Richard Dawkins coined the term meme to refer to ideas that propagate and evolve as thoughts in the human mind. We can try and view technology as a similar system. In this system, the ideas are the specifications of technological devices, and these ideas propagate through the survival of technological machines. We are the facilitators of technological reproduction. There are no sexes as in humans and reproduction is much different in the technological world because many discrete entities can come together to form new technological entities.
However, the basic concept of new iterations of devices exists in this model, and with each iteration, certain ‘individuals’ are more likely to survive than others based on successful they are at getting people to use them. This system is not much different than the primordial ooze of simple organisms competing in an ancient sea.
We could say that such an evolutionary arena of technology has been occurring for a long time in human history. However, there are peculiar features that have arisen in the past fifty years that make this situation quite dangerous for natural life on this planet. The first is the development of the computer. Because of the computer, memes now can be specified as computer code in a programming language, so technology can make simple decisions. As this complexity grows, computers will gain more mental powers. In effect, we have given technological organisms a primitive nervous system and even a primitive brain.
Another peculiar feature is interconnectedness. Technology is connected in a variety of ways. This connection is the internet but not just that as it is not limited to wires. As long as human minds can carry out instructions from other humans through the internet, even devices not connected to the internet are part of the single technological organism.
These two features imply a few consequences for us. First, because of the computer, the evolution of technological devices has increased so dramatically that we no longer can adapt to this evolution. We are effectively blinded by the power brought on by technology. Our frenzy to develop it necessarily leads to a lack of insight into the dangers we bring upon ourselves.
Because of the connectnedness, we are also dealing with a new kind of organism. We are so used to interacting with individual, autonomous entities like people, plants, or animals, but a single diffuse entity will also bring about unexpected consequences.
Over the coming months I will expand upon these themes because I fear that we are in grave danger. Intuitively, I feel the following are more or less true and deserve more scrutiny in future posts:
- Technological devices as organisms are not greatly dependent on the natural world and thus will evolve to crush it even more than it already is
- Not all technology is evil, but a lot of it is. Here evil just means against the best interest of biological life. Technology which is almost certainly evil includes AI algorithms, virtual reality, and social networks. It would be in our best interest to delete all of this. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook should be severely restricted or even dismantled.
- Technology has a subtle method of making us produce it because it promises to improve our lives. It actually does improve life, but long after it has improved life as much as it can, it goes on “improving” it until it actually becomes worse.
- Developing more advanced technology to try and counteract this problem likely won’t help. Theoretical research sounds good but is just a way that we can feel good about doing something while doing nothing at all.
- Even if the situation with technology isn’t as bad as I make it out to be, we still need to be extremely wary of it and question every new introduction of it rather than welcoming it