Monday, February 18, 2013

The world of technology.

The young trade their labor in exchange for fun, excitement and enjoyment of life.   That is to say, the young want to earn money to enjoy nights out, to travel abroad, to purchase clothes, to acquire a car for freedom of movement and status etc.   But then something strange happens as they age. The nights out become less frequent, the need to self-identify though branded clothes, music, film becomes less pronounced.  They find themselves sleeping more as work takes more time and energy; they discover an increased need to 'plan for the future' either through savings, investments, pension plans or through career progression.  At this point the shift has already begun. Trading their labor - working - is no longer a means to an end, but has become the end itself.  The shift is complete with the arrival of a family and responsibility and medical fees and elderly parents and a mortgage's and job insecurity.

Martin Heidegger argues this same shift has occurred on a massive scale throughout the West: we have lost control of democracy, we have lost control of technology, we have lost control of economics and we have lost control of ourselves.  We lost control by allowing tools we created to to control us instead of serving us.

It began with the rise of modern science during the 17th and 18th centuries which promised to make man "as if the master and owner of the universe"*.  Nature then become a warehouse, resources to be harvested and used in mans mastery of the earth itself.  This scientific pursuit of knowledge was pursued for emancipatory purposes to improve human liberty and happiness.  It was assumed during the Enlightenment that science and reason would free us from the shackles of superstition, the bonds of monarchical rule and the dogmatic resistance of organized religion to human emancipation.   It was during this period the idea of human progress (happiness and liberty) made possible by our scientific mastery over nature made it's first appearance.   The means then was science and reason; the ends were humanistic ideals.  The engine to achieve these goals of human progress was a form of Darwinian incentives : economic competition.

But the ideals turned sour.  Nietzsche arrived with his philosophical hammer to smash the idol of progress and the post-modern movement with it's suspicion of metaphysical  ideals continues to this day having gained new traction throughout the youth fueled 1960's.

The idea of human progress now changed it's meaning.  Liberty and happiness become synonymous with free markets. Progress became the outcome of competition between different companies with the companies unable to progress being devoured by larger and more successful companies in a  marketplace where only the fittest survived. Scientific research required the support of large companies and research itself was aimed at increasing the profits of those companies.

This is what Heidegger calls the world of technology.  Our ideals and goals were destroyed by post-modernism and our economic systems are now beyond our control.  It is not possible for a company to remain stagnant;  it must grow or be devoured.  Growth, once a means, now becomes the end in itself.  Human liberty and happiness are now an individuals responsibility in an open market. We no longer dominate nature to improve the human condition; we now dominate nature because we cannot stop dominating nature in a competition driven economy.  This process is now almost automated and self-regulating  and  human beings have once again become resources trapped by systems once created to free us.

*(Descartes)


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