Wednesday. I have been interrupted most of the morning and it is almost lunchtime [in fact, I have been interrupted again, and it is now almost evening!] anyway, so what the hey! Fandango’s Provocative Question.
In a nutshell, this week Fandango asks whether there will come a time when we’re screwed by technology? He calls that point a singularity.
I don’t think technology, in itself, will screw us. I think technology is amoral. But all technology has a purpose, or multiple purposes, which might be good or bad. Take nuclear power. For good, we have electricity. Put to one side how clean or cheap this electricity is. For bad, we have Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and so on.
A lot of these incidents, we could rightly pose the question, how far can we move forward technologically, without human beings screwing things up?
Plus, of course, as we get more advanced, our technology might require some scarce resource, so fighting over that might screw us. Oil here is an obvious example. Wars have already been fought over oil.
So I don’t think from that that technology will screw us, but human nature has a much better chance.
But even if you do assume a singularity (I’ve never heard that before in this context – a point in time where a step backward might save us, and a step forward might end us), would we recognise that we’re at that point?
I’d argue not. I’d draw parallels with climate change. Sure there are noisy protests what we are about to, or have already, fall over the precipice. But most govrnments, and people with financial interests, continue to believe that it is something we need to worry about, but not just yet. And they’ll still be saying that when the waves are lapping over their feet. Some just don’t worry at all – I guess they think that if there ever is a problem, well, they’ll be long gone by then. Or that by then, they’ll have amassed sufficient collateral that they can buy their way out.
So I’d say technology progress will be something similar. Would we ever get to the point where we collectively say, we’ve gone far enough? I doubt it.