• schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    There have been countless inventions that occurred during the "Second Industrial Revolution" (c.1870-1945) that we can rattle off- automobiles, planes, chemical processes, new sources of building/construction materials and processes, new sources of materials (stronger steel, plastics, etc.), military technology, household and commercial products, agricultural technology, new sources of energy, medical discoveries and standardization, the electrical grid system, the volume of productivity via assembly line/ mechanization.

    The furtherance of technology through the electronic revolution (c.1945-present) has advanced the communication and mechanization even further with electronics, computers, transistors, microchips, and the software and computer programming languages that use these platforms. Scientific research (theoretical and applied) is invested in by governments, non-profits, and of course corporations with the hopes that down the road it will pay off in profits or utility and lead to other technologies that may be consumed.

    With all this being said, do these technologies and scientific discoveries provide some sort of overarching meaning to our species? If our species died out, arguably it would be the loss of scientific knowledge and technological innovations that would be most missed in its absence from the universe (at least from the vantage point of us imagining its non-existence as we stand here as already existing beings that are projecting a future state of affairs).

    What do we owe society, humanity, the universe in "revealing" scientific knowledge and technological innovation?

    Is it simply just an curious side project that we have maintained and grown that was spawned by the circumstances of various civilizations and empires, or is it the main focus of all our efforts?

    Is technology the reason why one should not be an antinatalist.. If our species can produce such things with our minds.. how can the Human Project be bad (and even more extreme discontinued) when new humans can contribute to and experience this technology?

    Is the antinatalist ungrateful to the technology that has been the outgrowth of various industrial revolutions and discoveries? Should the mastery of various fields of knowledge that contribute to the maintenance and growth of discoveries and technologies be exalted?

    Presumably, technology is invented (for the most part) to survive better or entertain ourselves better. Does technology work for us or do we work to maintain and grow technology? At the end of the day, is our existence simply wrapped up with the maintenance and growth of technology to the point where we cannot or do not want to see the underlying existential void? Is technology used as a way to not deal with the limits of our existence (e.g. angst, ennui, instrumentality, existential boredom, absurdity, etc.).
  • wuliheron
    440
    Technology is part of the same self-organizing system that we call the universe. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and we gotta invent technology because its built into the very fabric of existence itself where everything revolves around what's missing from this picture. For example, both a black hole and the neurons of our brains can convey any mass, energy, and information with the highest efficiency of anything their size precisely because everything obeys a simple, yet subtle, fractal systems logic that should be capable of even reconciling Relativity and quantum mechanics.

    It is self-organizing and the next generation manufacturing and soft-ware and other developments are already beginning to organize around self-assembly. Soon, chips will routinely have twenty radios built right into them and be capable of talking to one another just like bacteria. Some have already claimed that the internet itself is coming alive. Rainbow Warriors often call it Childhood's End or compare modern civilization to going through puberty and about to metamorphose into an adult species. A Theory of Everything and Nothing is coming and the world will never be the same again.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.9k
    Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and we gotta invent technology because its built into the very fabric of existence itself where everything revolves around what's missing from this picture.wuliheron

    Are you putting forth a radically hard-determinist perspective?
  • wuliheron
    440
    Are you putting forth a radically hard-determinist perspective?Metaphysician Undercover

    No, this is a recursion in the law of identity where an up without a down is impossible because a context without significant content is impossible. We share the ground beneath our feet which can feel more real and solid because its karma is so humble it is compatible with a larger number of dimensions or karmic universes with juxtapositions becoming as important as flow dynamics. It is our evolving relationship with the infinite world around us that defines who we are and wish to become as our faith in our memories and awareness changes over time. Everything becomes much more metaphorical with at least four rudimentary metaphysics applying at different times.

    In technobabble, what I'm proposing is a rather unusual metaphoric Socratic-Taoist scalar variation on John Wheeler's "Participatory Anthropic Principle" where who or what is being created or doing all the creating goes down the nearest convenient rabbit hole or toilet of your personal preference. It can also be much more poetically described as becoming as beautiful outside as in whenever we embody the harmony of poetry in motion no longer making distinctions between who we are and what we are doing. The complication with such perspectives is they introduce nonlinear temporal dynamics and frequently I joke with people that, "A Jedi feels the force flow through him when he is regular" which is a reference to the fact that nonlinear temporal dynamics require greater personal integrity whenever our lives seem to take on a life of their own.
  • Wayfarer
    8.1k
    do these technologies and scientific discoveries provide some sort of overarching meaning to our species? — Schopenhauer1

    How could they, when they've been invented about 5 minutes ago (figuratively speaking), and 'overarching meaning' is forever?

    I think many hundreds of millions of minds are being corrupted by screen technology, for all kinds of obvious and not-so-obvious reasons; why, just this week, an educational consultant visiting Australia noted that primary school-age literacy and numeracy have plummeted since 2006. And what came out in 2006? Why, the iPhone.

    Not to mention the number of cases being hauled before the courts for sexual offences committed via computer systems, and the amount of time wasted on gaming, gambling, fapping, and all the other trivial vices that proliferate on the Web. I see toddlers in prams on trains, playing on iPhones. (And we haven't even touched on the 'dark web', financial fraud and cyber-crime, terrorist recruitment via social media and teenagers who suicide because of facebook bullies.)

    But I can't dismiss technology, as I spend a fair amount of my leisure time typing away on this and other forums, and really do enjoy it; and as I have made a career in information technology. (I often say, I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, because it didn't exist at the time.)

    But I think a critical approach is required - that technology is neither all good or all bad, but a two-edged sword. However it does present absolutely unprecedented ways of getting entirely lost in an infinite hall of mirrors. One needs to keep a connection with the body, with nature, food and eating, and other practies which are entirely disconnected from technology.

    Some books I am familiar with that look at the philosophy of technology:

    Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines, Steve Talbott https://amzn.com/0596526806

    You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto , by Jaron Lanier, https://amzn.com/0307389979

    Also have a peruse of The New Atlantis online magazine, which is a 'journal of technology and society' http://www.thenewatlantis.com

    Also, google Jacques Ellul, and have a read of some of what he says. Heidegger on technology - also worth reading.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    With all this being said, do these technologies and scientific discoveries provide some sort of overarching meaning to our species? If our species died out, arguably it would be the loss of scientific knowledge and technological innovations that would be most missed in its absence from the universe (at least from the vantage point of us imagining its non-existence as we stand here as already existing beings that are projecting a future state of affairs).schopenhauer1

    The technology itself? No...or at least it shouldn't. If it was then that would just be technology-worship.

    Technology itself is a symptom of something deeper that we hold seem to hold dear: the future. That is what technology is, the manipulation of the environment to suit some future goal. Remove the possibility and desire for a future, and there's not much reason to progress technologically.

    But as soon as you get the economy involved, the techno-craze is impossible to stop. Instead of being purely an instantiation of our desire for a future, technology becomes intertwined with profit.

    Of course, there are other purposes to technology, but in the end it's all about the future. Medical technology is invented so help people have a better future. Military technology is invented to help maintain the futural prospects of a country.

    Is technology the reason why one should not be an antinatalist.. If our species can produce such things with our minds.. how can the Human Project be bad (and even more extreme discontinued) when new humans can contribute to and experience this technology?schopenhauer1

    We tend to like to comfort ourselves by appealing to the past: look how far we have come! Surely we can't turn back now!

    But that's just the sunk cost fallacy. There's no point in continuing to work at a job you hate just because you've worked at it for a long time.

    And appealing to how far we have come as a species requires one to ignore two possibilities:

    1.) We will never progress further, because the universe is not capable of progressing any further artificially. If this is the case, then the universe must be quite a boring place for us to live in - infinitely wide but absurdly shallow. This is an aesthetic failure of the universe as a whole.

    2.) We will never scratch the surface of what the universe has to offer, because there isn't enough time or energy to do so, similar to dipping our toe in the water but never being able to jump in. This is an aesthetic failure of our species as a whole.

    In any case appealing to technology can end up being an unjustifiable forecast for the future.

    Is the antinatalist ungrateful to the technology that has been the outgrowth of various industrial revolutions and discoveries? Should the mastery of various fields of knowledge that contribute to the maintenance and growth of discoveries and technologies be exalted?schopenhauer1

    We surely benefit from technology, no doubt about that. But at what cost? Was it all really worth it in the end? Or are we just massaging our egos?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k

    Interesting Wayfarer.. You kind of went in a different direction but also important direction. Are electronic devices ruining our culture.. So, as engineers expand the capacity of electronic devices, perhaps its overusage has provided a degradation of what makes us a more holistic and communal society?

    An argument I can foresee is that you are picking too much on electronics.. Can one argue that any technology that disrupts the current condition be deemed as bad? The automobile, when it was first mass produced in the 1910s and 1920s was seen as contributing to the breakdown of community culture.. kids leaving their home area.. making out in cars..not slowing down. Or is there something particularly troubling about this newest technology?
  • Wayfarer
    8.1k
    I was a consultant at Apple Computer in the mid 1990's when all this started to happen, and saw all the predictions and forecasts (and if I had been savvy, I would have owned an island by now, but never mind).

    But one thing that stuck with me is when Michael Spindler (hapless short-term CEO of Apple whilst Jobs was still at NeXT) said the Internet was a revolution on the scale of the invention of the printing press or the domestication of crops. It think that's true! It is revolutionary in ways we couldn't have imagined.

    It obviously can spead good ideas as much as bad ones, but the internet being what it is, which is completely unregulated, it has been the medium for a lot of truly corrosive material, in my opinion. The negatives haven't impacted me that much - well, this week the Australian Blood Bank database was hacked, and I was probably in it, but no big deal - but I think it is hurting a lot of people in ways they can't possibly understand, it being all so new.

    Maybe there needs to be a social movement, or at least a really large-scale discussion, on Right Use of Technology. The vendors - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook - are all vested interests, they have their own agenda. People need to realise what is happening. The Jaron Lanier book is good on that.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    We surely benefit from technology, no doubt about that. But at what cost? Was it all really worth it in the end? Or are we just massaging our egos?darthbarracuda

    But surely you know that we are integrated with technology so heavily, there is no way for our species to escape it as something we are working for. Think about it, almost everything you touch involves technology.. In fact, your whole mode of survival relies upon and involves the maintenance and growth of technology, whether you are conscious of what we are doing or not. There's not a day that goes by that you are not affected by technology and not only technology but technology stemming from the last two centuries.

    With the utility that comes with technology, many people will point to this as a summum bonum of modern society. How can one have feelings of ennui and world-weariness when we can master our environment, create new possibilities, and be able to participate in the maintenance of these newfound ways of surviving and living, so people will say.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k

    I guess my question to you is does science and technology provide a meaning in itself to humans that justifies the Human Project even if we have negative feelings towards existence..including all the contingent and circumstantial harms we experience and all the understanding of what I call our "existential boundaries" which are the feelings we have when contemplating existence as a whole.. things like absurdity, instrumentality, angst, ennui, etc. Its so pervasive in our life that any other candidate for worthwhile human activity is really touched by it..aesthetics/art/music, entertainment activities, learning, relationships, etc. All things fall into the milieu of technology.. and thus one might argue that we should have feelings of awe, gratitude, and positive evaluation of the fact that we have such novelty, innovation, and harnessing of our environment. The mod of living-through-technology itself becomes a purpose.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    But surely you know that we are integrated with technology so heavily, there is no way for our species to escape it as something we are working for. Think about it, almost everything you touch involves technology.. In fact, your whole mode of survival relies upon and involves the maintenance and growth of technology, whether you are conscious of what we are doing or not. There's not a day that goes by that you are not affected by technology and not only technology but technology stemming from the last two centuries.schopenhauer1

    True. But I'd say the economic aspect of technology is what makes this so. The reason we have so much technology is because technology is profitable, and it's profitable because we want to live more comfortable lives. I can respect technology that helps us live more comfortable lives.

    With the utility that comes with technology, many people will point to this as a summum bonum of modern society. How can one have feelings of ennui and world-weariness when we can master our environment, create new possibilities, and be able to participate in the maintenance of these newfound ways of surviving and living, so people will say.schopenhauer1

    Who are these people that say these things specifically?
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    True. But I'd say the economic aspect of technology is what makes this so. The reason we have so much technology is because technology is profitable, and it's profitable because we want to live more comfortable lives. I can respect technology that helps us live more comfortable lives.darthbarracuda

    Who are these people that say these things specifically?darthbarracuda

    I agree it's mainly profits that drive the investment in new technologies. The people that say these things are just hypothetical people that may use this as another way to try to counteract antinatalist thought. I can see technology and our living-through-technology being some sort of reason why pessimistic attitudes towards existence are not seen as legitimate or as a failure to see the greatness of living with technology.. As I said to Wayfarer above:

    I guess my question to you is does science and technology provide a meaning in itself to humans that justifies the Human Project even if we have negative feelings towards existence..including all the contingent and circumstantial harms we experience and all the understanding of what I call our "existential boundaries" which are the feelings we have when contemplating existence as a whole.. things like absurdity, instrumentality, angst, ennui, etc. Its so pervasive in our life that any other candidate for worthwhile human activity is really touched by it..aesthetics/art/music, entertainment activities, learning, relationships, etc. All things fall into the milieu of technology.. and thus one might argue that we should have feelings of awe, gratitude, and positive evaluation of the fact that we have such novelty, innovation, and harnessing of our environment. The mod of living-through-technology itself becomes a purpose.schopenhauer1
  • Wayfarer
    8.1k
    I guess my question to you is does science and technology provide a meaning in itself to humans that justifies the Human Project... — Schopenhauer1

    Definitely not. One of my (controversial) slogans is 'philosophy requires no apparatus'. I favour the Kantian ideal that persons are ends in themselves - not because of what they do or own or produce. So I think living through technology is a recipe for unhappiness, I'm afraid to have to say - although there's nothing the matter with the right use of technology for worthwhile aims. (I am an amateur musician and have learned to use music technology which allows me to create sounds I never could without it.)

    Consider the figure of Socrates - he lived in ancient times in a pre-literate culture. But when Socrates encountered the sign over the portal of the Oracle, 'man know thyself', he was able to respond regardless. I always found that particular anecdote profoundly meaningful.

    The educational consultant I mentioned above says that children need to learn maths and literacy the old-fashioned way - lots of memorisation, lots of drills, lots of old-fashioned work. The idea that technology can take that requirement away is a glamorous illusion but one that the technology vendors obviously have a big vested interest in pushing.

    But at the end of the day I believe what the spiritual traditions say, that happiness comes from within. That's where we have to find it, if we don't find it there it's not going to be found anywhere else.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    The educational consultant I mentioned above says that children need to learn maths and literacy the old-fashioned way - lots of memorisation, lots of drills, lots of old-fashioned work. The idea that technology can take that requirement away is a glamorous illusion.Wayfarer

    But really, you are just saying that the math will be learned through older types of technology and not the absence of technology all together- digitally printed flash cards, manufactured pencils and paper, etc.. And all that math will probably useful one day if it is applied to, what else, future technology, whether it is simply the maintenance of it or to novel forms of it.
  • Wayfarer
    8.1k
    No, it's basic intellectual skills that are needed, and they're not reliant on technology. Use technology by all means, but don't look to it for the wrong reasons.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k


    It might be helpful to take a longer-range view of technology than the last 150 years (1870 to the present) because we are very much in the middle of this unfolding process (Revolution? Maybe.) and it is much too soon to arrive at definite conclusions. A slightly longer-range view might start with Guttenberg's printing press around 575 years ago. Marshall McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962).

    Or maybe less intellectual innovations might be considered: the horse shoe; the stirrup; better harnesses; the plow, the wagon. Consider the consequence of inventing several kinds of arches; the sail; glass blowing. Or much further back -- weaving. (Too far back? Well, 10,000 years later we are still busy weaving.)

    Composing posts on a screen to a forum composed of people I will most likely never meet is not the same as typing a letter on a typewriter to a specific person who I either have met, or may meet in the future. Keyboard + screen is even further removed from an ink pen, cursive writing, and ruled paper. Typewriting (around 1870) was a significant innovation. It enabled people to produce "book-like" text on the fly.

    Typing letters on paper commits us to what we have already written to a much greater extent than what we type on a screen. Typing was physically more demanding. Editing on paper was much more cumbersome. If I didn't know how to spell a word, I had to look it up in a large heavy book. If I needed to check a fact, I probably had to go to a library.

    I can edit this post without having to start all over with a new piece of paper. I can express myself, therefore, more freely. I can take more "risks" -- I can try a phrase to see how it looks. If I don't like it, I can get rid of it without having to retype the whole thing. I can say more.

    Software checks my spelling (more or less; sometimes it substitutes words that are absurd replacements). I can get the name of a book or an author in seconds from the internet. O HOLY GOOGLE. And so on. You get the picture.

    The technological change from typewriter & paper to keyboard + mouse and screen has had an effect on our thinking. We can think more easily (because raw material is close at hand) and we can be more garrulous. (Speaking of which, I need to shut up now.)
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    It might be helpful to take a longer-range view of technology than the last 150 years (1870 to the present) because we are very much in the middle of this unfolding process (Revolution? Maybe.) and it is much too soon to arrive at definite conclusions. A slightly longer-range view might start with Guttenberg's printing press around 575 years ago. Marshall McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962).Bitter Crank

    I didn't go back that far because I wanted to specifically identify technology that pervasively goes along with "modern" life. All the other things you mentioned, while they may be made the old-fashioned way, most of the time, even they have been effected by newer production techniques that were created in the Second Industrial Revolution or later.

    I like how you show how technology changes the effort taken in our output.. but I want to broaden this a bit more to an existential level. Is technology a reason to use against the antinatalist? I ask this without the typical "but technology can create atomic bombs and global warming" response.. so, no.. As you know, many "elite" or those who think themselves so in the middle class, or any class for that matter, will simply point to the fact that we "do" technology.. that we can innovate and discover and create new possibilities as the reason why bringing new people into the world is good.. They too can participate in and contribute to the technology that is imbued in our life. According to this view, we should exalt in our technology. We must keep the species going to experience more technology.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    The vendors - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook - are all vested interests, they have their own agenda.Wayfarer

    Absolutely. The agenda is hidden from some, crystal clear to others. Why does Google provide such an invaluable service as SEARCH? What does Facebook get out of enabling all this 'communication'?

    What Google gets is information which it sells to advertisers (among other things). Facebook IS NOT a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable institution. Neither is Twitter, YouTube, or Tumblr, et al. (Though how Tumblr made any money on all the porn blogs they had before they started to include advertising is beyond me.)
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    I want to broaden this a bit more to an existential level. Is technology a reason to use against the antinatalist?schopenhauer1

    No. If life is sufficiently unsatisfactory that it is better to not be born, technology does not rescue life. Life with technology is different than life without, but it doesn't overcome meaninglessness or pointlessness. (Indeed, it can make it worse.)

    As you know, many "elite" or those who think themselves so in the middle class, or any class for that matter, will simply point to the fact that we "do" technology.. that we can innovate and discover and create new possibilities as the reason why bringing new people into the world is good.schopenhauer1

    I am not an antinatalist, but I do not think "doing technology", "consuming information", or "Liking" every pile of horse shit on Facebook in itself provides any reason whatsoever to bring more people into the world, or to continue living if one is tired of life. Facebook is not life (some people to the contrary).

    Love makes life worth living, not technology, or nothing does. (And not "love" of one's new IPhone 7, either.) Agape, Eros, Filio, and Storge are what makes life worth living, and the object of these loves is other people.

    We don't "do technology" because it makes life meaningful. We do technology because that is who we are. But, alas alas, "being who we are and being technological" doesn't make life meaningful all by itself. We are able to devise meaning, but that is a separate skill from "doing technology". We're fucked when we confuse "doing tech" with "making meaning" because we end up with all this meaningless crap.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    I am not an antinatalist, but I do not think "doing technology", "consuming information", or "Liking" every pile of horse shit on Facebook in itself provides any reason whatsoever to bring more people into the world, or to continue living if one is tired of life. Facebook is not life (some people to the contrary).Bitter Crank

    True true.. understood. This critique also goes to Wayfarer..but I am not just talking about the way technologies can create the inane consumerist "useless" and mindnumbing products..but rather the very fact that we can innovate and change our environment..that someone/groups of people created microprocessors in the first place, harnessed electricity.. created video technology, etc.

    Love makes life worth living, not technology, or nothing does. (And not "love" of one's new IPhone 7, either.) Agape, Eros, Filio, and Storge are what makes life worth living, and the object of these loves is other people.Bitter Crank

    This is a topic for a different thread, but as a tangential point, just like "good work", "good relationships" are not a guarantee in life.. Oddly enough, while relationships, and specifically good intimate relationships are on the top of people's lists of examples of what makes life meaningful, it is among the the least guaranteed and most fickle of things we encounter. Circumstances make some people more "rich" in relationships just like some people are more "rich" in their work life. It might even be the case that even as hard it might be in finding at the least an adequate job, adequate jobs may be more readily available in "modern" society than adequate relationships.

    Of course, this is not even taking into account that other people, though creating opportunities of happiness, might equalize the situation out by being a source of immense frustration, disappointment, etc. etc. People get tired of other people, look for more novel people, and in a weird way, mimic our addiction to mindnumbing technologies.. there is always a new high with some other new gadget or person. Just like the mindnumbing technologies, our reliance on the trivialities of short term encounters are valued more than cultivating long term but less novel social bonds.

    So to put these ideas together.. humans are screwed in two ways in regards to what you seem to deem as high on the list of meaningful phenomena:

    1) Good relationships are not guaranteed and are unequally distributed

    2) Good intimate relationships are hard to cultivate, when they persist they lead often to frustration, annoyance with the other person, boredom, etc. and easy to lose
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