Indigenous people were certainly stressed by the uncertainties of hunting, gathering, and tribal clashes (humans have always been violent), but is our technological progress stressing us in new ways? Ways that we cannot fully adapt to? If far removed from directly experiencing nature or other humans, do we become psychologically warped?
Critics of technology like Tristan Harris, the ethics monitor of Silicon Valley, opine that smart phones have hijacked the minds of many of us. For example, teen-age suicides, especially of girls, is rising rapidly, a trend seemingly related to being alone while connected in cyberspace.
Technophiles like Ray Kurzweil and transhumanists shrug off technology’s effects on us. They contend that within a couple of decades, human economies will be so complex that artificial intelligence will take over from humans. Robots and software-enhanced “superhumans” will run the show. But then what happens to ordinary humans? One antidote to excess technical optimism is Posthumanism, a philosophical and technical exchange arena that provokes a very fundamental question:
What does it mean to be human?
Humans are full of quirks, frailties, blind spots, and physical and mental aberrations. We are complex, full of contradictions. Our emotions – love, hate, fear, nostalgia – frequently override our logic. We conflict with each other, sometimes violently. We are more than adaptively learning robots, much less pre-programmed ones. While scientists and philosophers debate the nature of free will and human consciousness, and whether we can ever fully escape our primordial DNA.
To all of our environmental risks, add technology enabled ones: nuclear accidents, war, massive toxic releases, cyber attacks, and killer robots. Old fashioned street robbery hasn’t gone away either. Deliberate messing with our mind includes false news attacks to confuse and enflame us. To all of our environment risks, add the vulnerability of our own “human nature.”
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