The Ever Faster Race

"Technology has exceeded our humanity"

“Technology has exceeded our humanity” (Photo credit: Toban B.)

I would like to state, for the record, that I am no Luddite. If anything I am a technophile. I love my computer. I love gadgets. I love learning new things about new technologies that are coming along. When the day comes, if my finances allow, I will be first in line for a neural input jack. So I have no disdain for technology. What I do have a dislike for is our seeming need to divorce technology from ethics, or from its broader social consequences.
Not all of these consequences are bad, though I am not sure yet whether they are good. There has been some discussion on the use of the word “friend” on Facebook. It is true, by all our old definitions it seems a bit off to refer to people you know only online as friends. Then again, there are a great many of these people who I have come to care for, for whom I have an invested emotional energy. I know I am not alone in this and I wonder how much study, or philosophical discussion, has been undertaken to address this. Redefining “friend,” however, is small potatoes.
We really get into the fun, and potentially scary, stuff when we look at cases like a young man having his iPhone searched through by a school official. My gut instinct is that this principal crossed the line. I am certainly inclined to think that anything he found on the young man’s phone is useless as evidence in legal proceedings. However the very existence of smart phones raises so many questions that frankly should have been answered, or at the very least asked, when the technology was first suggested. Is a student’s iPhone really any different from their notebooks and journals, which school officials have been searching through for generations? Is a suggestive picture on a smart phone anymore protected from search than student’s poem?
It gets crazier though. Until we started seeing collateral damage from it, nobody questioned our use of attack drones in our “war on terror.” Even now it is only a handful of peace activists and like-minded individuals who do so. Nobody is asking what the psychological effects are going to be on those “piloting” the drones. Sure for now they are shielded from feeling direct responsibility as they press buttons from half a world away, but even the dullest person will figure out that they were helping to kill people, and not just enemies, but innocents caught in the crossfire. Will the eventual psychic trauma be even worse for them once they have had time to reflect on it? Will the more abstract nature of their actions not give them solid ground on which to deal with social-psychological repercussions of them? This is, of course, in addition to the obvious fact that the drones make it easier to not consider the action in the moment, making it easier, at least as it is happening, for these service members to push the button and end life.
Our technological advancement does not happen in a vacuum. It has always had consequences for ourselves and our larger world. Just ask anyone who has ever died of black lung disease about the consequences of the Industrial Revolution, or look at how it ravaged our environment. Today we have better technologies and methodologies for figuring out the ramifications of progress ahead of time. It won’t always be perfect, but changing our world means a responsibility both to it and ourselves of doing a better job understanding what those changes will bring. I love me some technology, but I am willing to slow it down to make sure it is actually making the world better and not worse.


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