Tuesday, November 03, 2009

the post-human soul

Technology, our problem child without a soul?

Humans' relationship with technology is an interesting one. It can be said that humans invented tools to make their lives easier. That said, this invention gave life to technology. Tools led to machines. Machines led to robots and computers. Today's technology is a world of integrated machines, robots and computers. Technology grows ever more pervasive and complex, all the time consuming more and more resources and power. Increasingly, human beings are employed in service to technology rather than the other way round. It is therefore logical that such films as those in the Terminator series or TV shows such as the Star Trek episode "What are Little Girls Made of?" derive from human anxieties over the prospect of one day being phased out by the very machines we gave birth to and reared. Both these examples depicted a world where technology alone is void without the presence of the human soul. Alone, robots and computers are too calculating and lacking in sympathy, these examples implied, to effectively replace humans.

But could it be that technology will survive human beings no matter what? Is this what Wall-e was about? (I didn't see it.) That was basically the plot of Kubrick/Spielberg's AI. But in AI, the robot boy did appear to possess feelings. But that may not be relevant.

Western Man in Search of a Soul

Much of what gives us humans our character is that while we as a species possess common characteristics of appearence and behavior, we live and function as isolated individuals. While we can communicate and share with each other, we ultimately die alone. Some say - and I may yet agree with them - that while our physical bodies die alone, all that each of us experiences is part of something collective and/or universal. But particularly in the West, there is a powerful notion of individual existence. It is exactly this which makes Western humans human, makes our lives so precious, gives our property value, etc.

What will be the soul of technology?

The way technology seems to be moving, and the direction it apparently *must* move if it is to have a post-human existence, is one of total integration. This would be an existance where every component of technology is part of some larger self-sustaining system full of monitors and checks and maintance and repair mechanisms. We humans have such system, but we a population of physically nearly identical units. Technology is and likely will continue to be a vast array of widely varied components with vast physical differences. The brains behind this technology may consist of individual processors and neural networks, but it would not be easily compared to the world of us humans. But for technology to survive human beings, it needs an overarching consciousness to observe, govern and guide itself.