Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Technology's Transition into Human Nature

When approaching a prompt discussing two things as broad as human nature and technology, it is imperative to be able to understand what the focus and the context that each term is used in. They possess very diverse meanings and have very different effects on each other. In this case, we are asked what the basic relationship between technology and human nature is and whether or not they are in turn part of one another. Technology is in general agreed upon to have a pretty generic meaning. We discussed in class that it deals with the “technique”. Technique, according to Webster’s dictionary is the method of performance or the way of accomplishing something. On the contrary, to begin the endless task of trying to define human nature, it becomes apparent that it has several, varying definitions. There are so many in fact, that in my opinion, there is no true definition of the term. In all actuality, I think that human nature has become a sub-definition of technology itself and why this created human nature will be the demise of the entire race.

After the countless hours of reading the material for this class, and other sorts of philosophical reading, it is easy for me to say that human nature is completely fabricated, meaning that it is created rather than already being there. Human nature has been known as the instinctive responses by humans to certain situations and events. After reading that definition off Wikipedia, I started to think whether or not what humans perceive as their human nature is actually instinctive. This is where the definition of technology and human nature begin to merge. I think it is fair to assume that the majority of people would agree that humans are creatures of efficiency. There is always someone out their wanting more or doing something better and faster than the next. Encountering a term like modern technology encompasses and fortifies that humans are obsessed with just that. The internet, cell phones, pagers, laptops, are all inventions of the twentieth century. These things were created out of our species need for instant communication and easier access to each other.

Is it fair to say that efficiency is instinctive? I would argue that it is. The earliest humans were individuals of survival. They possessed valuable instincts that allowed humans to become the dominant species that they are today. From these instincts came the first technology. Their techniques for survival and dominance would eventually lead us to the electronic and computerized world we live in. It is incredible to think of what we have evolved into. However, what has made the human species great, I’m afraid will eventually cause the demise as well. Two authors that strongly agree with this are Bill Joy and Phillip K. Dick. In Joy’s “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” he warns us of technology’s role in human life. One example is the nuclear and nanotechnology usefulness.

“Unfortunately, as with nuclear technology, it is far easier to create destructive uses for nanotechnology than constructive ones. Nanotechnology has clear military and terrorist uses, and you need not be suicidal to release a massively destructive nanotechnological device - such devices can be built to be selectively destructive, affecting, for example, only a certain geographical area or a group of people who are genetically distinct.” (Joy, 10-11)

Joy is suggesting that a lot of the technology that we humans are creating today is going to be used in ways detrimental to the human race rather than beneficial. A fictional depiction of Joy’s nightmare is given to us by Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The story takes place in a world devastated by a nuclear war and is completely stripped of “nature”. There are abundant examples of this “nature-less” world throughout the story that anyone reading the book would understand that the world has more or less become a barren wasteland.

“In a giant, empty, decaying, building which had once housed thousands, a single TV set hawked its wares to an uninhabited room.” (Dick, 13)

Everything had changed from what it used to be. Their human nature which was driven by technology, led to a lifeless earth. Both Joy and Dick argue that technology will eventually drive the human race to its downfall. Not only will technology ultimately lead to the collapse of what we humans experience today, the desensitizing that Joy and especially Dick warn us about might be the worst of all. The use of mood machines that let you determine the way you will feel that day, rather letting yourself feel the way that you actually do and the invention of machines with human attributes and feelings might be the crucial point where human nature as we know it dies. Although Dick’s portrayal is a fictional tale, it is not hard to believe that with the advances the human race has made in the last two hundred years that anything is possible. It becomes very obvious that technology will literally become human nature, rather than it just being a blurred line and sub-definition of each other.

Whether we would like to admit it or not, we are completely reliant on technology today. In a sense, the lives we live today were created by technology. So in turn, our human nature, the things that we instinctively do, have become affected by technology. The first thing that we are supposed to do when there is a fire or a crime is committed is to call 911. There were not always phones, so what happened before that? Someone yelled for a police officer. It is the same premise, but the invention of the telephone and technology’s influence on our daily lives has become our human nature. Another example would be asking questions. We as humans instinctively ask questions when something confuses us or when we are curious about something. Today, getting a question answered is as easy as accessing the internet or making a phone call. Technology has undoubtedly shaped the way we live our lives.

Ultimately the relationship between human nature and technology has become so close to being the same meaning that it is painstaking to even attempt to argue against it. The consequences of such actions are yet to be seen on a large scale for us in the real world. However, authors and philosophers warn that this continued path will eventually lead to the end. No one knows what the future will hold for the human race, and the affects that it will have on “human nature”. However, as it stands right now, technology has become what we know and do as human nature.


Ryan Lynch said...

To whoever reads this. Where the huge black space is, thats acutally text, if you highlight it you can read it. I tried for about an hour to fix it so it would show up on the blog but for some reason it won't.

Professor Johns, if you have any idea how to fix this, and need me to do so let me know.


Mathew said...

this happened to me too earlier in the year, i just copied all the text over to word and made the text all white, then copy it all back into the blog window and post it

Adam Johns said...

Your thesis is quite interesting (human nature as a subset of technology). Your lead-in to it was indifferent at best, though - it doesn't do much to set up *your* argument.

Several other people did this too, and I don't want to blame you in particular, but if you're interested in philosophy why go to *Wikipedia* to help you define human nature?

"would agree that humans are creatures of efficiency" -- you generalize a lot, with this being the worst example. What does that even mean? For instance: I would argue that people are reasonably efficient at waging war, but I would also argue that war is itself inefficient, i.e., a waste of resources. So, to me, studying war we can see shallow efficiencies and much deeper inefficiencies. Now, you may completely disagree - but you started out with a big, hazy, and far from obvious generalization, so I don't really know if you've even thought the idea through. Similarly, when you write about instinct and early human nature, there's no research or even clear opinions behind it - is there any firm basis at all to these ideas?

Arguably, the third paragraph is your real introduction, which is a bit of a problem.

When you discuss Dick and Joy, you don't address the question of efficiency at all; both authors, like me, are basically arguing that we are highly efficient at destroying ourselves, which is, on a higher level, *inefficiency*.

"It becomes very obvious that technology will literally become human nature, rather than it just being a blurred line and sub-definition of each other." So is the blurring of technology and human nature which is your ostensible subject a current or future phenomenon? You seem to contradict yourself.

How do you get from the idea that we are dependent on techniques (your technology) to the idea that our instincts (your human nature) are influenced by techniques? It's an interesting argument, but I don't see how you actually *made* that argument anywhere.

Overall: You generalize persistently, and you only have a few brief (albeit pertinent) thoughts on the texts. This reads like an early draft.