What are we working toward as a species? Suppose we end up in an all-powerful surveillance state, designed so that even if every human is a murderous psychopath, nothing bad can ever happen, and we all sit around taking euphoria drugs and consuming entertainment. Have we won, or have we failed? My utopian vision is at the other extreme: no authority, no restrictions, nothing is ever locked, the world is full of dangers, and yet it's rare for anything bad to happen, because humans have attained godlike levels of personal virtue and awareness. We may never get there, but I think that's what we should be aiming for.
Rann Prieur 2.20.13Rann's deeper question reveals deeper questions, is the advancement of technology bounded by a cultural, emergent morality? Outside of a vacuum, is technology a morally neutral construct or does technology come prepackaged and irreducible from its cultural context?
My view is that technology changes human behavior and conceptions of society, it is therefore inherently weighted toward a meaning beyond its physical function. The pattern of technological development over the last several centuries is that technology advances and human skill recedes. We first acquire a physical skill, then augment or extend that skill with technology, and if carried far enough, lose the physical skill entirely (or it becomes vestigial.)
Technology has been an extension and enhancement of our physical selves, the utilization of technology allows our concious to physically manipulate matter in what would otherwise take far greater effort than may be humanly possible. The latest advances in technology are all mental tools, memory, processing and communication is all that IT does. Business, academic and scientific software are all expressions of the same construct; they are abstract models of real world applications of human beings working on some idea(s).
The open question to my mind is what will the consequences of offloading awareness and virtue, in Rann's terms, to technology be at the individual level? The pole positions he describes are extremes of an emergent narrative, but the individual experience is how we will always understand our world because that is all we are capable of. Will awareness and virtue at the personal level atrophy? Has this already begun?