[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0091910471″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41rs3KwMknL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″]To be wary of the potentially-negative potentials of high technology is not to be a neo-luddite unless technological relinquishment is your chosen solution-paradigm. Indeed, if one looks they will find that most of the people making the biggest noise about concerns over the safety and ethicacy of emerging, converging and high technology are Techno-Progressives. The safe and ethical use of technology has been a predominant aspect of Transhumanism, especially Democratic Transhumanism, since at least the 1998 Transhumanist Declaration, as well as prior to that in the works of FM-2030 as well as Max More and the Extropy community. Moreover, the people and organizations that are working the hardest to analyze existential risk and Global Catastrophic Risk, and strategize how best to mitigate them (the best current solution paradigm being Bostrom’s notion of Differential Technological Development), like The Future of Humanity Institute and Lifeboat Foundation, express H+ or TechProg inclinations or else come from H+ roots. They are also the ones speaking the most frequently and making the most salient points about X-Risk and GCR.
And I don’t think all Techno-Pessimists are Neo-Luddites, nor all people who are wary of the dangerous potentialities of emerging technologies. Neo-Luddites are the very specific subset of these larger categories that advocate or endorse technological relinquishment. This is the categorical qualifier. And the only reason that technological relinquishment is a big enough concern to warrant a category distinct from Techno-Pessimists is that it is simply an ineffectual solution-paradigm, ultimately bound to fail in securing its intended end-goal.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00BI2TASW” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41HpB-fn7kL._SL160_.jpg” width=”115″]The central problem is that any technological relinquishment will not be global technological relinquishment unless we have global governance (which itself is problematic for a variety of reasons, one being the fact that if it ripens with corruption there isn’t any other global force to do anything about it and another being that one set of policies stifles not only innovation and progress itself but also robustness by eliminating evolutionary diversity, in the sense of Universal Darwinism and necessarily not genomic and phenotypic evolution per-se). If we ban a technology to avoid its destructive capabilities then it will likely be developed somewhere else (i.e. a foreign and potentially non-democratic country) where we will have less oversight, less developmental transparency, less control over its ultimate embodiment and less potential to shape its development into one that embodies our own desires and values. This is why differential technological development is a better solution paradigm than relinquishment even if your projected end-objective is ultimately to negate or deter its destructive potentialities rather than to foster its autonomy-expanding and empowering potentialities.
Outright relinquishment just won’t work because it’s never global relinquishment, which ultimately just gives us less oversight and capability to shape its outcome into a good one. Thus even if you seek only to mitigate high technology’s dangerous potentialities (as opposed to a real desire to foster its transformatively-beneficial potentialities), then outright relinquishment only works to undermine your objective. Increased deliberation of what forms we want out technology to take and an increased effort to (1) determine what we want from technology and (2) realize it safety and ethically, in conjunction with differential technological development, is the best solution-paradigm currently on the table, regardless of whether you’re a techno-optimist or a techno-pessimist, and indeed even regardless of whether you’re a Techno-Progressive or a neo-luddite.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00C7NLIV8″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519Nq5WyKpL._SL160_.jpg” width=”114″]So you can be a Techno-Pessimist Techno-Progressive. You can be very wary about NBIC technologies being used to facilitate harm or a loss or freedom, and still think that the best way forward, and the best method of mitigating emerging technology’s potentially destructive, disenfranchising or marginalizing effects is by deliberating upon (1) what constitutes the best embodiment of emerging technologies and (2) how to best shape emerging tech so as to embody our values and what we think are its best (i.e. safest, most ethical) ultimate embodiments. In such a case you’d be a Techno-Pessimist Techno-Progressive.
The emphasis on technology in H+ and TechProg communities does not come from disdain for our humanity (i.e. the silly “contempt-of-the-flesh” trope) or sheer technophilia. Rather it is because (1) we seek to better determine the determining conditions of world and of self (which are to some extent symbiontic and interconstitutive), leave more up to choice and less down to chance, and (2) because technology is simply Man’s foremost mediator of change, of effecting our affectation, and thus the best means of shaping the state of self and world for the better, whatever your definition of better happens to be.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0098OEQ3G” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31FCkVUevkL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]Techno-pessimists, Neo-Luddites, Revivalists and Relinquishists alike are not wholly wrong, just mostly. Rather the backlash against technology’s profoundly transformative potentials represents one small step in the right direction, and one giant leap left-field. So let’s unite in their plight to ignite consideration of the dangerous potentialities of technology in the eyes of humanity, but fight them when they move to stop the motion with a whimpered halt, rather than to continue the discussion with daring determination and impassioned exalt of aug and of alt.
We should not shy away from the transformative essence of high technology but instead utilize it to transform the technological landscape into one that heeds our desire for safety and ethicacy. I have argued that relinquishment simply isn’t a tenable solution-paradigm to the dangerous potentialities of high technology because relinquishment here is never relinquishment everywhere. Even if your goal is to mitigate the dangerous potentialities of high technology, your most promising solution-paradigm is not relinquishment but rather deliberative, directed development.
Image Source: Flickr
Love our content? Join the Serious Wonder Community. It’s free, and we have lots of incentives for readers and contributors!