How can one become upset at technology which could possibly wipe out disease as it is currently known? Should advances to explore increased human intelligence by modifying genes or creating devices that can be controlled just by thinking, not requiring action, be in some way halted or at least controlled? The world of technology is in essence moving towards capabilities that at one point was just a science fiction fantasy. Now that some of these are realities, who is responsible for making sure that something developed for the good of humankind, not be used for divisively or submissively? Technology can be observed from two perspectives, and one is medical or bio technology and the other is intelligence technology. Each impacts human life in different ways and has its own thresholds of overuse or inappropriate use. Technology and humans are not necessarily a match made in heaven and its relationship is very complex and has a plethora of reasons to pursue technology as far as humanly possible, and just as many reasons to halt or slow down the progress of technology for the good of humankind. A fine line exist between what can be done and what should be done. Scientist and governments around the world have an enormous responsibility because not everything that is possible is pursuable without repercussions that may be too costly to human life as it is now known.
Medical or Bio Technology
When speaking of medial or bio-technology, pharmaceuticals, transgenesis, and human enhancement are the specifics. Currently, prescription drugs that treat depression, anxiety, ADD, and other mental and physical ailments or abnormalities are on the rise. People are becoming progressively dependent on a pill to make them feel better. Susan Greenfield writes, “Increasing numbers of people already take Prozac for depression, Paxil as an antidote for shyness, and give Ritalin to children to improve their concentration. But what if there were still more pills to enhance or “correct” a range of other specific mental functions?” (Greenfield, 2015). This raises a series of legitimate concerns toward the overuse of prescription drugs and encourages the development of quick fixes for serious mental and emotional problems. In addition, an overwhelming number of synthetic drugs have side effects that are sometimes life threatening or life altering. This is a real indication that the human body does not respond well to some of the drugs introduced to it. Therefore, more drugs that would alter personality, would most likely cause something else to be out of sync. Therefore, the argument is rather complex and involves the intervention of law and science. Society must take the time to ascertain correct motives going forward to involve everyone and not only a small minority of interested parties.
As scientist move toward transgenesis, which is integrating genes of dissimilar origin such as plant genes with animal genes and similarly human genes with animal genes. There are those who believe humans are just another animal form, and are no greater or divine as some who are Christians believe, humans are made in the image of God (da Fonseca et al., 2012). The controversy surrounding this has also to do with creating the unnatural, which happens when science intervenes. The idea that humans should let nature take its course is ideally accepted by many, especially those outside the realm of scienticfic advances. Already, genectically modified organisms are used in everyday food, specifically corn. However, there are growing concerns against using GMO to feed the world. Therefore, it would stand to reason that there would be a problem if transgenesis regarding humans were to agressively move forward without oversight and control.
Technology and human enhancement is met with similar controversy as transgenesis. Heilinger and Crone 2014, associates freedom with human enhancement, and also acknowledges there is no consensus as to how freedom impacts arguments for or against human enhancement (Heilinger, 2014). On a basic and very socially accepted level one can consider plastic surgery as an enhancement. One has the freedom to change his or hers total body composition. However, without the ability to make cosmetic changes to the body, many medically necessary procedures which are life altering to children and adults alike would be impossible. Therefore the controversy rages on for and against human enhancement.
Intelligence technology can be define as those that interupt privacy, gaming, Internet, and streaming television. It might be summed up under Orwellian Technologies. There are the technologies that most enjoy, smart phones, Play Station, X-Box, GPS, satellite music streaming, and much more. When surfing the Internet the digital footprint that one leaves may be accessible in more ways than a person is comfortable with. Grant in the 2013 article “Orwellian Technologies That Exist Today” present some fairly frightening ideas about future technology.
The idea that at some point a person mind can be read is too much to digest. According to Grant even this possibility could be on the horizon (Grant, 2013). After all a person’s thoughts belong to him or her. When technology infringes on the privacy rights of individuals then it must be policed in some way. In addition, people should know when a third party is sharing or has access to their information. There are some protocols regarding privacy rights and is why many digital companies have privacy clauses and agreements that the request users to acknowledge or be advised of.
However, the idea that the Chinese government has HDTV video and audio technology that is able to tell who is watching television is certainly a privacy issue. The technology can detect facial expression during programing. In addition, while most believe the Internet has the ability to allow users to see the world, smart technology used by Google, termed “filter bubbles” filters out information based on a person’s prior searches, thus the information popping up is information the search thinks the user wants to know (Grant, 2013). Therefore, the search is bias.
Technology and humans may not be the perfect combination, but with foresight and limitations it can at least be more of an asset than a liability. Grant mentions in his article the onus is on the current generation to foresee that technology moves forward in a responsible way. This means there must be protocols and government regulations, and enforcement of these regulations to insure that people are not innocently giving away their freedoms. Technology and what it can do should be transparent so that the public can make informed choices.
- Flávio Guimarães da Fonseca, F., & Ribeiro, D. M. (2012, Dec. 12). Human Transgenesis: Definitions, Technical Possibilities and Moral Challenges. Philosophy & Technology, 25(4), pp. 513-524.
- Grant, S. (2013). Orwellian technologies that exit today.
- Greenfield, S. (2015). Modern technology is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist. Dailymail.co.uk.
- Heilinger, J. C. (2014). Human freedom and enchancement. Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy, 17(1), pp. 13-21.