What kind of future do we want?

The past week I’ve been seeing an ad for a show called Futurescape with James Woods, that will air on the Discovery Channel on Sunday (and also already aired on The Science Channel last year), and yes, this isn’t the first blog post I’ve written that started out this way. Anyways, there’s a lot the show is proposing about the future that I think we should not allow.

For example, one of the possibilities mentioned was technology that would allow people to read each others minds. Answer me honestly: do you really want people to be reading your mind, intruding into your thoughts? And do you really want that kind of technology to available in the future? Think of the damage that might do to privacy, think of the potential for people to erode each other’s liberty when you give them the power to read each other’s minds. And forget about normal people for a moment, think about the government. What if the technology that would allow us to read minds was invented, but only the government had it? They might end up using it for the purposes of control, thus perverting the freedom they are supposed to play a role in preserving. Ordinary people may lose the ability to keep secrets, and this can only end very badly. And while I do believe in honesty, we shouldn’t be extorting people into being transparent.

Soon, Willy won’t be allowed his time and neither will we.

Then we have androids. Where do I even begin? Why the hell do we want robots who are basically exactly like us? Why do we want robots who have consciousness like we do? And why would we want robots to live in the same society as us as citizens? Is it really necessary for machines to have the same rights as us? Bear in mind that robots and machines have no soul, are incapable of having a soul, incapable of love, and have no free will of their own. Even in the highly unlikely event we can create robotic consciousness, that consciousness is not real. It is an artifice, and will never be equal to genuine consciousness and natural life. Not only that, but what is the point of considering robots as having the same liberty as us when their behavior is most likely going to be programmed? Artificial consciousness or no, a robot is still nothing but a tin man with a fake brain and sparks and commands flying through him.

Yes Bender, we know.

Yes Bender, we know.

And what is the likelihood robots won’t start taking over mankind? Of course you could program them not to do this, but then that means robots still aren’t free to make their own decisions and thus do not deserve to be recognized as having the same rights as humans. And if robots are citizens, they’d still be imitating almost every thing humans do, and do you want that? In general, just avoid making robot people! Then there’s the prospect that in the future man and machine will become indistinguishable by integrating machine into the form of man. If we are not careful with this, we as a species will lose what it means to be human, our essential humanity will be degraded by the excessive presence of machine.

And there’s the prospect that we can create life at will by manipulating DNA. Should we really be afforded that power? Humans will most likely just use it to create slavish clones for labor. And if we were going to create new species with it, then why? What is the purpose of creating new species when nature already does produce new species?  Then in general you have things like physical immortality which I’ve already talked about as a pipe dream not worth pursuing. After all, what meaning is life without death? And with things like disease, you can try to get rid of disease as a whole, but how do you know nature won’t just make more? New diseases that can withstand our attempts to subdue them? Not only will immortality of the body (if you can even call it immortality, since even then death finds a way) take away what meaning life has, but our physical immortality will only further the illusion us and our bodies are the same.Just think of the long-term damage that cheating death will do by creating a world where death longer applies to us humans? We would soon cover the whole world, and perhaps the universe assuming we become able to cross it. We would suffocate everything around us with our presence, and this cannot be good for us either. And then how do you know that physical immortality isn’t just going to be reserved for the higher ups in a system of social stratification, where only the highest layers of society would be “immortal”, while everyone else remains mortal and oppressed by elites who can’t die. Imagine social stratification as we have encountered it before, only much worse, as the higher layers of society would become like physical gods.

We’d be turning life into this, for real, and it’s not a good thing.

Is it really right for Man to assume control over the forces of life and death, and pervert the natural order just so he can prolong his own physical existence? I think that mankind as a species needs to think very carefully about what it wants for the future, because very often what mankind thinks it may want are actually very bad for the species and the world in the long term. In this case, I think we should just live with things like mind-reading, physical immortality, manipulating life, merging man with machine, and robots with consciousness not being a reality, for there will be no greater curse to mankind than those things being real.

4 responses to “What kind of future do we want?

  1. Technologies often will be limited to the select few if they ever become available. The rulers and their spy agencies won’t allow mind reading technology to fall into the hands of consumers. The androids and DNA improvement technology will only be affordable to the rich. Humans have a basic hostility to technology that seeks to replicate itself as human.

    • To be honest, this time that hostility is for good reason. And I actually think if the rich did have their false immortality, they will be as cursed as the vampires if you know what I mean.

  2. Reblogged this on SMAGIC and commented:
    Mankind is so quick to imagine far-flung futuristic possibilities that they think would be cool, but nobody ever stops to think whether they should. Where the hell is Dr. Ian Malcolm when you need him?

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