Are any technologies good? A reply to a comment

I recently got an interesting comment on my About Page:

Dr. Polak — I agree with your aim – but to blanket all technology with such a abroad brush – especially when there are many technologies that have proven good – invented by people that have views contrary to yours — is just self-serving – which I don’t believe you intend — or am I wrong in my evaluation?

I rarely get comments here, perhaps because people are too scared of speaking out, so I thank the person who calls himself Scott McKie for replying. I already gave a quick reply there, but I thought I’d add some additional comments here.

First, this goes back to the fundamental question: which technologies are good? Well, there are two responses here. The first is that we must define “good”. In this case, for me, the answer is rather unambiguous: a technology cannot be considered good if it has any long-term consequences that result in serious threats to the biosphere. We cannot just measure good in the short-term, and take into account only the benefits of technology in the next five years, and taken into account only its benefits to humanity. The effects must be taken over the entire earth for both humans and nonhumans.

So in general, most technologies that require global supply chains, mining, vast infrastructure are not good. That includes cars, smartphones, computers, etc.

However, this answer is too simplistic. As I’ve written before on this blog, we shouldn’t just think of individual technologies when thinking about technology. We should think of the amalgamation of technology as an organism that is becoming increasingly sophisticated and centralized. This organism itself is absolutely unambiguously bad because it is parasitic on the natural world.

Therefore, I am much more interested in how to stop this technological organism rather than whether individual technologies are good or not. It’s like asking whether cells in a murderer are good or not: they’re just cells, but the entirety of the organism is what is evil. Therefore, we must ask not whether technologies are absolutely good, but what is their function in the modern organism.

Indeed, it is entirely possible that we could become sustainable and still have a few computers or cars functioning for a while, even if we tore down most of industrial civilization. In that context, such devices would not pose a threat.

So, which technologies are good? Well, within the current system of global capitalism, most technologies now just serve to grow the system without much benefit to anyone, so I would say almost all of the most modern ones are especially bad. But let’s not forget that what is truly the enemy is the technological organism, and it must be stopped.

As usual, I welcome any comments!

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