Voluntary Enslavement

Technology's fast development reduces diversity and freedom

 

Our relationship with technology needs redefining

The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking ... The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.
— Albert Einstein

One can not solve problems by ignoring them. Luck and time dissolve some. But humanity’s relationship with technology is not one of those. This problem is going to worsen over time.

Our abilities to assess, manage, and culturally integrate our technologies are increasingly lagging behind those abilities that enable us to create more potent and complex technology. The widening gap between these two sets of abilities creates various problematic dynamics.

Overpopulation, dependency on electronics, mass surveillance, species extinction, arms races, rising energy needs, pollution, lifestyle diseases, overuse of natural resources, etc. Phenomena like these have a common root: humanity's technological powers.

Apart from examples like those above, there is a more fundamental threat arising from our fast and broad technological development: the elimination of freedom and diversity.

The more we invite technology into our lives, the more we let it determine and standardize our existence, the more that dictating and standardizing reduces freedom and diversity.

Should freedom and diversity be part of the human experience?

Science and technology would be used as though, like the Sabbath, they had been made for man, not as though man were to be adapted and enslaved to them.
— Aldous Huxley

The diversity of our values and beliefs, of our artistic, social or spiritual sides, our ability to make choices and the sense of freedom we derive from it are defining aspects of human existence. They make our lives colorful and meaningful.

These facets of human existence need to be lived out. That means they require our time and attention. The more technology absorbs us into its realities, the more our time and attention are occupied by those realities. And so the less we are available for all things not technology.

Upholding diversity and freedom in human life is not necessary for technology’s progression.  It is only functionality & efficiency that technology’s further development must obey.

If we let technological development* become all-engulfing and all-dominant, we will dissolve the soul of our species. And that soul is amazing, beautiful, and precious. Should we protect basic human aspects – such as our social, cultural, or spiritual ones – for future generations?

If the answer is yes, we must invent and use technology far more selectively. And we must deliberately slow its evolution. Doing so are prerequisites for manageability. It lets us embed technology in our respective cultures and prevents us from being enslaved to technology.

* E.g.: artificial intelligence (AI), genetic engineering (GMO), robotics, biotechnology, military technology, material sciences, information & communication technology, nanotechnology, etc.

 

Discussion

Questions can help stimulate the much needed discussion about the relationship between us humans and our technologies.
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Articles

A collection of articles by James Heim which discuss various aspects of our technology culture.
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