Too Big For Our Britches: Technology and Ethics

*I would now disagree with much of what I wrote here, but that is an interesting part of documenting your ideologically journey, to sometimes wince at past naivete.

Technological growth is not a linear process. It is an exponential one. It cannot be expressed by the number set ‘1,2,3,4,5…’ but rather by the set ‘1,2,4,8,16…’. Consider the mathematical parable of the ‘bacteria in a bottle’. On the first day a bottle is injected with a single bacterial organism. On the second day it had reproduced and doubled. On the third it has quadrupled and so forth. The bottle is not infinite. It has a limited space. While it may take a fifty thousand days to fill the bottle halfway with bacteria, on day fifty thousand and one the bottle will be full. Consider humans capacity to coexist with technology as the size of the bottle. If this seems illogical to you I urge you to consider the finite resources available to both humans and technology on earth and how competition for resources can result in destruction of the losing competitor. We cannot know what the size of that bottle is for sure, or what to look for to signify our remaining capacity for growth within it. But we can make some basic observations about technology throughout history and its capability in certain areas to double its growth over time.

In order for the first man to send a message from the plains of Africa to North America he would have had to pass that message down through generations of his nomadic offspring until one of them reached North America, and that process would take hundreds to thousands of years. This remained true for tens of thousands of years of early human life. This process was not made any faster until a little over five hundred years ago when men first navigated the routes between the African, European and North American continents by sea. At this point it would take several months to send that message. Nearly two hundred years ago steam engines were being developed that could send that message within a few weeks. Around the same time that the combustion engine would have quickened the pace of oceanic travel new telecommunications devices were developed that made it possible to send messages with only a slight delay. Within only a few decades communications technologies would be able to transfer data nearly instantaneously in real time, for instance, in a phone call. Now our communications technologies are so fast that we can send vast amounts of information instantaneously around the world. In an instant you can send an entire packet of information millions of times faster than an army of humans could decipher the contents of that message.

This illustrates only one such exponential growth of technology. Every facet of technology is developed in a similar manner. By mathematically modeling this growth you would see a curve that in the present has become so steep it is nearly indistinguishable from a straight vertical line. Modern humans are poised on a paradigm shift so tremendous that most of us can hardly comprehend a future we will live to see. Compare the expectations for the parents of their children five hundred years ago with those of the parents of children today. The earlier parent could rightfully expect not only his child but perhaps even his great grandchildren to live in a world precisely like his or so similar he could easily conceive of it. Today’s parent can have no such expectations for the future of even his immediate offspring. In many ways we all are constantly confronted by the reality of this exponential growth of human technology but our deepest fears and the petty nature of our egos prevent us from recognizing the critical mass that lies ahead of us. Fortunately by some miracle or accident of design there have been those who have been able to conceive of some of these problems. The following chapter will highlight only some of the known possibilities. Not only will I skip over some other known possibilities but I am forced to omit those that I have not yet even conceived of.

Part 1: Self destruction

a) War

The beginning of the twentieth century brought a new development that would shape new technology faster than ever before and that development was world war. Technology now made worldwide trade, communication and travel fast and easy, so for some reason humans responded by using the opportunity to kill the bejesus out of one another. The official records of history show that these wars were righteous and just and that the winners won because they had truth and bravery on their side, but a more simple analysis would be to conclude that primitive boundary rivalries and other alpha concerns led men from their compassion and rationale into mass murder and an arms race conducted behind closed doors. These developments in weaponry transformed the post-world war one world into a global industrial society where the farm replaced the factory where it had not done so yet. But while that was happening new conflicts were leading us into a second world war. Many of the technologies created or adapted for the first war had been improved upon by now and new genocidal technologies were being created in every industrial nation. Having passed through the age of fist, sticks and stones, steel and simple missile and explosive devices, the world was ready for a new age of war that used chemicals, biological agents and nuclear physics to create weapons of mass destruction.

In the Second World War humans commenced use and development of these weapons. Chemicals were used to kill millions of undesirables in Germany and elsewhere. The United States brought the war to a close by detonating two atomic bombs over Japanese cities. While technology had always had the power to kill it now had the power to do it on an unprecedented scale. It now became possible to imagine for the first time that our species could through technological carelessness or political ignorance, cause its own extinction in a very short time. The paranoia this created led to a new kind of war, a cold war, which was essentially just a multiplicity of secret arms races conducted behind masks of idiotic machismo bravado. It also created long range social ripples throughout Asia and the Middle East that insured plenty of more war for centuries to come.

These wars rage on yet today while the weaponry involved becomes even more complex. Although the usage of chemical and biological weapons is largely taboo, their developments march on. A nuclear arsenal now exists that could destroy all human and most other kinds of life on earth in just a few hours. An even newer weapon promises to terrorize humanity in ways we cannot even imagine- artificially intelligent autonomous robot soldiers. Prototypes of these technologies are already quite advanced and their reality stares us in the face from only a short distance into the future. Yet there seems to be no practical large scale movement of humans calling out about the ethical implications of such a technology. Perhaps it would be to beg the question, but is there really any logical reason not to question an independent killing robot based upon the same electronic technologies that can be compromised by simply opening the wrong email? By a mere accident of design, unintended by the creators, the robot soldiers could become rampant killing machines. You could endow its programmers and programming with every good intention and every expertise that the smartest human beings in the world could come up with and the room for error would still exist. Is the potential cost of that possibility worth the creation of another technology of death? More will be said on the possibility of artificial life forms gone awry later in this chapter.

b) Inability to adapt to environment as quickly as we change it

There can be no doubt that human actions have caused change in our environment, even if there are opposing opinions on the extent of the change and of its human origin. I will not attempt to make a case for environmentalism. On one hand it has become a political juggernaut, with politicians using it to gain support while funding scientist to somehow conclude from a very relatively small data set of empirical observable conditions(200 years in small patches of Earth and even less elsewhere) that there is indeed a climate crisis with a political fix. On the other hand its common sense not to soil your own nest.

In fact human evolution underwent some of its most rapid early change as the result of an ice age. By learning to adapt our species improved itself, no doubt aided by new technologies. It is possible that by tipping off a new environmental shift on earth’s surface that we are creating conditions by which the solving of new problems will advance human knowledge. Weather control might even become a possibility setting the stage for humans to transform other planets into livable atmospheres in the future. While I can surely see a possible bright side to such new technology I am not unaware of its downside. We could, in fact, be doing irreparable harm to our natural world making it inhospitable to humans in the future. Our attempts to fix it could make things even worse. It is impossible to answer questions about the environment when we know so little about it. We simply have not been studying it long enough. Not only do we lack the long term knowledge to uncover its patterns but we also lack the ethical wherewithal to address the problem seriously. The leading governments of the world that promise to protect us from pollution industries are so intrinsically tied up with industry that it recalls the fox guarding the henhouse. The real answer lies in individual choices about consumption among humans, but we are under such a spell of material technologies that it seems impossible to reverse that trend in time, especially with newly industrialized nations just now reaching western consumption levels. Consider this- During the beginning of the modern environmental crusade a slogan was popularized to teach the virtues of consumer conservation. Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle. There was great wisdom in this idea but forty years later the focus has been shifted from those first to concepts to the last. Indeed we continue to increase consumption rather than reduce it. Planned obsolescence has made reuse nearly unthinkable or impossible. But to salve our conscience we have undertaken massive efforts to recycle, a process by which we use pollution creating machinery to collect and transport used materials to factories where the magic of chemical jiggery pokery will make them reusable while causing more environmental problems in the process. Symbolically our collective conscience has compromised through these empty actions and translated them into a deluded sense of accomplishment and personal pride. It is not the arrogance of industry that threatens to create an environmental catastrophe, but rather the apathy of consumers that make such industry not only possible but profitable. We need not look to government regulation to save us from ourselves but into our own economic habits.

Part 2: The Technological Singularity

The Big Takeover

In an effort to create the information needed to stay relatively technologically advanced it has become an imperative of Science to create artificial intelligence whose goal is eventually reach a state of super-intelligence that exceeds our own human capacity for thought. It is estimated by science that such an advanced intelligence may be possible within the next twenty to thirty years. This event, the technological singularity would occur when self-replicating intelligence exceeds the human ability to understand the new technologies that have been created. In other words it would be the point in which the symbiotic relationship between humans and our technologies is concluded by a victory of technology over humans. No longer would humans be the dominate intelligence on earth and so therefore the world would henceforth be shaped by values not determined by humans but by intelligent machines. Human scientists romanticize about the possibilities of controlling superhuman intelligence by endowing this intelligence at creation with altruistic virtues. Not only is there no reason to believe that these intelligences would not create their own virtues and goals, but a look at human behavior tells us that even the most altruistic of intentions can become an ethical nightmare or a survival risk.

Let us consider the Three Laws of Robotics imagined by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

These ideas have been embraced by the AI community as a standard of ethical implementation in programming these intelligences. They seem, after all, to be a fool proof set of safety protocols to remove the threat of maligned intentions in super-intelligent beings. Even if such a being were to follow these heuristics precisely there is still the chance of it misinterpreting the situation. Consider how this being might interpret human environmental issues. Concluding that humans will destroy themselves through environmental degradation and risk the lives of endless following generations of humans a super intelligent being might shut down the information and power grids that make such a disaster not only possible but seemingly imminent. In doing so it has calculated that although billions of lives will be lost in the present that this is the only way to insure an even greater number of humans survive into the future. This would certainly meet the requirements of the three laws above, but the outcome would still be disastrous to the lives of billions of humans who depended on that system for survival. This scenario may in fact be a preferable one to the long term outcome of our species even as awful as it is to imagine that sort of global death. There are many other scenarios in which a super intelligent machine may decide on a course of action detrimental to human beings.

We have already discussed the problem with autonomous intelligent robotic soldiers, but that is an extreme scenario of which there are many between it and the above that could spell just as much disaster. Imagine a super-intelligent technological being that acts as a benevolent overseer of humanity. Programmed with our moral code and values it directs civilization in such a way that our behaviors must meet our own criteria. No longer are rules applied with common sense and exceptions but to their absolute. Small infractions that harm nobody must be dealt with because applications of law are a part of the compulsive nature of its programming. Imagine a human were to drop a candy bar wrapper on a sidewalk. The machine may make the following interpretation. A candy wrapper left in an open space becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can be deadly to humans and therefore the act of littering is equal to attempted murder. This sort of reasoning is solid in a way that only human intelligence can overcome. Human thought and consciousness are fragmented; our brains thrive in a world of shades of gray even when our logic becomes dualistically valued into areas of black and white. Would a super-intelligent technological being think in this manner? If the basis of its thought patterns rests upon a binary dichotomy of zeros and ones might not it develop a pattern of seeing only black and white? Such a being would have enough computing power that through brute force of examining the possibilities it is able to solve problems with endlessly more efficiency than the human brain. But it would not follow that it would have the kind of intelligence that humans use to supersede logic for common sense. It is worrisome enough that the highly complex nature of our own human justice system is already employing a version of this compulsive application of the law. We send millions of our brothers and sisters to prison every day for crimes that have no direct victims. Do we imagine that an even more rigidly logical overseer could do less harm than we do even with the grandest of intentions?

The problem of artificial super intelligence may not even arise from its relationship to humans. By the most minor accident of design such a being might construct a goal of creating copies of itself. In doing so it would have to make use of the resources that modern humans depend upon for their survival. The problem may come not only when we are forced to compete for resources but when it is determined that humans themselves are a resource. Perhaps we would be used as slave laborers; perhaps our bodies would be harvested for their brains to be used as a platform for storing information. The small amount of precious metals found in humans might even make us candidates for recycling. Once a being that is more powerful than us and capable of making its own goals is established we cannot possibly begin to imagine the ways that it could go awry.

b) Dehumanization

Of course it will be argued that there are also limitless possibilities for positive outcomes, which itself is true. For instance, humans may themselves meld with these new intelligences to become a new improved hybrid. We would gain endless intelligence and become nearly immortal. All of our flaws from ignorance, aging, disease and emotional instability would be solved. But what would we become? Would we still be humans anymore? Would the eradication of mental illness really be such a blessing when we consider the role it has played in human art? Look anywhere in the world of art; painting, literature, music, etc. and you will find objects of immense human beauty that were inspired by human flaws. Creating and recognizing such beauty is uniquely part of what it is to be human. It is not in the average well-adjusted individual that brilliance is born, but at the edges of the human condition, a condition that would cease to exist were we to fine tune our own existence like a machine.

We can also imagine that human minds interfaced through a neural network of the super-intelligent control center would experience a shared singular reality. By sharing all of the same knowledge, experiences and preferences it would be unnecessary for much of the individual to exist. Individuality is the cornerstone of human identity. As we saw in the first chapter we evolved in conditions of technological and symbolic change that seemed to increase the uniqueness of the individual over time. If technology has been such a welcome symbiote because of the amount of individuality it allowed us than why should we now turn it against our uniqueness to make obedient bees that conform to the hive mind? While such a scenario would in fact end prejudice and lead to equality is it worth the price? Does not a world ripe with the injustices of bigotry and human stupidity seem far more rewarding than the sterility of sameness?

c) Obsolete

A final question which might be posed is what would the creation of a dominant intelligence ultimately mean to the future of human beings? Let us look at a scenario in which humans create an intelligence of superhuman capacity that can self-replicate and make its own goals. Despite this it is endowed for a love of humanity as a child might be to a parent. It protects us, provides for us and insures every human a long happy healthy life here on Earth. We have created a technology at last which can construct for us our own paradise, a technological utopia. What might we ask does this new existence predicate itself upon? What are the goals? What will humans have left to accomplish? Having outgrown us our old symbiotic partner, technology creates us this paradise and then heads out into the cosmos to explore them and create new problems and solutions to give itself meaning along the way, but we have not been invited along. It would be highly inefficient to create the life support systems needed for humans to explore space when the new dominant life form could do it for us and report back its findings. What do you suppose will happen in time? Will we be content to enjoy the fruits of our long evolutionary labor in exchange for a life with meaning and purpose and goals for the future once we achieve this ultimate goal? If so, how long can we persist in such conditions before stagnation sets in and nature finds us an obsolete evolutionary paradigm? We can certainly look into the past and see where bourgeois human societies degenerated under such stagnation and either crumbled, self-destructed or slowly died away. Even if the most positive outcomes for humanity are met after a technological singularity we might find that we have ran the pass into our own end zone.

Part 3: Nanotechnology

In real life David hardly ever beats Goliath. In some ways it is obvious that size does matte; that bigger is, if not better, than at least more statistically likely to win out. But what happens when intelligent, autonomous, self-replicating agents become so small that they are virtually invisible and so powerful they are virtually unstoppable? This is the problem of nanotechnology. The world of nanobots promises to correct health ailments, construct super materials impervious to destruction by force, temperature or radiation and fix a whole menu of other practical human problems. The goal of nanobots would therefore be to rearrange physical matter into an optimum efficient form. Human beings are not optimum efficient forms. Even the healthiest human being is a cesspool of genetic garbage and feedback that while sometimes harmful also makes us human beings. In dealing with our limitations we express our humanity and create the values by which life is made satisfactory. It is not perfection that makes humans what we are but a unique combination of evolutionary beauty and flaws. The same can be said of our environment and the natural world. The negative conditions which exist are part of our heritage and our interaction with this flawed environment gives us purpose within it. What then if we solve our imperfections?

It is one thing to imagine that nanotechnology could possibly create a more perfect human and environment without causing existential dilemmas and entirely another to assume that such a technology would stop there. If an agent were unleashed among us that was designed to create harmony and efficiency in living systems what would be some likely conclusions that such an agent might draw? The competitive world of survival between different species causes all sorts of biofeedback issues which endow each species with intrinsic weakness. Nano-intelligence might eventually conclude that the existence of competing organic organisms is inefficient and begin to transpose all matter into a single bio-organism capable of survival with maximum efficiency. Nanotechnology would be both incredibly complex enough in order to reach such a conclusion while also too simple to understand what is lost in this transformation for the individual species that it transforms or for the natural system of evolution that prefers interaction and competition between multiple species.

Just as with the other issues in this chapter I have only given a few of the problems that can arise with this technology. This is due both to limits of space and of my imagination. It is enough however to imagine that such a blind attempt to reach perfection would have disastrous consequences for two reasons. The first is that perfection and humanity are incompatible. If we become perfect we will become something else. The second is that as we have seen throughout history, the more likely it is for a technology to be misapplied, abused or taken out of our control, the more likely just that will happen. Nanotechnologies, like the other things in this chapter have more potential for negative outcomes than we can yet imagine, and those outcomes are no small grievances. Would it be prudent to unleash any technology on the world that contained such intrinsic danger to all living things without first having in place a sound ethical agenda to monitor such technologies?

Part 4: Genetic Catastrophe

In the last century science and technology have solved a wide plethora of human health and survival issues such as disease, sanitation and famine. We now live longer, healthier lives than ever before in history. Surely there cannot be a downside to the end of human suffering on such a widespread scale? Let us take a look at viruses. An interesting feature of viruses is that they experience such rapid evolution that we can actually observe the process and learn about how it works in other species of life on Earth. Viruses have an astoundingly fast reaction to the feedback with their environment. As a result, the safeguards we have taken against viral compromise in our own bodies have caused viruses like the flu to evolve against such restraints at an exponentially growing rate. No sooner have we seemingly conquered one form of the virus only to discover another more virulent version has evolved in the process. In effect, in curing the diseases caused by viruses we have created more dangerous diseases.

The same may be said of bacteria. Every advance in destroying bacteria in our environments from antiseptic procedures to household products has been answered by more resilient forms of bacteria. The medical world is full of such pyrrhic victories. Human reactions to environmental and nutritional allergens have increased rapidly in the last century. Science now suggests this may be a byproduct of lack of exposure to these allergens early in life. A baby who grows up in a relatively pollen, dust and mold free zone will not adopt the complex human antibodies needed to deal with them later in life or in other environments. A newborn who suffers digestive discomfort at the onset of life may have his or her diet incredibly fine-tuned in order to avoid such discomfort. This makes for a seemingly happier baby and certainly more content parents. Why is it not reasonable to suppose that training ones newly developed digestive system to deal with unprocessed nutrients is a reasonably painful process? Instead experimental new diets are tried and eventually one is found that is less impacting on the baby. Baby sleeps through the night, defecates easily and eats without fuss, but what about the future? By sculpting a diet to a child’s digestive system it does not have to do all of the nasty work of adapting itself to the elements of the human food supply. The inevitable result is a host of food allergies later in life.

The title of this chapter indicates genetic issues but in order to get there it was necessary to see how feedback with the environment shapes us. Consider again the virus. Until recently science was unable to determine what possible benefits interactions with viruses had on human beings, but indeed one has been found. It appears that evolution finds it necessary not only to make genetic changes vertically through generations of human but also horizontally from one human to another. When some viruses come in contact with a human being they replicate themselves in his body, but while doing so they sometimes copy bits of his genetic material to be added into the virus and transferred to other human beings with the virus. In a way the viruses are playing a game of genetic ‘telephone’ in which the message changes with each new recipient. By doing this viruses have actually helped to increase our immunity to viruses while adding complexity to the human genetic code. It creates the kind of complexity which over many generations creates evolution within the species. That cold you had last winter might have added to your genetic repertoire a genetic permutation that allows your great grandchild to be more intelligent, healthy or attractive.

As nasty as it sounds, some human beings are born with genetic ailments that will kill them, but this is what nature intended. If the weakest most unadaptive members of our species were to share their genes either vertically or horizontally it could spell disaster for the future of humanity. Most children born with a genetic aberration like cerebral palsy will never experience the opportunity share information vertically by breeding, but when their genetic code survives long enough for it to be adopted by horizontal transfer agents like viruses, it becomes more likely that cerebral palsy will show up in more humans in the future. This is not to say that we should override our human compassion for suffering with Darwinian social policies. I only suggest that the complexity of the situation and its innumerably unknowable other consequences should cause us to give pause to considering the paradigms of nature problems to be solved. What worse conditions might we create in doing so, unknowingly and of the best intentions? Perhaps we would be better directing science or other human activities for creating conditions that address the qualitative rather than quantitative aspects of our existence. And leave the rest to love.

There are other concerns with genetic science that I have addressed elsewhere. The basis of these concerns is that in perfecting the human form we will destroy and give birth to something that neither we nor our ancestors who have struggled up from primordial slime for millions of years would be very proud of. Nor might we find ourselves able to live harmoniously alongside them. While genetic science offers to alleviate human suffering and misery, what would be the long term outcomes of such tinkering? Consider the current genetic alterations in our food supply. On one side the genetic modifications of certain strains of grain have lowered the number of deaths by starvation in many third world or developing countries. That number is in the millions. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success. But at the same time modifications are being made to grain seeds that render the seed unable to reproduce more fertile seeds. Such a scheme gives great power and profit potential to those who produce and sell those seeds. But what happens when cross pollination causes other food sources to be endowed with non-reproductive genes? These changes could spread very rapidly from one crop to the next rendering all species of that grain non-reproductive. We would rely on those who produced the only viable seeds, but what if some interruption in human affairs made that technology impossible at some point? How then would we deal with the fact that the last crop of corn, wheat or rice was the last generation that would ever be grown on Earth?

Part 5: Others

a) External intervention (aliens) due to uncontrolled development

Surely there are many other existential and survival risks that face. The last four sections addressed the most common of them but there are undoubtedly many more. I could spend the rest of my life writing this chapter and never run out of doomsday scenarios for humans. This is not because I am a negative person. In writing this book I hope to make a positive contribution to the ethical questions that guide our future. But before moving on to the next chapter let us touch upon a few more possible consequences. Anything imaginable is possible. That’s the beauty and guiding light of the human condition.

In order for all of this technology to expand so rapidly it has had to shape human societies to make it possible. Our social, political and economic structures all seem to be biased towards the progress, change and innovation necessary for rapid technological development. Indeed, those things are inevitable in our relationship with technology, but the pace and impact are within the realm of human choices and do play a human toll. Was life so much more miserable to a European peasant in the middle ages than it is to a factory worker, a fry cook or a data transcriber? While the peasant had to worry about taxes, disease, viable crops, eternal damnation and the rich and the powerful, they still had a large amount of autonomy in their day to day lives, in the choices they made, and in the way in which they completed tasks. They made their own schedules, provided for their own needs and got satisfaction from the completion of goals that ensured their survival. While they may have been relatively ignorant by today’s standards, they had common beliefs and purposes that tied them together, even if those were sometimes a product of myth and superstition. Regardless of whether the universe was willing to provide it for them, they found meaning in their own lives and in that they found some measure of contentment. But the factory worker, fry cook and data transcriber spends their days in activities so remote from their actual survival needs that there can be no satisfaction. It is not the same to sow, tender and reap a potato for your own consumption as it is to fry a frozen pre-sliced potato grown on another continent for the consumption of a surly unappreciative cab driver in exchange for minimum wage. The data clerk is immersed in a world of external sensory inputs that have eroded her ability to believe in anything. Reason has, for her, gone from prevailing to robbing her of reliable identity in her society and in the cosmos. She lives in an existential void where values and meaning have become relative. The factory worker is a cog in a machine. There is no room for him to do his job in a way that he finds pleasant or satisfactory nor independently or autonomously. He follows the machinery like clockwork and the song of his life is a constant repetitive thud that keeps him awake hours after he leaves at night. In most every modern job you will find humans who are not able glean the kinds of satisfaction from their lives that they might if they had freedom, power and the ability to be creative and expressive in them. The world of rapid technological growth, progress and innovation has little room for all of that and so modern man is left with his health, longevity and social/physical/economic security as a consolation prize for his liberty.

This problem extends outside of the workplace. It is endemic in all aspects of modern society. There is no escape. If you are not a wealthy land owner there is no way you will ever be able to afford the property and taxes to survive self-sufficiently without some complicity in the systems you hoped to escape. There are no new frontiers of practical consideration. You are born into this situation and the only real choices you have are to move horizontally within the system or into a vertical position where suffer more or contribute more to the subjugation of your fellow humans. Perhaps the most alarming damage of runaway technology has already been done. It has broken our spirit and in doing so has disconnected us from the internal alarms that should be warning us to approach the future with consideration and caution instead of blindly at full force.

It is easy to imagine that we are not alone in the cosmos. There are many humans who believe that contact with these creatures has been an ongoing process for most of our development. There is no reason to think that aliens do or do not exist or that they do or do not keep tabs on humanity. There is just no conclusive evidence either way, but let us employ Pascal’s Wager to the question. If there are alien beings far superior to man in both their biological and technological forms, and if we may have to answer to them for our behavior, in which behavior are we at the least amount of risk. Behavior A is developing technologies more rapidly than our understanding of them and ethical consideration can account for. Behavior B is a carefully considered and measured advancement of technology so that human and technological evolution can keep pace with one another and reduce the internal and external risk humans impose. If such an alien or other unknown force is keeping tabs on us to measure the risks we create for ourselves, our planet and the cosmos and has the power to put an abrupt stop to these developments it would be the wiser choice to bet on the safe slow route and along the way we can enjoy the ride.

Another question we must ask ourselves is that if and when new technologies become available to augment and strengthen individual humans, who will have access to them? Will the fry cook have the opportunity to download his consciousness into a mechanical body, or will that privilege be left only to those who control and can afford this technology? Will the factory worker who helped build these new improved form be able to afford this new technology? Will the data transcriber who made the infrastructure possible be considered valuable enough to be considered for ‘improvements’? And what if these people are left behind in the transition? Will they then be subject to superhuman beings whom they have no power to defend themselves against? In many ways this is already happening. Many people cannot afford the products they produce and most high end technologies are already the exclusive playground of the rich and the powerful. Can we expect altruism from above in the human hierarchies once this technology is developed if we can have no such expectations now?


This warning about technology is not a call for an extreme Luddite revolution. We cannot go back in time without facing equal existential risks. The answer lies in moderation. We have committed to an approach of accelerated innovation because there is profit in it for the ruling elite and because we feel powerless to make any change as individuals. I do not have an easy answer for this. It is more important that I can impress upon enough people the gravity of the situation so that we can start a movement to counterbalance the process. But no longer can we rely on the technological systems of science and politics to keep them self’s in check. It would not be in the best interest of those individuals and so no matter how good hearted they are they will be blind and deaf to the concerns that the rest of us face. We must pull ourselves out of this pit of moral relativism and create new values to guide us where technology cannot reach.

Post Script
This was written several years ago when I had only begun to see the problems that scientism and obligatory technological progress without ethical processes was becoming a great existential risk. I have restrained myself the urge to make any changes to the text for posterities sakes. Most of it is still valid and insightful but some of it is poorly written, poorly researched or not entirely thought out on my part.

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