Sunday, February 21, 2010

Technology shapes man or man shapes technology?

An interesting philosophical question to probe is the nature of technology. One view is that technology is simply tools that humanity has created to further its will, to enable and reinforce human nature and evolutionary tendencies. Another view is that there are places of crossover, where technology can actually change humans, human nature, and biological drives, both unintentionally and by design.

In the contemporary era of exponentially growing technologies in multiple fields, it is critical to understand what sorts of impacts different technologies may have. One analysis framework is to group technologies by those which could have an immediate direct influence on human morphology, and those that would not. For example, there could be the rapid advent of significantly more dramatic technologies than have been experienced to date. While these new technologies could change some aspects of life, human biological drives could remain unchanged, and therefore the structure and dynamics of human societal organization, interaction, and goal pursuit could also remain unchanged. Some examples of these advances could include the realization of molecular nanotechnology, quantum computing, cold fusion, and immortality. Even with several of these technologies implemented, in the seemingly different world of a post-scarcity economy where material goods and energy would be essentially free, humanity could still be ordered around the same familiar biologically-driven goals.

The other group of technologies is those which could possibly have a near-term impact on the structure and form of what it means to be human. The area with the greatest possible change is improving human mental capability. There have been several significant advances in a variety of neurology-related fields in the last few years that if ultimately realized, could potentially alter human morphology. Even the resolution of all mental pathologies such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, stroke rehabilitation, and addiction would constitute morphological change at a basic level. Augmenting cognition and deliberately managing biophysical states would constitute morphological change at other levels.

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