In this forthcoming age of technology, WE SHOULD NOW BE QUESTIONING what will be the point of life if we are not living it alone with free will.
Some like me are critical of technology, holding that it leads to alienation from nature, environmental destruction, the mechanization of human life, and the loss of human freedom.
Technology represents the knowledge of modern humanity, which seeks to control all of nature, including human nature.
As Martin Heidegger has forewarned, “The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control” it will become the master over and destructive of what is.
The ongoing convergence between science fiction and real-life technological advances makes it easy to imagine ‘the digital age’ as an era of conflict between human and bits of intelligence.
Machines are becoming stunningly adept at making decisions for us on the basis of vast amounts of data – and getting better at this at an equally stunning rate.
It’s precisely because our present machines can neither think nor feel that THE ABOVE QUESTION matters.
We call them “smart” and marvel at their powers; we paint pictures of a world in which they, not we, are determining what we do and how.
We can’t help ourselves: we see purpose, autonomy, and intent everywhere.
Machine efficiency is a very poor model indeed for understanding ourselves; and cutting people out of every possible loop – the better to assure speed, profit, protection or military success – is a poor model for a future in which humans and machines equally maximize their capabilities.
When I think about the future of human-machine interactions, and the ways in which our ideas and identities do not simply belong to us anymore the crowd in the cloud is becoming a stream of shared consciousness.
So digital technologies challenge us once again to ask what place we occupy in the universe: what it means to be creatures of language, self-awareness, and rationality. What will be the point of life?
Unfortunately, our conceptual lens is being warped by technology. Why? because death is always in the background. It makes a mockery of everything we do.
In asking what it means to be human, we are prone to think of ourselves as individual, rational minds, and to describe our relationships with and through technology on this basis: as isolated “users” whose agency and freedom are a matter of skills and reasoned options; as task-performers who are existentially threatened by any more efficient agent.
We have little in common with our creations – and a nasty habit of blaming them for things we are doing to ourselves.
Our machines may not yet be alive, nor yet conscious, but the evolutionary pressures surrounding them are every bit as intense as in nature and with few of its constraints.
Life is now, however, it is impossible to get to now never mind the future.
So what is now? Is it just our conscious.
The future is just another thought arising now, and the past is just a memory.
Reality according to quantum physics only exists when it is observed by something that is conscious. But what is an observer? It is not necessarily a human.
Is reality just information?
Information is meaning in the form of symbolism or code, and code can represent itself.
However, information then needs meaning and meaning requires choice which is subjective to perception so something else which is conscious, which then needs time and time effects itself both in the past and the future to produce reality – life, so reality is its own creator with on alternative.
We have a very limited and confused view of what is going on.
How can we create lives that a truly worth living?
If we wish to build not only better machines, but better relationships with and through machines, we need to start talking far more richly about the qualities of these relationships; how precisely our thoughts and feelings and biases operate; and what it means to aim beyond efficiency at lives worth living.
What does a successful collaboration between humans mediated by technology look like? Our creations are certain to grow far beyond our current comprehension:
Indeed, the paradoxical and perhaps troubling state of being “recorded live”, might be one answer to the question of what it means to be human in the current digital world.
Are we all just 3d quasi-crystals or tetrahedra or pixelated reality called the E8 Lattice.
If wisdom is the art of living, of existing, participation in human life is fundamental (Spiegelberg, 1965, 426).
It might be that through our engagement with the actuality of human life, encountering and pursuing the art of living, we might circumvent the trappings that perceive, in modern science and technology, the soteriological temptation of overcoming contingency and infinitude by means of rational inquiry and technological powers.
By such an exercise, humanity might learn not simply to be the handmaid of modern scientific progress and technological promise. Rather, humanity might learn to work against such things. This work, however, ought not to be done in opposition, as a competing exercise of power; but for the redemption of a broken world, or a broken person, which has been encountered,
The redirection of technology will be no easy task.
Contemporary technology is so tightly tied to industry, government, and the structures of economic power that changes in direction will be difficult to achieve. As the critics of technology recognize, the person who tries to work for change within the existing order may be absorbed by the establishment.
But the welfare of humankind requires a creative technology that is economically productive, ecologically sound, socially just, and personally fulfilling.
Each generation lays the ground for the next, ours is ensuring that the voice of the coming generation will be lost in the algorithms of the future.
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks chucked in the bin.