Each generation, for the most part, grapples with a technology that threatens to upset the status quo. You might argue it is happening more and more, and each time it happens, some doomsayers decry it as a line in the sand moment. A point of no return. That irreparable damage will ensue.
Have they been right?
Will they be right?
At the 100% risk of leaving out equally important contenders, let’s list some massive disruptors: the printing press, gunpowder, electricity, the gatling gun, contraceptives, nuclear bombs, the internet, social media. Undoubtedly, contemporaries of these developments cautioned against their mainstream adoption, citing a possible perversion of life as we know it.
And they are, of course, correct to some degree. Unique problems have entered human history by dint of access to new technology. We don’t need to enumerate the gory details. And still, would any of us want to live in a world without them? Sure, it warrants a case by case basis, but arguably even the most devastating among them in the nuclear bomb, or more generally the weapons of war inventions, typically have enormously beneficial non-war market applications, and may have in their own war-like way prevented even more suffering than if the genuine bad-guys had the tech.
As usual, the tech doomsayers in our current hour have sounded the alarm. The new tech of AI, brain-computer interface, robotics and the like seem, at first glance, of a different, more troubling ilk.
A unique feature of the new technologies and trends are the approximation to normal human operations. The AI enthusiasts, only bolstered in their aims by the help of robotics and the equipping of the human brain with the computational power of AI, envision a world where our most menial tasks are dutifully accomplished by non-rights-bearing, AI-powered, robotic servants. Any job that is deemed generally unchoiceworthy could be outsourced.
This is a truly unprecedented leap in change that could very well be on the horizon. Sure, electricity put the lamp-lighters out of business, and the market and work-force adapted, but the tech doomsayers argue that this is a bridge too far. What will we do? Can we really all be poets, philosophers, and lovers of leisure in the new world order? What are the unintended consequences of removing meaningful, or least consistent, work for an ever increasingly pie slice of the population?
The ethical questions are many. Some of the most important of which will be decided by a powerful few. Supposing tomorrow’s tech is not as apocalyptic as some would say, and is rather yet another shift in our way of life, each of us has the option to become an adopter - or not. Take social media as an example. You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. There is an enormous pressure, in some ways, to do so. But we really don’t have to. The same might be said of Neuralink, the brain-computer interface, or the burgeoning availability of Virtual Reality equipment.
Each of us, as we already do, will have the moral burden of what to do with these technologies once they come into our lives. A friend of mine has forbid himself of trying VR citing that, “the actual world is difficult enough.” There’s some wisdom here.
As people striving to be open to truth and to practice the intellectual virtues, let’s be thoughtful in our treatment of new tech. If you are curious about this topic, we dive into the details in this week’s episode; you can watch on Youtube or listen on your favorite podcatcher.
Let us know - are there any upcoming technologies that concern you? You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org