Destroyed by their own creations? When have we seen this idea?

Jedi2016

Sr Member
A thought came to me today, after someone on another board mentioned H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

One of the key elements of that story is that the civilization was effectively wiped out by their own creations, in this case the Shoggoths.

And, it's come up several other times since then, somewhat recently in regards to humans and their machines, a la The Terminator and The Matrix.

But what other times have we seen this idea? I assume it's something fairly contemporary, since humans have only recently (within the last century) developed the ability to create things that are capable of destroying us (at this point it's limited to things like disease, but you get the point), so it seems less likely that earlier authors would even have conceived of the idea.

I'm not sure what literary device this idea falls under, so it's difficult to just Google it, so I'm asking if anyone here has any other examples besides the ones I've noted of the "civilization wiped out by its own creation" stories. In particular, older ones such as Lovecraft or his contemporaries, or even earlier. Basically, I'm curious as to how old this idea is, and how often it's been used in fiction. This isn't for a paper or anything, just my own curiosity. :)
 

SSgt Burton

Sr Member
I'll go with "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" by Harlan Ellison.

World war breaks out between Russia, China and the United States. As the war progresses, the three nations create supercomputers to fight the war more efficiently.

Eventually one computer becomes sentient and absorbs the other two. It wipes out humanity leaving four men and one woman.


Kevin
 

BAK55

Well-Known Member
If we're discussing robots or AI having gone bad, I'd have to say the grand daddy of them all would have to be R.U.R. (Rossum's Universl Robots) by Karl Capek. This play introduced the very word "robot" to the English language.
 

VelaNoon

Active Member
In Minority Report the crime fighting system ends up arresting every single person that they think will commit a crime. Turns out many people were innocent.
 

Colin Droidmilk

Sr Member
The theme has certain similarities with the Tower of Babel in Genesis, of course. While the tower itself didn't have the capacity for destruction, God's fear of man's technological potential to become as powerful as him caused him to ensure that the builders degenerated into confusion (if I were a religious man I'd honestly be wondering if He isn't up to the very same thing again right now!).
 

Roland

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
"The 6th Day" - Towards the end of the movie the bad guy Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) is killed by his own creation: the clone of Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
 

Jet Beetle

Sr Member
Gone but not forgotten.
HG Wells used this theme in most of his books - The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, Things to Come, Island of Dr Moreau - all of these dealt with problems of our own doing.
 

Wes R

Legendary Member
If you follow the Generation 1 Transformers cartoon there's several instances of it. The Transformers drive their creators from Cybertron, Unicron turns against his creator who has another creation turn against him in the cartoon later on.
 

SDGlyph

Member
I see your HG Wells and invoke Shakespeare.

In all seriousness this kind of thing has been a recurrent element in storytelling for a long, long time - perhaps not the specific "we created a monster!" version, which I believe is about as old as science fiction (e.g. HG Wells and Mary Shelley as noted above), but the underlying theme of hubris and biting off more than you can chew is very old indeed. The biblical Genesis story has been mentioned, and I'd throw in things like Arabian djinn/genie stories, and a lot of medieval deal-with-the-devil folktales.

TVTropes, as ever, has a jumping-on point...
 

Jedi2016

Sr Member
Plenty of small scale examples. How many large-scale? How many stories of entire civilizations wiped out?
 

slave1pilot

Sr Member
The theme has certain similarities with the Tower of Babel in Genesis, of course. While the tower itself didn't have the capacity for destruction, God's fear of man's technological potential to become as powerful as him caused him to ensure that the builders degenerated into confusion (if I were a religious man I'd honestly be wondering if He isn't up to the very same thing again right now!).
You are a little off there.
God did not fear "man's technological potential to become as powerful as him"
He destroyed the tower because man thought they could attain Godliness by their works.

That's probably about as much "religion" as this forum will allow, so I'll stop.
 

Kerr Avon

Master Member
In Minority Report the crime fighting system ends up arresting every single person that they think will commit a crime. Turns out many people were innocent.
Actually, didn't it turn out that a murder WAS going to take place, but in actuallity it was that ONE murder was committed by someone who who the system and could plant fake evidence because of it? I don't think there was anyone innocent other than the cop being framed.
 
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