Technological Morality

Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

This iconic line from Jurassic Park uttered by Jeff Goldblum waxing reflective about the de extinction of dinosaurs was recently parroted by Dennis Mckenna on the Joe Rogan podcast in terms of creating Virtual Reality worlds. He implies that technology in and of itself is neither good or bad and I am torn on this.

I completely understand the dangers inherent with the creation of powerful technologies. The most immediate danger is always their weaponization. Nuclear power is humanities most immediate chance at clean sustainable energy for all but it is also the fuel for nuclear weaponry. Biological warfare is not easily separated from medical advancements in treatments for disease. No version of these discussions leads us back to a point where we would have been better off leaving these things undiscovered. If we as humans did stop to answer the question of “just because we can should we?” I cannot reach any other conclusion but an absolute yes. Not excusing the horrors of their misuse but we have powerful tools to fight infections and diseases that we were powerless against in the past. The behaviors of the worst of us cannot offset the victories that these discoveries have afforded us. I am the first to advocate every attempt be made for ethical and measured behaviors in the presence of advancing tech, but if it comes down to a choice between discovery and intentional ignorance the choice, in my humble opinion, needs to always favor discovery. No advancement has a net negative effect be it coal or plastic or virtual reality. Coal and plastics have had tremendous negative impact on the world but I challenge anyone to defend that humanity would be better off if they remained undiscovered. Coal fueled the creation of modern civilization. Plastic has given us a level of hygiene and sanitation that has saved an unthinkable amount of lives. So my position is that discovery and technological advancement is the most moral action we can take. Discovery is the source of knowledge, knowledge is the antidote to ignorance, and the choice to remain in ignorance in my opinion is the single most immoral choice that can be made. Fear is the only perspective that justifies the defense of anti creation and discovery. That cannot be the perspective we begin from. It is always better to know than to not.

The gift of humanity to be able to discover ourselves, and our world, and the universe is our most obvious purpose for being here. Everything that makes us unique is predicated on this ability. It is unforgivable not to discover everything possible about our existence. The earth rewards nothing to the extent it does the acquisition of knowledge. Every increase in our ability to survive and thrive has been the result of pursuing knowledge and the act of creation. An ethical code where significant attention is paid to minimizing or eliminating harm during the process is essential and indeed emerging. You cannot have a conversation about artificial intelligence without considering the potential impact and the necessity of caution and care. This is increasingly critical as the technologies we develop become ever more powerful, but our stride must not be broken. Not when so many still suffer and go without. So to reiterate my answer to the question of if we should I say yes. We absolutely should, and we must.

One thought on “Technological Morality

  1. sfedisshellie December 7, 2018 / 1:21 pm

    This is an important and powerful message. I appreciate your perspective.

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