IEET > Vision > HealthLongevity > Technoprogressivism
Existential Reality
Mike Treder   Feb 9, 2010   Ethical Technology  

Take a long view of humanity. See the centuries of quotidian drudgery between periods of roiling tumult, flashes of genius amidst endless toil, billions upon billions who barely live and silently die. Ask how we are not the same.

Human beings are flawed, desperate, grasping, haunted creatures. We are tool-using, myth-making apes; intelligent animals, to be sure, but animals at our core. We don’t really know ourselves, have little understanding of our past, can’t conceive of a future much different from the present.

A small fraction dominates the rest, as has always been the case. Wielding wealth and power to gain more wealth and power, exploiting advantage to maintain advantage, they use religion and popular culture to placate and subjugate the vaguely dissatisfied masses.

imageMost of us simply exist, never asking why it should be this way or how it might be different. We are either too hungry, too busy, or too afraid. The tiny fraction that does ask questions can’t agree on the answers, and anyway have no power to effect change.

Into this implacable existential vérité from time to time come prophets who offer a way out, a way up, a better world, an attainable future of happiness, justice, and plenty. Extolling the virtues of God, the Market, the System, or the Machine, all they ask is faith and following.

Turmoil at the top, fleeting hope for real change, and it soon settles down to more of the same.

Years roll on, decades pass, leaders rise, thrive, then pass away. Meanwhile the nameless faceless hordes claw, struggle, breed, suffer, and disappear, generation after generation. Not one in a thousand—not one in a million—of these grasping, haunted humans is remembered beyond the grave.

As it ever was.

Now we come to our time. The new day. The century of accelerating returns, of Friendly AI, of nano-cornucopia, of endless life, of The Singularity.

Is this more of the same? Do the oracles of transhumanism and techno-utopia have a genuinely novel message? Or is it merely recycled hope, old wine in new bottles?


Our challenge is to be unafraid of pondering such difficult questions, and to be unashamed of admitting the tentative and contingent nature of our proposals.

Taking a long view, acknowledging our likely insignificance within the broad sweep of history, cultivating humility and shunning grandiosity—all this can help fix us firmly in reality and make our plans more likely to be taken seriously, and maybe, just maybe, to actually make a difference.

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.



COMMENTS

Though I basically agree with your analysis of past, current, and perhaps future history, I prefer cultivating grandiosity and shunning humility.

Humility is a dirty word in my vocabulary. Preaching humility has been one of the tools used by, as you say, small fractions to dominate the rest. Be humble, and be happy to be humble, while we make money and power. This is still the case today—when I hear exhortations to humility, I see a gun pointed at us little people. Let’s not fall in this trap, and let’s embrace grandiosity.

I must agree with Giulio and also add,  Humility has been the downfall of our species.  It opened the door to the acceptance of archetypes. Which have held us back from the free thought we are fully capable of.  In other words controlling the masses with of shame. We must embrace grandiosity being fully aware of the responsibility attached to it. Something that we have been capable of doing for all of time but felt shame well knowing it was simply the fear of the unknown, yet blaming it on one another.
We must rise above these insecurities to break out of our destructive mindsets in order to imagine our truths.

We are all very tiny cogs.  But the big wheel can’t turn without all those little pieces working together. 

How about humbly working for a grand goal?  I would like to help achieve a better world for everyone, not for any personal recognition.

@Marianne: I agree, but why “humbly”? Why not boldly, daringly and confidently?

To achieve a goal, we must believe the goal is achievable, and that our own efforts can make a difference. Otherwise, it is impossible to keep motivation.

If you believe in yourself, and reject humility, you can achieve your goals. If you humbly refuse to believe in yourself, you certainly won’t.

“Though I basically agree with your analysis of past, current, and perhaps future history, I prefer cultivating grandiosity and shunning humility.

Humility is a dirty word in my vocabulary. Preaching humility has been one of the tools used by, as you say, small fractions to dominate the rest. Be humble, and be happy to be humble, while we make money and power. This is still the case today—when I hear exhortations to humility, I see a gun pointed at us little people. Let’s not fall in this trap, and let’s embrace grandiosity. “

@Giulio Prisco
i respectfully disagree. being humble does not mean not reaching for the stars or doing something great it means when you do accomplish it to not act like your some demi god the world should worship.
like winning the superbowl and thanking teammates for their hard work.
Basically you can still do anything if your humble as long as you don’t let it go to your head and act like a narascist.

“when I hear exhortations to humility, I see a gun pointed at us little people. ”—Giulio

It’s sad that you’re turning against humility just because you’ve witnessed only calls for humility.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a Mike Treder article that I wasn’t very impressed with. Always thoughtful, level-headed and insightful, in my opinion.

It’ll be tough cultivating humility as our technology advances yearly, monthly, hourly, giving us powers we can barely envision now.

Technological Singularity, here we come.

The only way we can progress in full humility is to lose the monetary system.

Let’s just be honest with ourselves, it’s just a charade.

Melissa, do you mean that the only way society can progress in full humility is to lose the monetary system, or the only way individuals can progress in full humility is to lose the monetary system?
I know some unbelievably humble people, and if the monetary system they’re living under hinders their humility in any way, you wouldn’t know it.

If peoples motivation to do things are for their own fulfillment, is it not called greed? Its not called humility, its a selfish act to some even when its done humbly.
If everyone were to get exactly what they want and never had to pay for it with money, just fulfilling one another. We would see a dramatic change for the better in people and society. When we pay for things that we gain enjoyment and comfort from. It puts a price on our lives. It makes us livestock. Take that price away and we start to become our full potential. Some say Godlike others say humble. It dosent matter the word when the act is the same.

How about when we can grow everything we want in our nanotech replicators and not have to trade work or goods with anyone else?  I suspect this really won’t make us all that humble, not when we have the productive power of a medium-sized nation in our basement or garage.

“If everyone were to get exactly what they want…”

There’s such a thing as human nature that I think you’re neglecting to consider.

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