The accelerating rate of technological advancements has provided human history with the rise of revolutionary new technologies.
For most part, technology has made a positive impact on the human condition– such as life expectancy, education levels, material standards of living, nature of work, communication, healthcare, and the effects of human activities on the natural environment. So much so society has become more and more dependent on technology.
Necessity is the mother of invention – unknown
In Sir Martin Rees’ book, ‘Our Final Century: will the human race survive the twenty-first century?’ he boldly concludes that certain events will happen (should technological advance continue uninterrupted) and that humanity continues to toy with the 50/50 chance of surviving the 21st century. It was one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. If you’re interested, here is his TED talk below.
Pure Evil or The Unanticipated Consequences of Technology?
In 2014 alone, we have seen two major aviation tragedies; four months after the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile. While many individuals and media continue to speculate and exaggerate conspiracy theories from these tragic ends, I am saddened to wonder whether we have, in the end, left the fate of humanity in the hands of technology.
Whoever brought down both flights, their actions were murderous and, in my view, criminally insane verging on pure evil. It offers a dystopian view of unintended consequences, a well-known problem with the design and use of technology, and one that is clearly related to Murphy’s law – which is… “anything that can go wrong, will.”
Can technology destroy humanity?
We have been accustomed to living with almost routine technological breakthroughs, increasingly highly organised systems of machines are being developed with increasingly no human effort necessary. The human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on technology that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions.
If these machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We can only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines.
As technology make machines become more and more intelligent, eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently.
With 21st century technologies, most dangerously, for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of extreme individuals or small groups. Knowledge alone will enable the use and abuse of them. When human actions are involved, there is added unpredictability of technology’s impact on humanity.
The Apocalyptic Scenario
The human tragedies we face today, as a result of unanticipated consequences of technology is a clear reminder that this is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself – as well as to vast numbers of others.
Failing to understand the consequences of our inventions while we are in the rapture of discovery and innovation seems to be a common fault we make. Given the incredible power of these new technologies, shouldn’t we be asking how we can best coexist with them? And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible outcome of our technological development, shouldn’t we proceed with great caution?
I realize now of the nature of the order of life, and we need to open our eyes to the dangers of our technical arrogance. With this respect comes a necessary humility to evaluate what it may be like to live in a world that is the realistic outcome of what we are creating and imagining.
This is particularly true in warfare technologies. In the interest to develop defensive shields to protect one own’s territory, we have to recognise that the technology involved would produce, as a by-product, weapons so terrible it themselves would be extremely dangerous. My heart sinks every time I hear of innocents perish in conflict. I wonder, while many people still live in horrible conditions and suffer from famine, why do governments continue to spend obscene amounts of money in developing weapon technologies?
Have we come so far in the human evolution, that we no longer want to live among ourselves?
I hope not.
Have we fallen victim to technology which will one day take over us..where our future no longer needs us?
I hope not.
Will we relentlessly chase World Peace, and together stand for this cause worth living?
I hope so.