At some point in the future, you may run all your daily errands, whether related to home services or grocery shopping or paperwork, without dealing with any human. This is the era of the magnificent, captivating yet gloomy technological revolution which has reached unprecedented levels.
A century ago, wise men tried to predict the future and the fate of technology and its effects on humans. German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proposed his criticism of the age of the machine which turned masses into one stereotypical machine in which individuals melt and become a tool that’s used to achieve one aim. German Philosopher Martin Heidegger then studied the relation of technology with the world and dedicated part of his researches for this purpose. He discusses this in his book ‘Being and Time’ (1927).
In Heidegger’s study in 1937 about Nietzsche and eternal recurrence, he discusses the technological approach of modern sciences and the mathematical logic which governs technology.
In his lecture ‘The Age of the World Picture’ in 1938, Heidegger gathered all the factors of what he later considers a “technological interpretation or understanding of our era.” He describes the “mechanized technology” as the basic phenomenon of modern times.
In his book ‘Being and Time’, he wrote: “’Nature’ is not to be understood as that which is just present-at-hand, nor as the power of Nature. The wood is a forest of timber, the mountain a quarry of rock; the river is water-power, the wind is wind 'in the sails'.”
Master of man
Today however, technology has greatly developed and future prophecies about its advancement are almost unbelievable as they predict technology will become man’s master. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Heidegger warned of technology’s excellence over humans.
This is what gradually began to happen. Robots began to perform some tasks and provide services. Specialists said robots will have creative roles in the future.
Robots also partially participate in performing surgeries and they can also play roles in creative fields, such as write a literary text or a journalistic material or edit or correct.
Technology can replace man who is happy with his capabilities and individuality and it will relentlessly strike in all directions.
It will assume man’s roles in the world.
Even in Gulf countries, robots have a relatively good role as they can perform some of the duties in supermarkets and in airports or other places. This means that people’s jobs and the value of their work will be limited in the future. People may be working with robots or for them and not vice versa. Therefore, you’d think this technology is like a chemist who is creating what will burn him.
Hawking raises alarm
In March, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking talked about humankind’s relations with his planet. He raised the alarm and warned that technology may destroy us if we cannot control it.
“Since civilization began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages. It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason. This might mean some form of world government could be ideal for the job, but would itself create more problems. But that might become a tyranny. We have developed technology that could destroy Earth, and we must retrain for a new world where robots have replaced many everyday jobs.”
Hawking also warned that robots could destroy humanity and that leaving Earth is our only hope as our days on Earth are numbered.
Hawking had also said: “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”
This dangerous warning clarifies the extent of transformation of technology’s role during the past century. Technology will not remain under man’s domination. It will slip out of his control no matter what he does.
Smart phones will swallow and melt people’s minds and people will become obsessed, confused and absent-minded. They will lose major meanings of their selves because technology destroyed their memory and replaced their minds and deemed their relations useless.
On the universal level, the technologies of biological lethality will not remain under humankind’s control. Take the robot, for example. The robot will end anthropocentrism in this world, during which man has been its center since the era of enlightenment and Philosopher Rene Descartes’ philosophical proposition “I think, therefore I am”.
French Philosopher Michel Foucault considered this proposition as null if “man” as per Descartes’ description “dies.”
Technology will be the master of man and the center of the world and humans will follow their shadow in disappointment after they have lost their battle with what they created.
It is sad that humans do not realize the extent of their battle with technology.
Except for some wise men and scientists, we see how most humans drown, melt and submit to technology and its waves on a daily basis. Technology has brought them out of the paradise of nature and introduced them to a virtual technological world. The time when man becomes a guest of technological products is not far from now.
Hawking said it once: “We have to be very careful in this period.”
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.