When we hear the word “technology,” the first thing that most of us think about is advanced computers, AI, digital devices and other such things.
The simple truth is that anything that humans create represents technology.
The root word “techne-” means that which is made by human hands (which also means that which was conceived of by the human mind.) The “-logy” part actually refers to the concept of “logos” which means how well the idea of the item being created reflects the thoughts the mind had when conceiving it.
In other words, if someone builds a chair, the extent to which their technology is a “success” depends on how well the chair reflects the idea of “chairness” in terms of functionality and aesthetics.
Additionally, even the ancients understood that there was good and bad juju, mojo or logos (yin and yang, as it were). The same piece of iron (raw matter) can be transformed into a plough share or a sword. A passenger car or a combat tank. You get the point.
The successful development and utilization of future technologies depend on the “logos” which is their focal point. What I mean to say is, whether such technology results in freedom or enslavement depends on how it is used.
There are a number of technologies which are currently in the development phase and the direction they take will inform human affairs for better, or worse, for years to come.
Whoever controls these technologies will rule the world.
Let’s make a list so you can keep an eye out for such technologies.
Please note that this is not a prioritized list, as any one particular technology can leap to the forefront in prominence based on new insights, breakthroughs and actual use in the “real” world.
I will list the item and then the positive and negative “logos” for each item on the list. Also, because my space and time is limited, this is just a brief and cursory examination of these topics. They all require a much more detailed expose…
►DNA and genetic manipulation
Positive: We can fix or remediate disease, illness, infection and a host of other maladies that can be mended or alleviated by genetic treatment.
Negative: There is a danger if governments decide they can make people “better” and genetic treatment is used to mold, fashion and manipulate living humans, and human fetuses. In addition, if you can create genetic methods to help fix genetic disorders, then the implication is you can create genetic methods to deliver genetic disorders.
►High speed communication, quantum communications, quantum computing, et cetera
Positive: Instantaneous communication without delay between any two points on earth that would basically be impossible to hack, plus vast improvements in computing speed and processing
Negative: Data encryption would be controlled by governments and corporations and not individuals. Improvements in quantum computing could result in dangerous human reliance and over-confidence in computer algorithms and artificial intelligence systems for decision making. In addition, it would permit governments and corporations to control and, if necessary, manipulate all content that people see, hear and feel.
►Satellite or orbiting space station power transmission
Positive: Space-based capture of solar energy and then wirelessly “beaming” this to earth is a subject of intense scrutiny on a global basis. This could lead to almost free and abundant energy for all of humanity.
Negative: The difference between a device “beaming” useful energy and a device “beaming” destructive energy is, well, in the intention of the person controlling the device. In addition, whoever controls the energy has the power.
►Use of electromagnetic waves other than visible light (solar) for energy source. This would include the harvesting of human-made EM waves or harvesting naturally-occurring EM waves (e.g., gamma, infrared, ultraviolet, microwave, et cetera)
Positive: Humanity would no longer be dependent on petroleum products, wind, solar or nuclear power. Energy would basically be free and abundant.
Negative: Energy can be used for work, and work can be used to make things (technology) and those things can be awesome good or awesome bad. More energy = more temptation to evil.
Positive: When humans think, our brain generates brainwave patterns. While the content may be unique to the individual, the form and structure is universal. Such patterns can be, and eventually will be, coalesced into a database and correlated with word/concepts/images. What you “think” can be “read” by other people or other devices. This will greatly facilitate communications between humans themselves, and between humans and machines. It will also make dramatic and life-changing communications possible for those disabled, comatose or otherwise unable to communicate in traditional ways.
Negative: If a person’s thoughts – the last real bastion of privacy – vanishes, then power and control of human society would belong to those who control the technology. Never a good idea.
►Transhumanism. A basic Internet definition is: “…an international philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.” A popular international transhumanist website talks about those “sophisticated technologies” in this fashion: “…artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, nanomedicine, biotechnology, genetic engineering, stem cell cloning, and transgenesis…. Other technologies that could extend and expand human capabilities outside physiology include artificial intelligence, artificial general intelligence, robotics, and brain-computer integration, which form the domain of bionics, uploading, and could be used for developing whole body prosthetics.”
Positive: Anything that improves the human condition should, on the face of it, be good. Better health and longer life are excellent goals which the transhumanists believe can be accomplished through technology.
Negative: The biggest challenge for transhumanism is – if you create some truly remarkable breakthrough – who controls it? Who decides how it is distributed and utilized? What is the impact of longer and healthier lives – would humans be affected by the law of unintended consequences?
►Drones, autonomous vehicles and robotics
Positive: Less human-based labor sounds wonderful – more time playing and less time working sounds appealing. Devices which facilitate commerce and make our lives more efficient is good.
Negative: Automation and robotics displace people from jobs and – due to their skill, talents, education, intelligence and abilities – renders them basically unemployable. Drones, autonomous machines and robotics can make everyday life easier, but they can easily be weaponized and the next great war or conflict will probably be won by the country that has the most drones, autonomous machines and robotics as well as the most skilled people sitting in underground bunkers operating joysticks and pushing the fire button.
There are other things which could easily go on this list, but all this pondering has worn me out. Therefore, ergo or in summation, I will provide a list for future contemplation. Maybe after I have an adult beverage and give this some more careful consideration.
■ Nanotechnology for health maintenance and treatment
■ Artificial intelligence for the diagnosis of health issues
■ Ability to sustain human consciousness in non-human systems
■ Neurological transfer accomplished through brain transplants to younger versions of ourselves accomplished through genetic cloning
■ Augmented and Virtual reality — digital means direct transplant
■ Breakthroughs in nuclear fusion, rather than fission
■ Using Earth’ natural electromagnetic field to create energy
■ Transformation of matter to create food and water
■ Recreation of abiotic oil in the laboratory
The world is full of decent, honorable and virtuous people. My fervent hope is that such folks will utilize all the positive things I have listed to make the world a great place. My fear, inescapable, is just the opposite. My rational conclusion is that we may have to weather some storms getting to all the positive, but eventually it will happen.
Then again, I am also convinced I will win the lottery…