entire human race as the arks were designed to support the lives of only a chosen few. To further explain, the supplies as well as the space inside the arks would have been quite limited due to the time constraints in building such vessels; of course, allowing a massive number of individuals was not part of its design. As noted beforehand, the world leaders was eventually swayed in favor of the former. Thus, in essence, the movie implies that in such a case a virtue-based ethics would succeed instead of one which is utilitarian in approach.

            While the film ended in a positive note as the Cape of Good Hope was coincidentally discovered to remain above sea level and the conditions of the Earth has been noted to stabilize quickly. If such did not occur then it would be quite likely that all individuals aboard the arks would have been compromised by their number. Definitely, I do not agree with the decision made in the film and the trend of ethical consideration implied under such a scenario. While it is quite heartwarming to follow a humanitarian trend in choices, disastrous outcomes would have manifested if the Cape of Good Hope was not conveniently seen; ensuring the survival of humanity would have been an impossible pursuit if the resources on the vessel has been long exhausted before an appropriate location for re-population has been found. Hence, in such critical scenarios wherein a simple miscalculation would have realistically translated in the end of humans, a utilitarian-based approach in ethics would irrefutably be most ideal.


Emmerich, R. (Director). (2009). 2012 [motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.



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