Thursday, April 16, 2009

Philospical Technology rough draft

The year is 2019 in the month of November. The location – Los Angeles. Through highly advanced technology scientists have created humanoids, biological robots, known as ‘replicants’. But after a revolt off Earth the replicants have been declared as bounty. The Blade Runner Rick Deckard is called upon to seek and destroy the remaining replicants.

The year is 2054. The location – Washington, D.C. John Anderton is a police officer working in the department of Precrime, a division which stops future murders from occurring by the use of three precogs. During a routine murder prediction, Anderton finds that he himself is the suspect and is therefore forced to run for his life.

And so starts the storylines for the films Blade Runner and Minority Report, both of which are loosely based upon Philip K. Dick stories. These are two of very few films that contain both very technologically advanced societies and also implicit critiques on the technologies. The technologies represented in both films were at one point in time hailed as great achievements. Though we never witness the humanoids when they are first created in Blade Runner, it can certainly be said that before the revolt they were the prize of technological achievement. Similarly, the development of Precrime was a beacon of hope to those in D.C. But the technologies dealt with in these films have deep, philosophical issues underscoring them. In both cases the technologies ultimately fail on themselves. As the films see it, technology, when couple with philosophy, does not bode well in the end.

Take a trip through Times Square, spend a night on the strip in Las Vegas, or visit Tokyo and it becomes painfully obvious that technology is at the forefront of society worldwide. Big screen TVs everywhere, walls, even ceilings made of LED screens, advertisements informing the world of the best phones, fastest cars, and latest iPod generation. One would be hard pressed to find a place where the arm of technology hasn't reached. Sure, our friends over in Lancaster, PA may not exhibit much modern technology, but they certainly make good use of old technology. Even such third world countries as Africa use technology. A spear may be pretty simple, but it is the result of technology. When that first hairy caveman invented the wheel there is no doubt that there was a party that night.

From the creation of man, technology has been ever improving. And for the most part, nothing produced by technology was inherently wrong. A dagger may be used to murder, but there is nothing implicitly wrong with a dagger itself. There may be serious implications in using a nuclear weapon, but again, in itself there is nothing wrong with it. Rather, it can be argued that everything created was good. A saddle made riding long distances on a horse more bearable. Aqueducts made fresh water more readily available to Roman citizens. Pulleys made lifting heavy objects possible. No one had to stop and consider the philosophical aspects of what they were making, was it right or wrong? There was no need to. The world as it stands is a result of countless innovations.

However, things have been drastically changing in the world of technology over the past 50 to 60 years. Technology is no longer merely a part of the inanimate world, but it is now on the doorsteps, if not in, the living world, namely humans. Humans and technology are now more integrated than ever before, and quite literally. Not merely because of the fact that every person over the age of twelve in America has some electronic device on his or her body, but also because humans can actually be implanted with technology, whether it be screws, stents, or a fully functional heart valve. Granted none of these things are bad, but they are small tastes of what scientists want to do with the human body. Though not an immediate reality, the possible future of cyborg type humans is very real. Bill Joy devoted an entire article on the future of cybernetics and why he fears what could happen. Other areas such as stem cell research and stopping the aging process strike fear into the hearts of many, not because of, though not excluding, the possible outcome, but because of the philosophical questions raised in such technological attempts.

A fine line begins to be walked when dealing with technology applied to humans. When has technology gone too far? Do humans have the right to play god? Questions like these are what fuel many people's unease.

2 comments:

Nathaniel Bacon said...

Again, like my midterm, this isn't a 'full' rough draft. When I write rough drafts I find I'm more effective in the long run when I write only part of the whole paper, but in a more finalized way. Just to give a quick rundown of the rest, I'm going to talk about the ethical difficulties of some of today's technologies and how the two films I'm working with illustrate that such technologies either should not be attempted or will fail entirely.

Adam Johns said...

Do you really think that critiques of technology are unusual in film? Not that it much matters - that's just an aside. A more substantive, but related note is that three paragraphs in you're basically summarizing and generalizing - I'm not sure what the paper is really about.

The fourth paragraph - asserting that technology is important - covers very familiar ground for unclear reasons. Four paragraphs in, and it's totally unclear to me what you're trying to do.

The final two paragraphs - where you raise the familiar claim that we are becoming more and more tied to technology (a claim which has been familiar for roughly 200 years), and then ask whether we should be playing God - are not necessarily bad. But they are problematic. Why?

To put it bluntly: we're two pages in, and you haven't said anything. This material could introduce half of the papers in the class - you need to be introducing *yours*. If you can draw some conclusions about the role of technology in our world, wonderful - but do so after having said something articulate about your films, not before doing so.