Soul-less Technology Hits Home-less Human
Has anyone else considered the many tragic ironies in the fact that a homeless person is the first fatality resulting from a self-driving car?
The first irony lies in the fact that so-called self-driving cars—which are actually self-less cars, i.e. cars without a “self” driving them—are a particularly blatant and sad expression of the current trajectory of technological and economic development, namely to replace the human, to make the human superfluous.
Taking into account trends in genetic engineering and those exemplified in the work of Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, we could even say the intent is to make the human being homeless; meaning to remove the natural world and body that is the home of the human soul and replace it with a mechanical, digital, genetically modified world and body.
But there is another irony as well. I happened to be in Tempe, Arizona, where this accident took place, on the same day, and I just so happened, earlier that day, to be get a ride from the airport to my mother’s home on a ride service called Lyft. And I just so happened to say to my driver: “Aren’t you worried that self-driving cars are going to take your job away, just as you guys have taken away jobs from the taxi- drivers?” My driver assured me that human drivers would always be an option but you will have to pay extra for that privilege.
That about says it all. In the techno future being prepared for us by the likes of Ray Kurzweil, you will have to pay extra for the privilege to be a human rather than a machine. And if you don’t happen to have the money, and you don’t want your life joined inextricably to a machine, you can join the ranks of the homeless together with the millions of other people whose jobs have been replaced by so called intelligent machines.
It might be tempting to think, as this accident suggests, that the homeless are not visible to the data sensors of the intelligent machines, and thus, if we stay off the streets, they will at least leave us alone. But I doubt it.
Technological innovation is being treated at this time like a manifest destiny; we are all being led to feel we have no choice in the face of increasing digitization and genetic modification of our lives, regardless of the loss of jobs, natural habitats and human soul capacities.
We love looking to past atrocities, like the Jewish holocaust or the genocide of the Native Americans and wringing our hands and talking about how we will never let that happen again. But we forget that these tendencies always rear their ugly head in a new form that is not so easy to recognize.
Materialistic science and technology once led us to a deeper understanding of the material world and enhanced our ability to live in this world with ease and grace. But their healthy age is past and they are beginning to undermine and distort the essential dignity of the human being and of the natural world. Is there anything we can do about it? This is topic I hope to take up in a future blog post.