In the last Current Events essay (# 9) we advocated the possibility that the intellect falls short on solving our most fundamental problems but of even greater concern is that the creature that reasons is unable to even identify what those problems are. Consequently, we are justified in being worried about the more obvious problems facing us today. You know—famine, war, disease, global warming and the issues that accompany drought, wildfires, mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc. Some of us hope that science might ride to the rescue and provide us relief like it has often done in the past. Are we being too optimistic?
Let’s take a look at what some scientists are involved in and how they see the future of humanity. Scientists at NASA are working on climate change related to global warming, certainly a problem that most of us are concerned about. When hurricane Harvey blasted ashore flooding Houston and the surrounding area in September 2017 meteorologists were getting crucial information about the storm from orbiting satellites. Geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites were capturing information on cloud formations, surface temperature and barometric pressures, which were then fed into computer models tracking the storms’ strength and path. “In various ways, this torrent of data was being collected continuously from hundreds (or even thousands) of miles overhead, through radar instruments and spectroradiometer sensors and exquisitely calibrated imaging cameras.” (1)
Why is all of this data valuable? “We wouldn’t be able to interpret the losses of various mountain glaciers and the changes to aquifers in Texas and California. Above all, we would lack an enhanced sense of how the Earth works, how its masses of water flow from land to ocean in ways never witnesses or understood before.” (1) Does the solution to creating a sustainable human community depend on understanding “how the Earth works” or is it rather “how the human animal works?”
Let us add another current problem that is raising a somewhat ugly head in the awareness of the global community, namely artificial intelligence or A.I. Let’s consider Facebook as an example since it has a global presence and some two billion users. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose likened Facebook to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In her story the inventor Victor Frankenstein realizes that the creature he created has gone rogue. “I had been the author of unalterable evils and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.” (2)
Elsewhere in the content of Simple Reality we have characterized the emperor Marcus Aurelius as a remarkably insightful leader and of course we all know the emperor Caligula was less than insightful and according to some narratives, less than a compassionate ruler. “It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.” (3) Elon Musk is headed in the right direction to unravel a crucial human dilemma regarding our use of technology and that is: Who is using the technology? Now we shift the basic assumptions of our discussion.
It is not the technology that threatens humanity, it is entrusting its use to either a conscious or an unconscious user. Each person on our planet has a dual identity and acts on two sets of beliefs, attitudes and values, kind of schizophrenic, if you will. Most of us have a worldview that life on our planet is like trying to survive in the jungle. This is our delusional identity that “believes” in the reality of all the problems enumerated in the first paragraph of this essay. That means most of us are going to have a lot of anxiety concerning how we see Facebook being used.
The truth is that as long as we identify with the worldview that we live in a “dog-eat-dog” narrative wherein other people—namely the other—cannot be trusted, we will use our technology in self-destructive ways. Vladimir Putin seems to agree with Elon Musk about the dangers of unconscious humans linking up with self-destructive technologies. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [A.I.] will become the ruler of the world.” (3)
Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 and Facebook’s mission statement reveals his inherent if naïve optimism. “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” (2) True enough if the behavior of those people is guided by their True-self identity but in today’s world human behavior is clearly controlled by a fear-driven false-self identity.
Science and the resulting remarkable technologies have never been the problem for the people of the Global Village but rather we must ask ourselves: What is the state of consciousness of the people applying that technology?
Insight # 10: We have only to rewrite our narrative which will change our identity and in turn transform human behavior.
- Introduction to the book Science and Philosophy: The Failure of Reason in the Human Community, by Roy Charles Henry.
- Gertner, Jon. “From Above.” The New York Times Magazine. September 17, 2017, pages 56, 61.
- Roose, Kevin. “Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment: A Creature That Defies Technology’s Safeguards Denied.” The New York Times. September 22, 2017, pages B1, B4.
- Dowd, Maureen. “Will Zuck ‘Like’ This Column?” The New York Times. September 24, 2017, page 9.