I have found that most people, when asked whether they are technological optimists or technological pessimists, will eventually say something along the lines of, “Well, what difference does it make, it’s taking us where it’s taking us whether we like it or not.”
Ask yourself: Are these the words of a master or are they the words of a servant?
These people who try to tell you all this garbage about tech being “nothing other than tools in the service of man, etc” are strikingly out of touch with reality. Mere tools don’t take you to places you don’t want to go to in spite of your objections.
Since the widespread adoption of industrial technology about (at most) 150 years ago, we have been dragged into dark places: the dissolution of the traditional family and community, the dethroning of religion, the “liberation” of women, the de-masculinization of men, the homogenization of the world’s cultures, the isolation of man from nature, the ascendancy of materialism, the proliferation of mental illness, the eroding of liberty, and the poisoning of the natural environment and food supply. Our captor is nowhere near satisfied. If it is up to tech, we have many more black miles to cover. What’s more, nobody — neither the optimists nor even the pessimists — can foresee what exactly those black miles hold.
As an iron rule, tech always introduces new problems to humanity at a faster rate than it can provide solutions to problems, that is, if an attempt is even made. The reason for this is that, even in the hypothetical absence of bad intentions, tech evolves incomparably faster than humanity and always ends up introducing secondary and tertiary problems usually unforeseen by innovators.
What we have mostly witnessed as a reaction to this destructive nature of tech is not a withdrawal back into the traditional ways of life, but a stubborn advance onward. Modern society passes by warning after warning, accruing more and more wounds, and finally, when it comes into a prohibitively strong state of pain and bewilderment, it asks: “What innovation is on the horizon on which we might pin all our hopes?”
One of the clearest examples of this is the sphere of human health.
Without even an ounce of exaggeration, it can be said the vast majority of our health crises — both bodily and mental health — are massively and obviously rooted in our unnatural industrial circumstances. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. Literally everybody — techno-optimists, techno-pessimists, even those who do not even consider the technological question. Modernity is ravaging our health, and yet almost all the people whose stated ambition in life is to protect and promote health will not say the OBVIOUS thing that MUST be done and the ONLY thing that would actually work.
Shut the bitch down.
Shut down the techno-industrial system and, voila, obesity, “diabetus”, epidemic autism-related disorders, inflammation-related illnesses, cancer, endocrine-disorders, and, very importantly, at least 95% of the mental illnesses cataloged in the ever-growing DSM will evaporate like a small puddle on a hot afternoon.
It’s the obvious answer. Yet, what doctor is proclaiming it?
Instead, you know what our best and brightest minds are busy doing? They are constantly employing all of this incredible aggregate brain power into searching for ways to keep playing this losing game of “Progress”. Many of the very people who ridicule the notion of scrapping the techno-industrial system take very seriously the notion inventing “less-harmful” pesticides and herbicides with which to shower our food supply, or inventing “less-harmful” junk food, or inventing “less-harmful” pharmaceuticals, or inventing “less-harmful” electronic devices, or inventing “less-harmful” industrial wastes, or inventing “less-harmful” nuclear power, and on and on. And since these measures are not working, they say, “Well, then, let us ‘edit’ the very DNA of man. We will redesign him with innate tolerance for his own foolish poisons.” It actually reminds me of a kind of kid’s game that was popular when I was a little kid, called Mouse Trap. The heart of the game was this ridiculously complicated contraption for catching mice.
Like the Mouse Trap game, the modern world is a towering clown-world colossus built (ostensibly) to achieve a simple goal. Just as Mouse Trap was not really about catching mice (but about amusing children) neither is the modern industrialized world really about improving human well-being. It’s there to amuse us. (Note, “a-muse” — literally, to not muse.)
Amusement is the only thing tech has done really, really well.
The amusement is so powerful, many people can scarcely conceive of life without it. Look, if Mouse Trap were really about catching mice, it would look nothing like the kid’s game. Instead, it would look like this:
Similarly, if Progress were really about ensuring basic human well-being, as defined by the 99% of our history as a species, it would look like this:
Food, shelter, clothing, companionship, and reproduction. These are the basic needs. No bigger, crazier mouse trap can change that. We have had all these years of science, particularly the rather impressive science behind the Theory of Evolution, and yet we haven’t really ingested one of the most basic and obvious takeaways from this theory, namely, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Your body, your mind, your spirit, your relationship to the challenges of physical life, even — to a large degree — your relation to moral truths, mostly has to do with how your forefathers — regressing back to the pre-histroic past — were chiseled and refined by the natural world. More than 99% of Homo sapiens’ history was a history of living close to nature, close to the basics of food, shelter, clothing, companionship, and reproduction; the old basic mouse trap, without the superfluous clown-world rubbish.
This is not at all to say that people had one-dimensional lives before the Industrial Revolution. Quite the contrary; when your physical livelihood comes from manual labor, your mind is free to pursue philosophical and spiritual quests. Let your hands work so that you may lead a contemplative life. This is how it always was. But today modern man has a pathetic fat-cow body, hands like a woman, and a mind that is almost wholly engulfed in the inanities of tech-work and tech-amusement. Yeah, that’s living, eh! And God help you if you talk any kind of crazy talk about getting rid of electricity and all the mind-numbing and enervating evils that grow from its roots! No, we absolutely must have traffic jams, we absolutely must have obesity, we absolutely must have toxins in our food supply, we absolutely must have endocrine disruptors, and all the other crap!
Why? Because God forbid we have to make do somehow without digital crack!
Come to think about it, there is good reason to believe that pre-industrial man had a far richer mental and spiritual life than modern man. Why?
The techno-industrial system promotes the survival and proliferation of sub-par minds. These people would have faced far harsher survival pressures in ages past. Instead, they are now socially, politically, and economically enfranchised, and as a consequence, their brutish preferences in politics, the arts, and the markets drive down the overall atmosphere of human societies.
It is no coincidence that with the unfolding of the Industrial Revolution, most people went from considering Beethoven a genius to most people enjoying the crap known today as “music”. The same goes for every other important human endeavor; religion, marriage, philosophy, physical health, mental health, the arts. Everything is coarsened and weakened and degraded. We are only a shadow of our former glory.
“But,” the techno-optimists will insist, “tech has done so much to dis-encumber us from the conventional burdens of survival. Thanks to tech, man is freer than ever before to put away the drudgery of life and pursue his highest calling.” This is, you will recognize, the essential sales pitch for Universal Basic Income. This crazy idea absolutely cannot work. No matter how much tech may evolve to handle — including handling in a fully automated fashion — the basic physical needs of human beings, we are still essentially prehistoric creatures. Excessive idleness and easy living are poisonous to us.
Yes, thanks to tech, man is indeed freer than ever before to put away the drudgery of life and pursue his highest calling, but what have been the results? A drastic lowering of the “highest callings” that’s for damn sure. All this “free time” has only produced mental diarrhea.
I remember when I was a kid — not too long ago as I am only 38 — we did not have digital cameras. You had rolls of film. Generally, 24 exposures to a roll. When taking a picture, even rank sub-amateurs like myself had to be aware of some of the basics of photo composition. Moreover, buying the film and having it developed cost money. Before snapping a picture, it was natural to ask yourself, “Is this shot worth it?” Even a really special vacation might end with me only using up 2 or 3 rolls of film. And of course, not every shot is going to turn out worth keeping. I knew every picture I had.
Contrast this with today: virtually no marginal cost for pictures. People have literally hundreds or even thousands of pictures on their phones and they neither remember them nor even look at them for the most part. Ask any one of these people if they could use some more memory on their phone, and they’ll all say, “LOL. Yeah man, I can’t like wait till the iPhone 20 comes out!!!”
Even electric light is like this. Back when artificial light was produced only by candles, wood-fire, oil lamps, etc, it cost you something. If was the year 1764 and you were going to burn wax, oil, etc, to make light at 11:30 pm instead of sleeping, to what use would put this expenditure? Cat pictures? Instagram? Netflix? Porn? Yeah, obviously not. If you were going to “burn the midnight oil” it might be to pore over the Bible or to write a letter, and that’s about it. Nowadays, artificial light has a negligent marginal cost. What do we use the extra time for? Again, we use it to be engulfed in the inanities of tech-work and tech-amusement.
Are we slaves to tech? Yes, insofar as we consider this state of affairs to be inevitable. You can never extricate yourself from something you view as inevitable.
I believe the techno-industrial system enslaves.
I believe life would be incomparably better were this system to be abolished.
I believe the work and cost involved in abolishing it is well worth it.
I believe it can be done.