Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Will technology empower the individual or lead to our demise?

What does accelerating technological development mean for us as people? Will our voice still be heard? Or are we becoming mere drones in a civilisation sized hive mind?

On the one hand technology is freeing and allows us not to have to labour to do basic things and meet basic needs, it also reduces our individuality, hence our freedom and control over our own lives. Horkheimer and Adorno see this dialectic clearly:
Technology has changed human beings from children into persons. But all such progress of individuation has been at the expense of the individuality in whose name it took place, leaving behind nothing except individuals' determination to pursue their own purposes alone (Dialectic of Enlightenment p. 125). 
Cody Wilson created a blueprint for the first 3-D gun. He claims the project is aimed at reclaiming some sense of individual autonomy.
Cody Wilson: Well there's a guy named Michel Foucault. And I'd recommend that you read him some time. Really I see the battle as one of just trying to remain human and against you know massive forces, anonymous forces of discipline and control that we can't really understand. I don't think there's a massive conspiracy. But I do think the self is under siege and I think liberty itself is under siege...
A lot of people have commented on these impersonal forces, including Kevin Kelly in his great book -What Technology Wants. I think these massive forces Cody is touching on come from the Kevin Kelly's technium
Kelly focuses on human-technology relations and argues for the existence of technology as the emerging seventh kingdom of life on earth. What Technology Wants offers the anthropomorphic conception that technology is one giant force —the technium — which Kelly describes as "...a word to designate the greater, global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us
Here's a couple of quotes from the book:
Look what is coming: Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?
Technology amplifies the mind's urge toward the unity of all thought, it accelerates the connections among all people, and it will populate the world with all conceivable ways of comprehending the infinite.
So not only is technology going to take your job, it could take your individuality as well.
In order to provent this, we need to clear understanding what individuality is. We need to understand what consciousness is and how it works.

Here's a great waking life excerpt on this from telescopic evolution:
So we can't just ignore the problem. We have to find room in our contemporary world view for persons with all that that entails; not just bodies, but persons. And that means trying to solve the problem of freedom, finding room for choice and responsibility, and trying to understand individuality.