One of the most frequent statements I’ve heard about technology is that it’s a tool, and that it’s how we use it that matters. Based on this opaque statement, some people claim that the development of technology is not the responsibility of its creators, and instead we should focus solely on developing ethics on the use of technology. However, this viewpoint is fundamentally wrong.

Why is the statement that “technology is just a tool” fundamentally wrong? First, all tools are technology, so technology is tool itself. However, sometimes the statement is used in the context of advanced technology, such as comparing a computer to a hammer.

But even in the context of advanced technology, we cannot afford to place it in the category of tools that we can easily control like hammers. By thinking of technology as a tool, we ignore two main problems:

  1. Advanced technology is becoming too seductive to be merely a tool about which we can make rational decisions. It is too confusing, it warps the mind, and it is leading us into a society-level psychosis. It is akin to giving addictive drugs to children as candy, and as a society, we simply are incapable of deciding whether it will provide us with a net benefit in the long-term
  2. The entire collection of technology interacting with human beings will bring about unpredictable emergent phenomenon hinted at in my article The Dawn of a New Organism. Technology has thus created a new system, and trying to understand it is like trying to predict the existence of life on earth only from the viewpoint of subatomic particles. No one will be able to fathom the true directions of technology

What can we conclude from these two points? First, that the only way forward for society is to become suspicious, cautious, and highly regulatory about new technology. And second, we should pay special attention to the most advanced technologies such as AI, nanotechnology, and bio-engineering because the effects of these technologies will be too unpredictable and hence catastrophic to the human race.

Therefore, the ultimate conclusion is that technology is not just a tool because it functions outside of our control, much more akin to a lifeform. Moreover, the power of this life-form is out of our control, unlike any primitive tool that we can think of. Therefore, technology is not a tool.

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