Technology and Humanity: Allies, or... "Frenemies?"­

We will consider how technology affects society, and perhaps even defines the times we live in. Do you ever feel that technology is out of control, a force with a mind and will of its own? What causes this, and what are the consequences? We will focus our conversation on the following:

1. Are you a technophobe, or technophile? Why? How has technology affected your job, your personal life, health,  leisure time? Is it making your life better, or worse? Does technology create jobs, or destroy them? What other impacts on society concern you?

2. Will the Internet unite humans in a global village, or isolate us? On Twitter, Facebook, et al., do you find people of diverse opinions, or are we inevitably drawn to chatrooms populated by people just like ourselves? Does our very freedom to choose what we read and learn lead to simply confirming our current beliefs?

3. What are the dangers of rapid technological change? Will we unleash something that destroys us? Will hackers cause such chaos (ID theft, falsifying records, stealing money, etc.) that we abandon the Internet? What about the government-- does surveillance make us safer, or does the government know too much already? What can citizens do?

4. What will technology look like in the distant future? Will designer genomes eliminate disease? Will human genetic diversity be eliminated? (In the future, perhaps everyone is blonde and tall..) Will microbots in our bodies make us immortal? Will mind and machine merge into a new form of consciousness, giving humans unimagined mental powers and creativity?

 

About the Moderator: Laurence Mailaender works in the technology industry, doing research aimed at improving wireless systems. He has a PhD in Electrical Engineering, and spent 12 years as a researcher in Bell Labs. Currently he develops advanced communication and GPS-geolocation systems for customers in various agencies of the U.S. Government.

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  • Laurence M.

    Thanks everone for the interesting discussions! If you'd like to have a second event on this topic, I'd like you to suggest specific questions you want to dig in to. Thanks

    1 · June 7, 2013

    • Yen

      How has reproductive technologies our society, relationships, or conventional wisdom?

      July 1, 2013

    • Yen

      Laurence, how about examining the possible consequences and ethical questions created by each new technology (e.g. cloning, drone strikes, internet/global social media, etc.)

      July 2, 2013

  • Herb K.

    Part 1: The site that David references is interesting. My own reaction is two-fold -- that helping people to learn to live a more "sufficient" simplified but satisfying lifestyle is a worthwhile endeavor -- it gives people more power over the assets they do have or develop -- but that its conception as a society-wide solution -- a necessary and sufficient solution -- for our current problems goes against the grain of natural, developmental processes themselves. Nature abounds with waste and variation, and needs it. Cells build up and tear down mechanical machines within their walls to accomplish tasks. Organisms produce many eggs leading to many variations in individuals. If simplicity were the only principle of value, we would have only a few types of individuals to raise, train, and employ. This was Hamilton's critique of Jefferson's plans to essentially stifle manufacturing so industry would not grow and develop (continued)

    June 8, 2013

    • Herb K.

      Part 2: This was Hamilton's critique of Jefferson's plans to essentially stifle manufacturing so industry would not grow and develop, and so that everyone would be a simple farmer (which not everyone is good at) or a supporting townsperson for the farmer. Jefferson's plan was in place for 20 years before significant manufacturing finally could take root -- a handicap for the country and many of its people. I have explored the possible likely future of personal technology and society through the concept of Personal Science -- each person having the tools to explore more deeply their unique individuality and how their attributes combine, and then translating these insights into buying decisions that meet their own real needs and potentials. In this system there are elements of both focused simplicity and experimental consumerism -- the latter implying that their buying decisions can get "better, " in terms of who they are, what they need, and what the product really offers. (continued)

      June 8, 2013

    • Herb K.

      Part 3: To see my forecast paper on Personal Science, and some interesting related papers and news articles, go to www.klitzner.org and click The Future (menu).
      I think that the concepts of both Personal Science approaches and Simplified Living approaches are needed to get human benefits from our economy and world. We need the insights of both Hamilton and Jefferson.

      June 8, 2013

  • Lawrence S.

    Interesting, open ended but well organized.

    1 · June 7, 2013

  • Yen

    You raise many very good questions. I wish I could attend. I have a schedule conflict today, but I hope you can hold more conversations on related questions in the upcoming months. Thank you.

    1 · June 6, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I so wish I could make it, but I'm out of town. You might use New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier's recent commencement speech on technology and the humanities as a talking pivot:

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113299/leon-wieseltier-commencement-speech-brandeis-university-2013

    My reflections here:

    http://davidestorey.com/2013/05/31/technology-and-the-fate-of-the-humanities/

    Hope you have a great conversation!

    2 · June 1, 2013

    • Laurence M.

      David, thank you for pointing us to this, quite interesting. While my intended topic is Technology and Humanity, the Wieseltier speech focusses on Technology and the *Humanities.* However there are interesting overlaps. In particular, the very success of technology tends to make us see the world though a technological ("instrumental"­) lens-- a reductionism in our values. That is indeed worthy of discussion!

      2 · June 2, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am a programmer, but I'm also skeptical of the direction some technologies are taking us. I wrote my master's thesis on philosophy of technology. Hope to join.

    2 · June 1, 2013

  • Herb K.

    Good topic. Much to explore!

    2 · May 13, 2013

  • Ronald G.

    Important theme, great questions, impressive moderator, nice location -- who could ask for anything more?! So glad CNY can helpl this happen! :-)

    3 · May 13, 2013

  • Stephen A. S.

    I will probably feel up to it,or at least hope so.

    2 · May 13, 2013

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