The Virtue of Selfishness: Technology

Some people distrust technology, or think they do. Some people dislike technology, or think they do. But why?

I asked that question, and got a nice variety of answers from a nice variety of people. Of course it wasn’t a proper survey, but I think it covered every possible perspective on the issue, and then some. 🙂

But I was able to boil it all down to this: people who don’t like technology do not like it because it is new.

No duh, right? That is what technology means: new. Or at least it does now. Back in Webster’s time it meant something else (the arts). Now it means a nice variety of things depending on who you ask.

  • the practical application of science to commerce or industry.
  • engineering: the discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems.
  • human as well as other animal species’ usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species’ ability to control and adapt to its natural environment.
  • the study of or a collection of techniques.
  • human innovation in action that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities.
  • the application of scientific advances to benefit humanity.
  • application of knowledge to meet the wants of people.
  • the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, and crafts, or is systems or methods of organization, or is a material product (such as clothing) of these things.

Of course all that does not negate the fact that technology means ‘new’ in addition to all those meanings and uses.

But with all that defining, we have come to an important place. We realize:

  1. Everything that we have done was, at one time at least, technology. Including cloth, wheels, fire, cars, telephones, buildings, everything.
  2. God commanded us to invent technology (as a part of the dominion mandate) to His glory.

Therefore, technology, in and of itself, cannot be evil or even bad. Like many other things, it completely depends on how you go about using and making it that makes it good or bad: context is crucial.

People still think of computers and computer related technologies as technology, though, and complain about it frequently. They blame all kinds of things on technology (everything from decreasing IQ to increasing destruction of the ecosystem), and quail at the thought of the newer, better, more powerful and pervasive technologies that are coming up. So we come back to our original question:

Why?

Relatively speaking, things that are new, by definition, are untried, are untested, are changes, are untraditional, are different, and are generally better at something in some way. These things are not necessarily wrong or bad: they are necessary steps towards completion and acceptance. Of course each one of these has the potential to create problems, and that is why each technology must be weighed by the creators and the users to see if the potential for benefits outweighs the potential for problems. Everything is like that. Even getting up in the morning is subjected the same analysis. It is a part of everyday existence.

But doesn’t technology make us more lazy by making things easier?

That is a response elicited by one of the above listed qualities of technology: improvement. Technology makes something better at doing something, generally. Every objection I have seen to technology falls into a category arising from one or other of those qualities.

But does it?

Yes and no. Yes, because it enables us to do more with less. No, because that is not a bad thing.

Think about it: if you use less resources to do the same amount you were doing before, then you can use your saved resources to do more. You become more productive, not less. That is why third world countries have more and can do more than many of the richest lords of the old ages, despite their squalor in comparison to us. We are able to do things that people of older generations could not have dreamed of. This is a good thing.

The bad thing is not the technology itself, but how people use it. People can use guns in a good way or in a bad way. People can use cars in a bad way or a good way. People can use computers in a bad way or a good way. Technology is where people have a choice of whether to use it in a bad way or a good way.

But what if it collapses and we are all handicapped? Should we rely on it?

This is really a rather annoying question. Haha. What if all the cars in the world stopped working simultaneously? Wouldn’t we all be crippled? All of our networks would be hampered greatly, and it would take a lot to get back up again. It would be a global crisis.

Yes. But… so what? What if wheels stopped working? What if phones stopped working? What if planes stopped working? What if computers stopped working? Same problem, same question, same situation, same answer: it would be bad, but I would be surprised if it did happen (especially in the case of wheels).

What if technology takes over the world?

This is actually rather silly. Computers are everywhere, so people assume that they are taking over. Wheels and fire are everywhere as well as electricity, but they aren’t taking over the world. The idea that computers can do any more than ubiquitously serve us is evolutionary in source. Computers cannot become sapient. Period. They can only do what they are programmed to do, and just because it might do it better than a human could does not mean it is better than the human. Cranes are stronger than humans. Cars are faster. Computers might one day get smarter than our mutated and worn out minds. They will not conquer us.

People might by using computers, but computers by themselves won’t. No more than the shirt on your back.

What are your thoughts, comments, additions? Can you think of anything to add? Do you disagree? Why?

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18 Responses

  1. Totally agree with everything you said there, except one thing.

    You said “They can only do what they are programmed to do,”

    That statement in and of itself is right. However, to take that to mean that they cannot be started and programmed (by humans) in a quest for knowledge is not true. I seriously think that it is possible to program a computer to learn from a situation the way a small child does.

    Of course it hasn’t been done yet, but so have many other things that are possible to do.

    idk, just my two cents. 😛 lol

    – Leighton

    • Computers can indeed learn and react to situations, but only within the limits of their preprogrammed sentience. They cannot learn the way a small child does at all, but they can learn the way animals (and some plants) learn. They cannot go beyond their programming.

      An example: a program can learn how you fight in a video game, and adapt to compensate, making it harder for you. But it cannot learn how to cool a meal: it hasn’t been programmed how to learn that. See?

    • But say it was asked to put a ball in a can. It would learn that some people throw it in the can, some people walk over and put it in the can and yet others go and bring the can to the ball. 😛

      By watching others, the way a baby does. I’m really just guessing but it seems possible. lol You may be right. O_o

    • Right. If it was programmed to learn how to put balls into cans by watching people, it would be able to. Otherwise, no. See?

    • But say it was programmed to learn for anything it was told to do? idk. 😛

    • Even then it would only be able to do what it was told to do, and learn in the ways that it was programmed to learn.

  2. Ahh well. 😛 lol Nice talking to you!

  3. What is that law? Assimov’s law of robotics? I believe it goes something like “A program can never be smarter than the person who made it.” Which would rule out world conquest in the sense that, a program is limited to the same way of thinking as its maker. It can’t outsmart it’s maker, sense it, being a program actually doesn’t have intelligence but instead “borrows” it’s makers intelligence. Robots could only take over if they were built too, in which case they would be just another tool of war, eh?

    • Very good Neil! There were a few more laws if I remember right (like robots must always serve humans and etc.), though.

      Sorry it took so long for your comment to get out of moderation. 😛

  4. Just remember Asimov’s three rules of robotics. Of course, if you subscribe to that you can say robots will have to take over the world to save the human race from extinction. Just kidding 😀

    The one thing I will say that computers can only get smarter than us as far as knowledge. Computers are only capable of fuzzy logic. I don’t believe computers will ever surpass humans in reasoning.

    • Asimov was one of the world’s greatest evangelists for evolution: through his stories.

      I agree there. Some people say that the human mind is actually infinite in potential. Depending on what they mean by that, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  5. I heard awhile ago that, “technology lowers our quality of life.” It appears to improve our quality of life by making things easier and enabling us to be more efficient. However, the problem is that we never do have “the best” of any techno-gadget for any length of time. Thus the quality of our lives is lowered with each technological advance. In other words we may be very satisfied with our lifestyle then we lose our contentment once we learn that the newest software is available (and it’s the coolest!). Unless of course we upgrade constantly. (have you installed your updates lately?)

    Interesting article on quality of life and technology here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=336&dat=19710621&id=r1QoAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SVUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7168,4914772

    And more thoughts on technology and quality of life at this article:
    http://dyske.com/paper/823

    • Oh boy, you shouldn’t have brought up economics. 🙂

      It would probably take an entire article to refute those two thoroughly, which is a hallmark of economic sophistry. I will try to give a concise reason why they are utterly wrong (mainly the second one: the first one sounded more like a joke, and what it did say was already refuted in my article). His economic method is very common nowadays, and its weakness is best explained in ‘Economics in One Lesson’ by Henry Hazlitt.

      He claims that the quality of life has not risen much despite massive advances in technology. Yet he never defines ‘quality of life,’ which is a very, very hard thing to define adequately. I would claim that technology really has no effect on true quality of life, because quality of life is predicated on your relationship with God, and not with life. But if you wanted to define quality of life in a way that is connected with technology, then he is utterly wrong: having the opportunity to have more of what you want for less resources expended is indeed an improvement in quality of life. He seems to try to refute that by saying that we are ‘forced’ to use the technology, and so somehow that nullifies its goodness. Not only does that not make any sense at all, but his claim that we are forced to use the current level of technology is utterly false.

      Thanks for the interesting comment! Glad to see you around here. 🙂

  6. We also found it interesting that most of the movies portraying the future include robots with AI so advanced that they take on either human qualities or anti-human qualities. I’m considering some of the children’s films that have come out over the last 5 years ago or so as I write this. As children watch these films, their imaginations will be filled as well as their expectations for what the future “should be”. I wonder what better imaginings about life on earth we could be wondering about and expecting?

    • I agree there completely. It is one of the tactics that the evolutionary propagandists are using (and they admit it).

      There are many other, much better imaginings. But as regards technology, we have enough to look forward to without evolutionary AI. I am looking forward to the word processor that you use with your mind…

  7. Quick, though somewhat late note:

    An AI cannot “evolve” as it will always remain an AI. Just thought I’d throw that out there. And evolutionary AI truly just gathers and applies knowledge in order to increase its gathering and application powers.

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