John Hardin / @ 7:12 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: There is No Technological Solution


We live in an age of rapid technological development. Our lives change in response to each new invention, but does technology really make our lives better, or do we consistently sacrifice our quality of life and ecological sustainability to support and encourage new technology? Through science fiction we explore our fear that one day super-intelligent robots will enslave humanity, but in reality we’ve been slaves to technology since the invention of the plow and the aqueduct.

Our steadfast, unwavering commitment to technology has only deepened our addiction to it. Our minds have become so dominated by technology that we’ve learned to think of ourselves as machines. We use mechanical logic to convince ourselves to ignore the strong emotional signals our bodies send us about what has become of our lives. Dissatisfaction with a technological lifestyle can lead to a lot of emotions, like anxiety, despondence, depression, rage, etc, that can be difficult to comprehend, especially if you try to be logical about it. When that doesn’t work, we can diagnose these uncomfortable feelings as a mental illness, and treat your condition technologically, with drugs.

Only sound mechanical logic, untainted by primitive emotions can be considered truly sane in our modern high-tech culture. Could super-intelligent robots possibly enslave us more completely? We’ve turned humanity into willing servants of technology, desperate to sacrifice the planet, and our remaining time upon it, to produce that mythical super-intelligent robot in the vain hope that it will somehow save us from ourselves.

That’s the truth behind our madness. We have a vague sense of dissatisfaction, depression and dread about it, but we no longer have any way of understanding those feelings. Logically we know that we must press forward, because the next technological advance can change everything, this time, for the better, we hope. In the meantime, we’ll amuse ourselves with every new toy that comes along.

There are no super-intelligent robots in our technological future. Technology won’t destroy us by becoming smarter than us, technology will destroy us by making us dumber than it. Technology will completely eradicate human intelligence, if it hasn’t done so already, leaving nothing but crass consumerism and marketing statistics in its wake. As we’ve watched the ascendancy of technology in rapt amazement, our culture has devolved and been reshaped to serve corporate capitalism. Based entirely on crass consumption, we inhabit a completely dysfunctional, totally destructive and universally traumatic culture that exudes toxicity in every form. But hey, don’t we have some cool toys?

Technology won’t save us. Technology is killing us and making us wish we were dead. Mechanical logic is not intelligence, and thinking logically is not intelligent. Logic has no vision, and logic has no heart. Logic does not rule the universe and logic does not dictate how we should live our lives. Logic is a human faculty useful in constructing contraptions and traps — and now we’re caught in one — but there is much more to human intelligence.

Real human intelligence is concerned with building culture, not machines. How you live, how you treat other people and how you raise your kids matters a hell of a lot more than what kind of machines you have. We probably could solve some of the intractable social and ecological problems our mindless devotion to machines has created, by looking for cultural, rather than technological solutions, but I’m not even sure we know how to use those muscles anymore.

Technology has failed us. The myriad array of electronic gadgets at our disposal only distract us from the bitter truth about our wretched condition. If we do, somehow, save humanity from self-induced extinction, we won’t do it by fleeing our own pollution to infest another planet with our poisonous technology; we will do it by rebuilding a life-affirming culture here on Earth.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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