• schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    I've been fixed on this theme and cannot seem to verbalize it correctly. I see it as a major problem that most of us have minimal understanding of how and what produced the items we use to live (survive, find comfort in, and entertain). I see this as a major problem in terms of our helplessness to a system that is beyond our efficacy. Can anyone help me explore this idea and possibly give more "meat" to why this seems a very major problem? It's like the problem is there, but I cannot quite capture it in words yet and am looking for help in fleshing this out.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    I've said also mentioned it in an earlier comment here:
    1) We use technology and items that we have no idea how they work. We are a forever behind the veil of our own mode of production and living. You are ignorant in any highly detailed way, of your own way of being and survival.
  • Raymond
    649


    The reason for making: most people don't know the workings of, say, a remote control, but they use it. Here you explicitly see the workings, without knowing what it's for. The construct just walks along the beach.

    What's the problem with not knowing how your remote control function? You gotta have knowledge about everything you surround yourself with? Will it lead to disaster if you don't know?
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    You gotta have knowledge about everything you surround yourself with? Will it lead to disaster if you don't know?Raymond

    I don't know, that's what I am trying to find out haha. Think of it as a concept that is sort of on the tip of your tongue but haven't quite narrowed it yet. It seems to have something to do with efficacy, being alienated from larger forces that one can never be a part of, but that control you, economic implications, metaphysical implications, etc.
  • emancipate
    356
    Trust is implicated here. There is too much for any single person to know about technology. I trust the vaccines work. I trust the brakes on my car work.
  • Raymond
    649
    Maybe it's a scary thought that behind all stuff we use there are other people having some divine knowledge about them. We send our children to school to make them acquainted with the divine so maybe later they can participate in the powers from which new stuff originates to surrounds ourselves with and stay ignorant about, as this knowledge is for the chosen ones only. How different from the way of the animals.

    Total nonsense, but I can imagine people think like this.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Trust is implicated here. There is too much for any single person to know about technology. I trust the vaccines work. I trust the brakes on my car work.emancipate

    Yep, certainly in a practical sense, not knowing how a technology works, relies you to trust what others know... It is still beyond that. It is more than just, "I hope this mechanic knows what he's doing". It's more like not understanding the minutia of the metals used to create the parts of your engine. The amount of minutia we are not aware of, but rely upon is dizzyingly vast. The amount of patents, the amount of machine parts, the amount of even one ounce of what went into modern products.

    I am not sure if this is relevant, but it seems to draw parallels with what Graham Harman was discussing in an object's interaction with other objects. They never "know" fully the depth of that other object, only how it interacts with it..

    Harman defines real objects as inaccessible and infinitely withdrawn from all relations and then puzzles over how such objects can be accessed or enter into relations: "by definition, there is no direct access to real objects. Real objects are incommensurable with our knowledge, untranslatable into any relational access of any sort, cognitive or otherwise. Objects can only be known indirectly. And this is not just the fate of humans — it’s the fate of everything."[10] — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Harman

    But instead of objects, rather it is knowledge of our own human world of being which is excluded from ourselves as individuals by ourselves (as a vast network of interactions).
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k
    For my part, I think it a major problem that we infer, from the fact that we don't know everything about, e.g., the workings and production of a cell phone, that we don't know what objects "really are", or that we're "helpless", or that we're excluded from our own "world of being."

    Our ignorance of what it takes to do something or make something or use something we haven't personally done, or made, or used is unsurprising; it's to be expected, in fact. This has been the case forever. Romans who had not made or used concrete in constructing harbors, or temples, or many other things were ignorant in comparison to those who had done so. Those ancients who weren't architects didn't know how structures were designed or built. Those who weren't shipbuilders were ignorant of the making of ships.

    Although we've used technology of various kinds for millenia, it seems to me that only recently, relatively speaking, have some of us come to believe that technology renders us somehow divorced from "reality" and "being" or some-such in what strikes me as a hyperbolic, Romantic, quasi-mystical manner a la Heidegger with his talk of hydro-electric plants as if they were monsters, or our coercing the world to do what we please, summoning forth the power of the sun (I forget what he condemned so excitedly). He compared it to the peasant lovingly planting seed in Nature's bosom, if I recall correctly. There was a chalice too, I believe. Chalice good, coal bad.

    Technology presents real problems, but I suggest some restraint when it comes to contriving metaphysical and epistemological horrors arising from the fact that we don't know how to make certain things.
  • NOS4A2
    5.4k


    Our technology has advanced exponentially while the species has hardly evolved. This seems to me a fundamental problem.
  • _db
    3.5k
    Can anyone help me explore this idea and possibly give more "meat" to why this seems a very major problem?schopenhauer1

    Being self-sufficient seems like it is an important quality of a mature human being. It seems to me that there is something fundamentally repulsive (pathetic) about not being able to take care of yourself when you ought to be able to. Not understanding the technology we use and being unable to live without it makes realizing this quality of self-sufficiency impossible.
  • ajar
    65
    I see it as a major problem that most of us have minimal understanding of how and what produced the items we use to live (survive, find comfort in, and entertain). I see this as a major problem in terms of our helplessness to a system that is beyond our efficacy.schopenhauer1

    It's humiliating to depend on that which we don't understand. At the same time, it's the special trick of our species to specialize in techniques as we do (divide and conquer), while also being able to pass down and therefore build up bodies of specialized knowledge that are well beyond any individual's comprehension. This allows us to form a kind of technologically evolving 'superhuman' entity. It's hard to feel that one fully exists in the shadow of this beast. If I die, the machine will roll on, just as I roll on as one of my skin cells dies. A few neighboring cells notice perhaps in each case.

    And speaking of cells, consider also that our bodies themselves are more complex machines than our spaceships or our computers. So even the caveman depends on that which he does not understand. He's just ignorant of his ignorance.

    Finally, a more practical response: living a simpler life that is easier to understand will likely involve living a sweatier life, digging in the dirt. And no Novocain either.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    as this knowledge is for the chosen ones onlyRaymond

    No, this isn't ridiculous.. There does seem to be a tier that knows more.. But even they only know more in their specialty. It would be very hard for a biotechnical engineer to understand mechanical engineer to understand an electronic engineer to understand a material engineer and so on..Though if given time, it would be easier for them to understand each other than someone with no background... they all need some basic sampling from each in undergrad at least and complicated enough maths for differential equations and Calculus III, statics, and such.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Being self-sufficient seems like it is an important quality of a mature human being. It seems to me that there is something fundamentally repulsive (pathetic) about not being able to take care of yourself when you ought to be able to. Not understanding the technology we use and being unable to live without it makes realizing this quality of self-sufficiency impossible._db

    Yes this! You are very close to what I'm trying to say.. But there is something even more troubling than it being pathetic and repulsive to not be able to take care of yourself. Here I am using a computer in which I only know a vague understanding of certain things but for which the technology is well known amongst electronic and computer engineers. And monitors and their displays, a rudimentary knowledge but relies on so many intricate parts and concepts coming together. The plastic that encases the computer, the silicon chips, the copper wires and, even what the basis for the green in most PCB boards.. All of it requires millions and millions of minutia-knowledge that I can never fully comprehend.. And even if I did, all the minutia that is adjacent to that , and to that, and to that.. What is it about this behemoth complexity upon complexity that seems to subsume ones own efficacy? It is pathetic our reliance but inability to know all of it.. But it is more than that.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Our technology has advanced exponentially while the species has hardly evolved. This seems to me a fundamental problem.NOS4A2

    I would imagine our cultural evolution is part of what makes our species survive, so that seems to make sense.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    And speaking of cells, consider also that our bodies themselves are more complex machines than our spaceships or our computers. So even the caveman depends on that which he does not understand. He's just ignorant of his ignorance.ajar

    Good point..even our own basis of life is hidden to some extent. However, unlike natural causes, technology is man-made and yet it eludes most men, though they use it.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Although we've used technology of various kinds for millenia, it seems to me that only recently, relatively speaking, have some of us come to believe that technology renders us somehow divorced from "reality" and "being" or some-such in what strikes me as a hyperbolic, Romantic, quasi-mystical manner a la Heidegger with his talk of hydro-electric plants as if they were monsters, or our coercing the world to do what we please, summoning forth the power of the sun (I forget what he condemned so excitedly). He compared it to the peasant lovingly planting seed in Nature's bosom, if I recall correctly. There was a chalice too, I believe. Chalice good, coal bad.

    Technology presents real problems, but I suggest some restraint when it comes to contriving metaphysical and epistemological horrors arising from the fact that we don't know how to make certain things.
    Ciceronianus

    Technology commands us.. We consume it, and yet we don't know it. There is at least some form of power dynamics that comes from being excluded from that which we survive from.
  • _db
    3.5k
    Here I am using a computer in which I only know a vague understanding of certain things but for which the technology is well known amongst electronic and computer engineers.schopenhauer1

    As someone who works in the computer industry I feel confident saying that the technology is not well-known amongst the engineers that are thought to understand it.

    That is one of the things that is so fucking sinister about modern technology, nobody understands it in its entirety, nor can they manufacture it themselves. Every technician understands a part, and even then they don't need to understand it as much as they just need to know how to use it. And if a person were to come close to grasping all of what goes on inside a single computer model, it would only be by an immense sacrifice of everything else in their life.

    What is it about this behemoth complexity upon complexity that seems to subsume ones own efficacy? It is pathetic our reliance but inability to know all of it.. But it is more than that.schopenhauer1

    Well I think it certainly has something to do with Marx's notion of alienation, being reduced to a cog, a button-presser, the maintainer, etc. Humans did not evolve to do this sort of crap, it goes against our natural state of being. There's this blind, amoral force of technique that drags us along in its current of relentless improvement of efficiency, whether we like it or not.
  • Caldwell
    954
    There is at least some form of power dynamics that comes from being excluded from that which we survive from.schopenhauer1
    Let's start in the inner workings of our brain and intuition. It's powerful.
  • ajar
    65
    .
    All of it requires millions and millions of minutia-knowledge that I can never fully comprehend.. And even if I did, all the minutia that is adjacent to that , and to that, and to that.. What is it about this behemoth complexity upon complexity that seems to subsume ones own efficacy? It is pathetic our reliance but inability to know all of it.. But it is more than that.schopenhauer1

    Is there something like the fantasy of an ideal adult that is frustrated here? Even our 'visionary' tech billionaires are riding on the back of a beast they can't control or understand. Some of us have tiny maps of the abyssal territory that are just a little less tiny than the maps of others.
  • Raymond
    649
    Technology is just material stuff shaped in an artificial way. Nothing mysterious about that. In modern society it is sexy and even a sign that society is intelligent, for how intelligent one must be to create an electron microscope... It's this kind of intelligence we value, base IQ tests on, and is looked after in searching partners even. On school we are taught to think technically, to maintain the devastating order mankind has chosen to follow. It will inevitably lead to its demise. No technology can save us from the devastating effects of technology. Some indigenous folks, most of whom are already whiped out of existence, or at least their way of life, to give way to the rise of technology, know this very well, as they still are in contact with nature. The western way, claiming to have knowledge about nature, by means of physics, chemistry, etc. has indeed knowledge, but is further removed from nature than ever. An artificial knowledge, with an equals artificial technique and technology, reinforcing one another inflationary, thereby destroying the natural knowledge and the nature that knowledge is about. WTF if I don't know how technology works? There is nothing so easy to understand as technology. I'm not impressed by it.
  • john27
    661
    You are ignorant in any highly detailed way, of your own way of being and survival.schopenhauer1

    Reminds me of the use of pesticides. We as the public know scarily little about the effects and use of pesticides, not only on us but the environment as well, and yet certain health organizations just keep giving the green light. I think if we knew more about what pesticides did in your body we'd be appalled.
  • Pantagruel
    1.9k

    Technology is not an end in itself; it is just one of many means that we humans employ in the project of survival. So even if our goal is only to survive, having an imperfect or limited understanding of technology reduces the value of that technology itself. Everyone knows how to make a wheel. So even if all the wheel-factories in the world were to be destroyed, people could still build their own wheelbarrows and carts. Most people don't understand the science of electricity however. So if there was an apocalyptic event, a few people would be able to generate electricity; most couldn't.

    If the project of humanity is more than just survival, then the problem is even greater. Let's say the project of humanity is to optimize human existence. Not just survive, but survive in such a way that individual and social existence is improved as much as possible. Bare minimum, this can only occur if advances in human life are passed forward from generation to generation. However you only use a technology optimally to the extent that you understand it. And you can only pass forward what you understand.

    For example, many people think that discovering a source of unlimited, inexpensive power would solve the world's problems (fusion energy). This is naive. All power, when used or applied, ends up as heat. So suddenly increasing power-consumption by an order of magnitude could result in an environmental catastrophe.

    Technology can only be used optimally to the extent it is understood. Or to the extent that it's use is directed and controlled by those that really understand it, I guess....
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    As someone who works in the computer industry I can safely say that the technology is not well-known amongst the engineers that are thought to understand it._db

    May I ask what your role is specifically?

    That is one of the things that is so fucking sinister about modern technology, nobody understands it in its entirety, nor can they manufacture it themselves. Every technician understands a part, and even then they don't need to understand it as much as they just need to know how to use it. And if a person were to come close to grasping all of what goes on inside a single computer model, it would only be by an immense sacrifice of everything else in their life._db

    Right, and then they don't even know how that cup was made or the chair they sit on.. and back to square one :lol:.
    Well I think it certainly has something to do with Marx's notion of alienation, being reduced to a cog, a button-presser, the maintainer, etc. Humans did not evolve to do this sort of crap, it goes against our natural state of being. There's this blind, amoral force of technique that drags us along in its current of relentless improvement of efficiency, whether we like it or not._db

    Yes, for sure we are alienated from the production that makes us survive and from meaning in the work (often stretching it to be meaning in the meaninglessness or Sisyphus or Kafka or Office Space or whatnot). But there is something else.. this dialectic is getting closer, but not quite hitting it yet...

    1) We are born to forces that we know little to nothing about. Patents, manufacturing knowledge, electro-mechanical-materials-structural-engineering, chemical, biological, medical, etc. etc. But I'd like to harken back to my minutia-mongering neologism. Technology parses to a degree of such minutia. The minutia is blindingly boring. There is a drowning weight to it.. Just how the internet works alone or code language, or engineering blueprints.. There is something deadeningly inhuman.. Yet it is what sustains.

    inside-folded-wing.jpg
    001cab3255dc476db5e8b67fbdfa12eb.jpg
    carrier-air-conditioner-1916-patent-art-prior-art-design.jpg
    Transmission.jpg

    2) The power differential of those who hold the technology and those who don't. Those who know more and those who don't. Those who know more and have the means to produce it and those who don't. Imagine if how we distributed resources was knowing how each item you consumed worked.. No one could consume the item.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Let's start in the inner workings of our brain and intuition. It's powerful.Caldwell

    Not sure what you mean, but we have produced all the minutia.. The minutia which sustains..
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Is there something like the fantasy of an ideal adult that is frustrated here? Even our 'visionary' tech billionaires are riding on the back of a beast they can't control or understand. Some of us have tiny maps of the abyssal territory that are just a little less tiny than the maps of others.ajar

    Very true.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Technology can only be used optimally to the extent it is understood. Or to the extent that it's use is directed and controlled by those that really understand it, I guess....Pantagruel

    I just think there is a huge power differential regarding the people that know the technology and those that just consume it. I think it is this that is the real political-economic power in the world- who understands and can produce the technology. I think the focus on capital is misplaced because it is more about the finance behind something or the resources one is using. It is the knowhow and the means to use the knowhow.. It is I think different than starightup capital.. and perhaps economics should be more rooted in this understanding rather than 19th century uses of the word "capital" which we seem to be stuck in when explaining economic models.
  • Pantagruel
    1.9k
    There a huge knowledge-deficit that is a snowballing social problem, yes, for sure.

    Seems to me that, in a situation like this, the more technology evolves, the larger the deficit grows, the more the world is going to be subject to corrective back-pressures....

    Check out the movie "Don't Look Up" if you haven't already seen it. It is a hilarious (and frightening) look at people enslaved by their own tech.
  • schopenhauer1
    6.4k
    Check out the movie "Don't Look Up" if you haven't already seen it. It is a hilarious (and frightening) look at people enslaved by their own tech.Pantagruel

    I saw it, and it is good. But that is just the consumer side of it. It is more like, the deficit of those who use and those who produce the technology...It is touched upon a little on the movie between the scientists and the overly-consumed by their technology/media human citizens though and especially the Steve Jobs-like guy and his technology. There is a huge amount of disconnection and deficit between the two.
  • Outlander
    1.4k
    our 'visionary' tech billionaires are riding on the back of a beast they can't control or understandajar

    I can really appreciate this allegory or metaphor, it is a very good one.

    Of course, isn't science? Language? Life itself for that matter? Where does one draw the distinction between something you can control and understand and something worth pursuing?
  • baker
    3.7k

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Relying on magic is tricky, it simultaneously gives one a sense of power and of helplessness.

    For a conscientious person, not knowing how something works also gives rise for concerns over the safety of it and how to maintain it best (so as to not incur unnecessary expenses). Such a person will also feel a measure of anxiety upon considering that other people might not know how something works and thus act with it in ways that endanger everyone involved.

    Take, for example, modern cars and modern drivers. A conscientious old-school driver knows, for example, that if you start a car on an incline, it can first slide back a bit, and that therefore, a greater safety distance toward the car behind is advised. Modern drivers, used to automatic transmissions and atuomatic brake-hold on an incline don't know this, and thus don't maintain sufficient safety distance. So when there is an intersection on a slope, there is greater likelihood of a collision after the car in the front backslides, and possibly this driver's fault.

    I just think there is a huge power differential regarding the people that know the technology and those that just consume it. I think it is this that is the real political-economic power in the world- who understands and can produce the technology.schopenhauer1

    Being able to produce the technology seems to be what makes the difference.

    Merely knowing how something works doesn't seem to give one much advantage over those who don't. In a consumer society, knowledge of how something works is, at best, a "factoid"; by and large, it's not needed, it's irrelevant. By the time some piece of technology breaks down due to wrong or suboptimal use, it's time to replace it with a newer model anyway.
  • Varde
    152
    Or perhaps not having a technology that does everything is bad...
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.