Selling Off Immortality

A blog post on NPR asks Are We Turning Into Machines? It is a big question, but as is often the case, the answer is descriptive and passive:

I’m guilty as charged, by the way. This is no diatribe against the ills of modern technology. Nevertheless, I find it crucial for us to reflect upon what’s going on in real time…

To forego our natural evolutionary past is to forego an essential part of our humanity: It’s to let us become something we are not.

Is it a serious issue or not? Why bother reflecting if you’re already resigned to being ‘guilty as charged’?

There is a lot of room in articles like these for authors to move beyond descriptions of “everyone’s” unhealthy balance of technology use. There is room to describe ways they are trying to achieve and embrace a balance. Or, even to describe what such a balance means to them – this would be a positive step.

This morning on the way in to work I listened to Yuval Harari talk about a possible futures, and a lot of it is depressing. Much of it is cool, for sure, but the parts where mega-rich billionaires achieve immortality and sell it off to less-but-still-rich others is depressing. It is disturbing when he describes a future ruled by data, not elected officials or religion. (Making news stories like this one about Peter Thiel’s political involvement even more scary)

The two essential points that Harari makes were that all of our technology use is not deterministic, and that knowing yourself is really the only way out of a technology/algorithm ruled future. This is all the more reason to stop being passive about the “continuing trend of increased human-machine integration”. Describing (and accepting) ourselves as we relate to machines isn’t knowing ourselves.

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2 thoughts on “Selling Off Immortality

  1. HI Glen – I haven’t had a chance to follow up on your links yet – but they all look interesting. This is a topic that Iain McGilchrist writes and talks about – see e.g. – http://www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk/whats-on/iain-mcgilchrist-are-we-turning-ourselves-machines. My interpretation of what he writes and talks about is that first we need to become aware of this possibility, i.e. the possibility of becoming a machine, and then we need to learn to say ‘No’. He talks about the Power of No – I have written about it here – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/the-divided-brain-and-the-power-of-no/

    Thanks for sharing these links and ideas. Looking forward to following up on them.

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    • Hi Jenny – thanks for the links, I will check them out now. My initial thought is that while taking the time to become aware of the possibilities is great, other factors (political processes, people’s behavior and habits, biological advances, technology, etc) are moving so much faster than our ability to assess. I think Harari even mentions at one point that once we go that route, there’s no going back – we won’t have the option to say ‘no’ at some point soon. I’m not so sure how seriously to take his ideas though, right now.

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