Societal-level Effects That Make Technology Dangerous

We tend to look at technology as a stream of individual inventions. That was certainly how technology was presented to me through school and I think this is how most people view technology as well. However, the nature of technology is hardly touched upon in modern discourse. What do I mean by the nature of technology? I mean things such as the motivations of those who create technology, what technology actually is, and its ultimate aims, as well as how it interacts with the peculiarities of modern society. From my point of view, these are some of the most important observations and topics in this realm:

The People Who Create Technology

The most advanced technology (computer and science-based technology such as bioengineering) is primarily created by those who are highly attracted to this field. This means those of the introverted type who may have tendencies as teenagers and young adults to prefer computers over people, and who find comfort in immersing themselves in arcane knowledge.

I am not saying these tendencies are bad, but they do have their own peculiarities. For example, over time, such people are prone to create technologies that isolate people on a global scale, simply because technologies that are effective in doing so will be especially attractive to such people.

From this observation, we conclude we must be extremely careful because technology creation will be biased towards those types of technologies that tend to isolate people. An example is AI which can act as a buffer between real people and the user: with an advanced AI doing most information-gathering tasks for you, you no longer have to interact with the people who create information.

Capitalism

The fundamental core of capitalism, which is trade of goods and services through comparitive advantage, works on a small scale. But capitalism has a second-order effect that is especially emphasized through globalization and technology. This second order effect is that short-term monetary gains are emphasized over all else. Moreover, our capitalistic society makes it so that engaging in transactions that bring short-term monetary gains are necessarily for survival for most people.

This is hardly just a technology problem, although without advanced technology, this second-order effect would be negligible for two reasons: the efficiency of trade would not be sufficient to make this effect as noticeable, and even if such an effect were noticeable, a lack of technology would make us relatively harmless to the biosphere.

This interaction between technology and capitalism leads us to conclude that present-stage capitalism will be unstable in the long-run, and so we must make modifications to our current economic system so that the development of new technology is much less profitable than it is currently. (This may involve heavy regulations, but it would be better if it involved a large-scale opposition by the people, which in turn may be spurned by a new, more beneficial and rewarding way of life.)

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The prisoner’s dilemma is a two-person game (in the sense of game theory) where two people need to make one of two choices. In the realm of technology, it can be seen in the following principle: if neither person chooses to use a piece of technology, then both will be better off. But, if you know your opposition will not use the technology, you can use it to gain an advantage over them and thus get a huge reward. Unfortunately, your opposition knows this and so uses the technology as well, making both parties worse off.

This is true of AI. We would all be better off if no one used advanced AI. However, because some people are not using it yet (or as effectively as Mr. Joe Tech), then Mr. Joe Tech can use AI to gain a huge advantage over everyone else (but only in the short term). Realizing this, everyone else copies Mr. Joe Tech and uses AI as well, thereby making the entire world worse. Although everyone would be better off not using AI, it only takes one person to start the rat-race to the bottom of using AI.

The prisoner’s dilemma is one of the most pervasive and worst facets of humanity, because we have the intellectual capability to understand the choices involved. If we did not have such analytical brains, it is possible that we would not drive ourselves into disaster by playing out the prisoner’s dilemma as “rational agents”.

From this rather grim observation, we conclude that the only way to avoid the prisoner’s dilemma is to find a creative way out of playing the “game” in the first place. This could again involve mass opposition to it, or even changing our way of thinking through spiritual development such as meditation.

The Rich Control Progress

Unfortunately, there is a certain kind of person that relishes intellectual stimulation and places it above all else. Typically, this is the person who is well-off in the world in terms of money, has intellectually engaging friends, and welcomes technological progress because they derive short-term value from it in terms of what new intellectual stimulation it brings.

Many university professors, programmers, doctors, dentists, and other well-off people are of this ilk, although not all of course. There are some individuals from every one of these disciplines that are ecologically aware and responsible, but it’s safe to say that most are not (and I have spent time with many such individuals).

The most unfortunate thing is that these people have the most power in society, and they are extremely attached to their way of life, which is primarily having enough disposable income to indulge themselves with the latest technological trends. They spend their working hours forwarding the technological society and their disposable income on making new technological developments profitable. The addictive nature of technology and of finding new and strange ways of intellectual stimulation makes sure that these people will drive society to the brink of disaster, and perhaps past it.

Of course, there is nothing morally wrong with these people in general. They are typically very nice, friendly, and generous. However, they are so addicted to progress in all forms that they are somewhat blinded to the true nature of their power.

From this, we must conclude that a portion of educational materials about the dangers of technology should be directed towards such individuals, so that they can realize the effects of technology and work to stop it.

The Emergent Phenomenon

There are always, higher-order emergent phenomena that arise from complex systems. In modern society, we have the technological organism that I described in a previous blog post. Briefly, I stated that society has built up such a tightly-integrated system through technology that the entirety of technology along with our interacting with it makes for something that is similar to an organism.

In other words, our vast numbers combined with technology behave as if it’s a life-form of its own, and this life-form can defend itself. So, even if some people are aware of the technological problem, the system has countless ways of fighting back against the anti-technology effort.

From this, we conclude that we must study the technological system and figure out ways past its defenses, which may include modifying other societal structures such as capitalism to ruin the economic forces that drive technological development.

Technology Creates Problems That Only It Can Solve

Technology creates so many problems, but of course the main ones are human isolation and climate change, which is unequivocally human-caused. But, there are countless other problems, too.

And these problems are such that the only “obvious” and quick solutions to them involve even more technology. Due to our shortsightedness though, these “solutions” will actually bring about even more problems than they solve. I would not be surprised if for every problem solved with technology, the resulting new technology will bring about 10 new problems!

The only solution here is to educate people to analyze technology in great detail and be extremely cautious of it. Ideally, some technologies will be destroyed and altogether abandoned, such as medical research into aging and AI.

Conclusion

Technology is propelled by many forces out of our immediate control, and this post has looked at a few of them. I suggest that you never again think of technology as indiviudal inventions that you can choose to use and that we have the free will to choose or not choose. Technology is far more insidious and dangerous than that, and plays upon our early evolutionary instincts to drive itself forward and lead to our destruction.

This subject is the most serious and gravest that we have faced as a species and we must propagate these ideas or else will may perish.


All my posts are written without AI. Feel free to download and copy this image to support the fight against AI!

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