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Submersible implosion is a lesson in the dangers of human pride

Submersible implosion is a lesson in the dangers of human pride

Submersible implosion is a lesson in the dangers of human pride
July 28
12:00 2023

When Titan, a submersible headed for the Titanic wreckage, first went missing on June 18, many struggled to sympathize with the billionaires and experts who boarded an uncertified submersible. It took connections, $250,000 and a foolish amount of hubris to board the Titan. Remains of the Titan’s implosion were found just four days later and served a valuable lesson: whether it’s traveling to the bottom of the ocean, colonizing Mars or defying time, no amount of money can make one impervious to the laws of nature.

Ultimately, Oceangate, Titan’s operating company, is responsible for the implosion. Although the Titan was only certified to dive up to 1300 ft into the ocean, Oceangate promised passengers a view of the Titanic wreckage located 12500 ft away from the ocean’s surface. Oceangate CEO Stockton Rush ignored warnings and disregarded the importance of safety as a whole, believing them to be an obstacle to innovation. In an interview with journalist David Pogue last year, Rush said he saw safety as “a pure waste” and said the intense water pressure was of no concern because it would make the submersible more waterproof. Evidently, Rush miscalculated and it cost him his life. When Rush took his last dive in the Titan, he didn’t just disregard U.S. laws – he ignored scientific facts and acted as if he was immune to the laws of nature. 

Oceangate is just one of many instances of people testing the limits of their humanity for the sake of innovation and exploration. Billionaire Elon Musk and his company SpaceX’s plan to build a colony on Mars has multiple faults not just because of poor planning but because of how harshly uninhabitable the planet is. Mars might have sunlight and water, but it is not naturally suitable for life, even if Musk pulls all the funding he can find to build inventions that can make it so.

To safely build a colony or travel to the ocean’s depths for extended periods without extreme risk, one must create infallible inventions. It brings us to the age-old philosophic question: can an imperfect being, such as a human, create something truly flawless? As of now, the answer is no. 

Of course, exploration is risky. Some might argue that relatively normalized experiences like traveling by airplane or hiking are no different than extreme tourism because they all come with a certain risk. A billionaire tech entrepreneur might view the freedom to satisfy one’s curiosity as a right since curiosity and creativity are a core part of the human experience. 

Naturally, boarding a plane or even climbing a mountain is vastly different from wanting to colonize Mars or operating a submarine viewing the Titanic shipwreck. The chances of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million, according to Nova. Airline industries are heavily regulated, while Oceangate used legal loopholes to get away with having as few regulations as possible. Mountain hikers understand they’re willing to risk their injury or death in the spirit of exploration. Responsible exploration is recognizing the risk but aiming for maximum safety. Oceangate’s complete disregard for safety measures and obvious Icarus syndrome doomed the Titan. 

Passengers of the Titan signed a waiver that mentioned death thrice on the first page alone, as reported by Insider. What the passengers experienced wasn’t anything close to a typical, dignified death. The extreme pressure and temperature increase the passengers experienced when the Titan imploded may have given them a painless death. Still, they were likely incinerated on the spot, a former US nuclear submarine officer told BBC

The various forms of extreme tourism have a similar pattern: people pay exorbitant amounts of money and risk terrible, sometimes even painful deaths to have superhuman experiences. The appeal is more than just thrill-seeking. Otherwise, these ultrawealthy customers would have just gone skydiving. These endeavors are about exclusivity and having unprecedented experiences. These wealthy innovators exercise another level of curiosity that can only be alleviated by privilege and riches.

Where much of the masses – who are equally capable of being curious – struggle to sympathize is the idea of spending so much money on an experience that turned into nothing short of an expensive suicide. The Oceangate passengers had every opportunity to realize how dodgy Oceangate was. For one, the passengers weren’t referred to as such – instead, Oceangate listed them as “mission specialists,” according to Insider. In the event of an accident, the legal repercussions would be far more severe should the victims be considered civilian passengers instead of contractors or employees. 

It isn’t uncommon for innovators to become so enthralled with their object of curiosity that they adopt a sense of invulnerability and contempt for criticism. Still, it’s important for them to keep a clear, rational mind. Against the forces of nature, a false sense of omnipotence can get you killed.

Featured Illustration by Isabella Isquierdo

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Hana Musa

Hana Musa

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