Technology and Stoicism
“Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our mind” - Plato
Stoicism is a beautiful thing to behold at an individual level. It benefits many people, but it's so much deeper than that, Stoicism is a philosophy that can be applied to anything. Today I wanted to touch on technology and the struggle that I hear most with advancing technology, which is fear of its overwhelming fast development.
I understand it can be scary at times when we hear of AI becoming so advanced that they can now draw “better”, I’m making air quotes by the way. Or that self driving cars will have to choose between hitting one older lady for a group of children. Or that Elon is trying to control us with his Neuralink brain implant.
As a modern stoic, something we need to understand is that we cannot control what individual businesses and organizations do. This is the reality. I know it can be scary, this idea of technology going too far, but does this fear help us in any way? No, and it never will. The only things we can do are to urge our politicians to have a form of regulation but all this does is ensure the path is the best one, it still does not stop it from happening. Dreading the future for what will come will only present us more suffering.
Let’s discuss why we can grow fearful at times. The big one, being modern media, the big headlines that seem to be creepy but don’t display the real full picture. I’ll use this example I read a while back. Neuralink may start human implants by next year. Neuralink for those of you who don't know is a company co-founded by Elon Musk with the goal of connecting the brain to the internet. He’s apparently starting trial next year. Now this headline is meant to grab you, in some cases, at the expense of making you weary, or nervous of what is yet to come.
Should we really be concerned? As a stoic, we should release judgement first, gain knowledge and wisdom before reacting or forming an opinion. Once we do this, you would know that Elon has stated on many occasions that his goal first and foremost is to solve paralysis, speech issues, neurological concerns, chronic pain and more. Problems of the body. By implanting a device in the brain. Now this sounds much better! You should have seen the news when this announcement first came out, the SkyNet level of stuff was very scary and anyone I talked to was entirely skeptical!
This is an example of how the media changes perception, and they do this with everything. We’ve unfortunately come to a time where being first in the media is the number one thing, no matter how exaggerated it is, no matter how much fear it causes to the public. And it's faster too, with technology. But after telling you the real goal of Neuralink, should we be this scared? No, of course not and the benefits far outweigh the risk, technology will benefit people.
Generally when I hear breaking news, I suspend my judgement first before I say anything. I will have an initial thought but I try not to form my own opinions until I’ve gathered enough details on what is being said.
Another reason we grow fearful of technology is modern movies, and their depictions of tech. Many of which are told as warnings to humanity of an uprising kind of technology. Take terminator for example, this movie opened up the door to people being so afraid of technology taking over the world. While this has a very slim to no chance of ever happening, it really made people fear the development of technology. Am i being rational in my fear? This is the first question we should ask ourselves. Go deeper, am I an expert in this domain? No, is this just a movie? Yes, and one that is trying to tell a story. No movie on earth can tell the future, or even has told the future. Please don't mention the Simpsons hehe
The fact of the matter is, technology more often than not benefits humanity and if there is one thing we can take from the great stoics it's that change is the only constant. We cannot expect humanity to stop progressing for fear of something we know nothing about. Are you an expert in artificial intelligence? So why concern yourself with things that you know little about? Don't stress, leave that stuff up to the scientists, engineers, inventors.
As a stoic, the concerns about technology should not come from the technology itself, but from the people who are in charge of it. This reality shift will help us realize that technology is an ally in human development, but humans are the ones capable of evil. Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Aristotle, have all stated in one way or another that we cannot know true good without accepting the capabilities of being evil. So what then is a stoic to do? Well for one, our voices need to be heard. Speech needs to be upheld, if we allow a certain level of controlled speech, we’ve opened up the door to question other levels of controlled speech. Why not control this if the masses are ok with this speech being controlled. The monitoring of what is being controlled becomes muddled.
But this speech is important, so we can call out the negatives of emerging technology. We should also take the extra step in protecting our individual technology, like getting a VPN, or an antivirus software. Finally, we should always be open to questioning the morality of technology as a benefit to humanity while understanding how it would be controlled. Not the technology itself.
Lastly, before we question technology, don't allow yourself to think of the worst just yet. Think of the positives that it can do, because that entrepreneur has taken it upon himself to solve a problem for society, it's time we see this first before we deny its validity to benefit humanity.