"Now, boy, give me those wings of yours. I am very interested in contraptions. Take 'em off now! Now!" Snatcher ordered. (4.25)
Snatcher is so into technology that he will rob a young boy of his high-tech wings. Seriously, Snatcher corners Arthur with his pack of barking, vicious cheese hounds in an alley. How is that not shady? It's like, we get it, Snatcher has a thing for scientific inventions… but how he goes about getting them is so not ethical.
"They are the very scum of the mechanical world. Technical vultures! They hit a man when he's down, and by the time he recovers, they have either made off with his invention or have him so tied up in contracts that he either has to buy them off or hand the whole thing over to them." (14.43)
Willbury has some pretty strong feelings about patents and people who try to steal them. In this little rant to Arthur as they approach the Patent Hall, he disses the Failed Patent Acquisition Officers who prey on vulnerable inventors. We bet Snatcher, with his shady ethical stance toward inventions, would get along great with these guys.
"It sounds as if some of the caves are starting to crumble. I don't know what those blasted boxtrolls think they are playing at. They are supposed to keep this place dry and shored up." (25.20)
Grandfather vents to Arthur about the state of the Underworld; apparently it is very wet. The boxtrolls, who are mechanical geniuses as well as kleptomaniacs, are supposedly in charge of keeping the underground tunnels maintained… But where are the boxtrolls and why are they not doing their job? Turns out Snatcher's evil plans (which involve technology) have a pretty big impact on the infrastructure of Ratbridge.
Over the next hour, Grandfather instructed as Arthur rebuilt the wings' motor. (25.54)
If Grandfather can talk a young-ish kid through rebuilding a motor, he certainly gets props for being an intelligent inventor-type. Grandfather had built the wings himself, as well as the doll-communicator, and so it makes sense that he can give step-by-step instructions to repair them. At this point we're not sure if we're more impressed with Grandfather or with Arthur, since they both seem like super-smart tech-heads.
"Truthfully?" Marjorie looked very embarrassed. "I was very interested in the scientific principles involved in making it. I just wanted to see if it would work. I hadn't really worked out what it was going to be used for," said Marjorie. (31.53)
When Willbury questions Marjorie as to why she made the resizing machine in the first place, her answer is a pretty standard one for science-y types: she was curious. This means that she didn't really get around to thinking through the implications of such a machine. What would happen if the wrong people got their hands on it, for example? We get a glimpse of this possibility when Snatcher uses the resizing machine for his own evil plans.
"He ran a mill that had always produced really dodgy cheese. They used all kinds of evil processes. One of their tricks was to boil down cheese rings, extract the oil, and then inject it into immature cheeses. It was illegal…and cruel, but they had got away with it. What they didn't realize was that as the pollution got worse, making cheese oil was concentrating the poisons." (39.24)
Thank you, Grandfather, for such an in-depth account of where the early cheese barons (particularly Snatcher's father) went wrong in their quest for modernizing the cheese industry. We all love cheese—who doesn't, right?—but apparently, trying to improve the technology to make cheese production more efficient can be dangerous. So it seems like wholeheartedly embracing technology for its own sake may not always be the answer.
Kipper started to pedal and soon a humming started to come from the pump. The levers and wires attached to Tom went taut. (41.20)
Is it a torture device? A cutting-edge weight-loss device? Nope, it's another of Grandfather's inventions. Using pedal-power from Kipper and guiding motions from Tom, the pair is able to animate Arthur's doll and make it move. This is perfect for getting the keys to Arthur's cell. Technology is such a mover and shaker in this book.
Arthur thought for a moment, then asked Marjorie, "How did they make the magnet work when the beam engine wasn't running?"
"Arthur, you really are sharp as a knife." Marjorie smiled. (49.69-70)
More proof that Arthur is destined to become an engineer/inventor-type. With his upbringing by Grandfather, and the fact that he gets along so well with Marjorie, it seems like it's just a matter of time before he ends up with his own lab.
Willbury raised a hand. "No! We have had enough of all this resizing. I am going to get Herbert to destroy the resizer, and I want you to promise you are not going to try to build a new one." (55.83)
Whoa, Willbury is serious about destroying the resizer. And he doesn't seem like the type of dude to delight in random destruction, so he must really believe in what he's saying. Marjorie isn't thrilled, of course, but she's seen its destructive capacity firsthand (she was even shrunk by her own resizing machine). Seems like she's seen technology's dark side and is willing to destroy her own invention for the good of all if that's what it takes.
"Have you ever thought about going into pollution prevention?"
"I did have an idea about how to distill oil and run a motor off it. It would be a lot cleaner than steam engines," Marjorie said, grinning. (55.90-91)
By asking this question, Grandfather attempts to redirect Marjorie's inventing impulse to something more constructive. And… we can kind of see it. Pollution-preventing technology would be much harder to turn against a whole town's population, right? We hope? If there's anyone who can start to invent things to improve people's quality of life, we think it's Marjorie. Probably with Arthur helping her out, since he's so bright.