Our relationship with
We have been creating an astonishing amount of powerful new technologies over the last few generations. Many great advantages have come out of this development. But are we capable of handling this unprecedented flood of technological innovation?
Overpopulation, electronics dependency, mass surveillance and erosion of privacy, species extinction, arms races, rising energy needs, pollution, lifestyle diseases, overuse of natural resources, etc. They all have a common root: the power of our technologies.
Apart from developments like those just listed, there is a more basic threat arising from our fast and broad technological progression: the elimination of freedom and diversity.
The more technology comes into our lives, the more we let it determine and standardize our existences, the more that dictating and standardizing reduces freedom and diversity.
If we value freedom and diversity, we must restrain technological development.
Just below it continues a bit more detailed
Lack of moderation
It is normal for us to pay attention to the circumstances of our own lives and life span. And so we tend to notice the particulars of technologies and their development that concern our own life experiences and life time. But dynamics beyond those particulars are developing under our common radar and threaten the human experience as such.
Over the course of our human history we gained a wide range of intriguing advantages through technology. These advantages strengthen a belief in technology as a universal remedy. It seems increasingly self-evident, that we should focus ever more of our time, energy, and attention on technology’s efficiency and functionality to reach our goals and satisfy our needs and wishes.
Enjoying some ice-cream or a glass of beer or wine can be great. Being agreeable has many advantages, as does exercising regularly. We know, however, that habitually consuming too many sweets or too much alcohol, never being able to say “no”, and constantly overstraining one’s body are likely to create negative effects. These insights are common knowledge. We emphasize the important idea of balance through sayings such as “everything in moderation.”
Yet regarding technological development – the key area of human endeavor in our times – there is a stunning absence of moderation.
Aldous Huxley once remarked that “… in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost.” Has our culture of technology become a religion? Are we – on a personal and on a societal level – still able and willing to question how quickly and thoroughly we are infusing technology into our human circumstances? Or has it become “sinful” to doubt our culture’s central belief, which simplistically equates technological development with being beneficial?
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Should freedom and diversity be part of the human experience?
The diversity of our values and beliefs, of our artistic, social or spiritual sides, our ability to assess and make choices and our sense of freedom are defining aspects of human existence. They make our lives varied and meaningful.
These facets of human existence need to be lived out. That means they require our time and attention. But the more technology absorbs us into its realities, the more our time and attention are occupied by those realities. Therefore the less and less we are available for all things not technology.
If we let technological development* become all-engulfing and all-dominant, we will dissolve the amazing core of our being: our species' soul. Should we protect basic human aspects – such as social, cultural, or spiritual ones – for us and future generations?
If the answer is yes, we must invent and use technology far more selectively. And we must slow its evolution. Doing so are prerequisites for manageability. It lets us embed technology in our respective cultures and keeps us from being enslaved to technology.
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Our species’ challenge
Without restraining the ever-growing importance of technology in human circumstances there will be no place for values and beliefs, for diversity and freedom. The more we let technology’s developmental logic establish itself, the more that logic will displace anything that is not itself.
Why pay attention to developments that are so much bigger than our own lives and life times? There is no objective value in the continuation of the human experience. Whether that experience continues to exist only matters if we choose for it to matter.
Changing our views on technology and our handling of technological development has become humanity’s biggest evolutionary challenge. Rising to this grand challenge would be our species' greatest accomplishment. It would be an extraordinary triumph of insight over instinct – worthy of the unique beings we see ourselves as.
* E.g.: artificial intelligence (AI), genetic engineering (GMO), robotics, biotechnology, military technology, material sciences, information & communication technology, nanotechnology, medical technology, agricultural technology, pharmaceutics, etc.