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Technology and Human Nature

Mountains by the beach

One of the most widely published explanations for the state of nature is Hobbes’s war of all against all. One of the most widely considered aspects of the human condition is the conflict between good and evil. In his natural state, would every man really war against every other? In terms of how people actually live their lives, are these really the conflicts we deal with? No.

State of Nature

I’ve discussed this before, but it’s fairly obvious that the state of nature is for the productive majority to peacefully cooperate while the unproductive few attempt to steal from them. This is why humans originally banded together into tribes: to create a group that was capable of defending farmland from marauders. This state of affairs has not changed throughout human history to the present day. Today, we simply have greedy politicians in cahoots with large corporations who plot behind closed doors to seize money from productive people in the form of taxation.

By the same token, most people really never struggle with good and evil. That’s not to say that man doesn’t have a moral agency, or doesn’t consider morality in the abstract. What I’m saying is that at a young age, people pretty much know what’s right and wrong; and once they mature to a point where they start making decisions, they do so on the basis of what’s expedient, what feels good or what gets them ahead. Let’s face it, we don’t all face a moral crisis every day; and to a great degree, most people actually do choose right over wrong.

No matter what your view of humanity is in a religious or ethical sense, you have to believe that my description is accurate. If humans weren’t mostly peaceful, cooperative, socially adept and morally upright, humanity would have killed itself off a long time ago. This is not to say that there aren’t truly bad people. There are plenty, but the point is that they are by far the minority. It’s not even close, so I fail to see how the great struggle is between good and evil.

Users and Producers

I view the divide as between users and producers, and here’s the difference (and why I think this is a more useful and descriptive way to look at the world). A so called “good” person can be either a user OR a producer, and likewise for an “evil” person. The difference is not in how they look or act outwardly in a moral sense, but in their attitude toward their own existence in relation to the world. Some people view the world as something to which they can contribute. Others view the world as something they can consume, and I define “world” broadly, not just as a group of resources. I’m not just talking about commodities or products here. I’m talking about the person’s entire experience of what’s outside their own being, including other people.

Again, I’m talking about the state of nature here. You have the productive tribe and the marauders. It goes without saying that I believe you should be a producer, but as an aside: in your personal life, you will inevitably come into contact with both types. It’s important to be able to determine which type someone is and adjust your behavior accordingly. Protect yourself from a user and commune with a producer.

So What?

The reason I believe this analysis is important is because we are quickly approaching a time when there will be no more fields left to plunder. Human beings used to struggle just to survive a few years before being killed by some disease, wild animal, war or calamity. For the vast majority of human existence, pain and suffering were the norm. Struggle was to be expected. Today, everything is easy, but teenagers cut themselves as a hobby just to see what it’s like to bleed. Sadists pretend torture people for fun. Politicians fight wars over resources that are already abundant. People take ridiculous amounts of drugs or jump out of planes to find out if they’re still alive.

Politically, it strikes me that many of the arguments people have today kind of miss the point. It’s like we’re stuck arguing about stuff we should have figured out 100 years ago. It also seems like we’re “ban happy.” If something new and scary starts to exist, ban it! Again, it misses the point. There is a passage in the Bible that describes God examining the Tower of Babel:

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” – Genesis 11:5-6

I’ve been in church for a long time and you don’t really hear sermons on this subject, but it always struck me that this is a very accurate description of mankind. Now we have the technology. The world where nothing will be withheld from us is the world we live in. Maybe we didn’t live in this world 30 years ago, but we do now; and there is a sad lack of understanding and contemplation of that fact. To put it another way, any fantasy locked inside a man’s head will no longer be so. It will become reality. That thing could be a cure for cancer. It could also be a robotic super soldier.

Ban Everything?

Guns

Consider that when a tragic mass shooting occurs, we AGAIN have the argument about whether guns should be banned. This misses the point, because a couple years ago, some guy turned guns into digits to be freely distributed without cost to anyone in the world. In other words, a gun is now intangible. It’s information. In response, people have come up with the idea to ban 3D printers. One problem…3D printers are self-replicating and cannot possibly be banned.

Uber

Uber is a ride-sharing app that makes a bunch of special interests mad. Let’s ban it! God forbid people save a few bucks on taxi services.

 Androids

Androids are becoming scary realistic. While everyone is busy trying to define and redefine the word “marriage,” others are concerned that androids will become so accessible, people will want to have sex with them.

We can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Frontiers

The point is, our technology is far outstripping our morality and even our ability to control it. This isn’t going to stop, either. People WILL have sex with androids. People WILL print guns and other such items in their homes. Communities will achieve energy independence separate from government control. Kids will live in virtual worlds. Governments will develop super soldiers. Wars will be fought by robots. These are new frontiers and I’m afraid our current childish models of how the world works coupled with incredibly corrupt institutions and people incapable of pondering anything beyond their own animal self-interest are woefully ill-equipped to handle them.

To bring it full circle, I believe it’s time to stop bickering about how we can all plunder one another along the lines of race, sex, gender or religion and realize that we all have to learn to produce something for the world, leaving it a little better off than it was before. Because once the need or usefulness in using another person’s wealth, resources or even body wanes, the only things left to use are human lives and souls.

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