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Public Fears of a Technological Apocalypse for Humanity


An in-depth rhetorical analysis of texts is a valid academic strategy for mastering principled theoretical concepts and summarizing existing knowledge. Only through writing a critical reflection on the material read can the student structure his or her own learning and realize the practical skills of a student-researcher. Much of the success of such study becomes possible through excessive reading beyond the norms specified in the courses. Independent study of a large number of sources is crucial to developing a critical, broad understanding of different authorial methods and styles as well as viewpoints.

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Rhetorical analysis within the scope of this paper refers to that study of an individual’s speech features and techniques, which reviews the totality of stylistic approaches, persuasive methods, and syntactic features of text construction. Thus, the subject of rhetorical analysis in this essay is a journalistic article by Steven Pinker, released in February 2018 (Pinker). The piece discusses the meaninglessness of public fears of a technological apocalypse for humanity. Using extensive evidence from various fields of knowledge, scientific evidence, and an appeal to personal, emotional experience, Pinker has created a good piece that convinces the reader that the author is correct. This rhetorical analysis seeks to expose the stated thesis in a more detailed examination of the journalistic article.

Main body

First and foremost, it should be recognized that Steven Pinker is a recognizable author and popularizer of science, specializing in the fields of experimental psycholinguistics and cognitive sciences. According to the academic’s official website, Pinker is a professor at Harvard University in the Department of Psychology and the author of more than twelve published books and columns in the New York Times, Time, and The Atlantic (About). While it must be recognized that academic regalia is not yet sufficient proof of an individual’s authority in today’s world, a review of Pinker’s professional work and writings suggests that the man can be seen as a correct source whose statements can be trusted.

In his journalistic article “The Dangers of Worrying about Doomsday,” Pinker expressed the somewhat unpopular view that the variety of public worries about problems associated with technology, ecology, and politics is exaggerated. After reading the text carefully several times, it is pertinent to note that not every individual could absorb the information presented in the article.

In fact, the target audience of Pinker is people with developed critical thinking, not ready to follow social trends just because it is fashionable blindly. Even the welcoming poster for this article describes such activists in an inherently hostile way: one could say that the professor is waging a moral struggle against those who spread rumors of imminent threats. However, Pinker does not seek to shame such actors or discredit them but tries to convey to an attentive reader the need for careful reflection of information.

It is worth noting that the author perfectly succeeded in achieving the desired goal. To make the journalistic material more dynamic and livelier — which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the reader’s response — Pinker dilutes dry facts with humor, personal experience, and public morality. For example, even when listing potential new-age threats, Pinker takes their development to the point of absurdity by pointing to hypothetical teenagers shutting off the Internet to the older generation “from their bedrooms” (Pinker). Such moments keep the reader’s attention and encourage him or her to continue reading, as he or she will encounter several more humorous episodes later.

However, the focus on the reader’s emotions does not end with the use of humor as a tool for active engagement. Throughout the article, Pinker repeatedly manipulates the emotional background of the user, either by sending them into natural shock at what they have read or by making them laugh at reality. For example, the historical analysis used by the professor was primarily intended to demonstrate the failure of the driving forces that determined such grand events as the Cold War or the invasion of Iraq. On the other hand, the deliberate use of a large number of terms not easily understood by the average reader, including “quarks,” “collider,” and “annihilation,” was intended to evoke an emotion of fear of the unknown and mild, controlled consternation. Another method of persuasion used in this text deserves attention.

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Pinker devoted a paragraph to explaining the mathematical fallacy of calculating the risk of technological threats to civilization in more detail. Admittedly, this was not accessible material to understand since not every reader clearly understands what “scattershot,” “event distribution,” and “risk calibration” are. Episodes like this provide further confirmation that Pinker was targeting a broad layer of audiences, but instead publishing his own opinions backed up by extensive knowledge from various fields.

Using a personal example from life, relevant to most adults today, is also a great example of persuasion. People born before 1990 probably remember the panic that was sown into society on the eve of the Problem 2000. Pinker decided to use this memory to show how untenable the common threats and risks of technological disasters are. The professor told an example from his own life, seeking to convey that sense of confidence and criticality that guided him in 2000 to the reader. In other words, it is as if the user relates themselves to the author and applies the role of a skeptical expert.


In conclusion, the rhetorical analysis of textual materials has high academic relevance in summarizing current knowledge and skills. This essay analyzed a journalistic article by Steven Pinker. It was shown that through a series of strategically neat methods — such as appealing to emotion, demonstrating scholarly knowledge, and appealing to personal experience — the professor creates a highly persuasive text that argues against socially popular ideas. Consequently, this work by Pinker is of high quality, and therefore — combined with the results of the author’s biographical research — can be regarded as credible.

Works Cited

“About.” Steven Pinker. Web.

Pinker, Steven. “The Dangers of Worrying about Doomsday.The Globe and Mail. 2018. Web.

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