Technology and the Human Community

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Technology and the Human Community

#1  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 10, 2012 10:21 am

This has been a very enjoyable course for my graduate degree.

For your consideration, here is one of my written assignments:

The_Metatron wrote:For this paper, we were given two tasks. First to demonstrate several instances, according to Burke, of an expanded understanding of the universe based on applied science and technology that radically altered the nature of human reality. Then, to identify issues which might prove to be equally important, and whose resolution might change the manner in which we perceive ourselves and the universe which surrounds us. Describe the potential for change based on such new insights.

Having read Burke's book, and seen much of his popular television series Connections, I believe that he often makes casual and loose connections in his material, fascinating though it is. He is a wonderful author to read though, as he does put the application of science and technology front and center into his work. Certainly a tall order, to do this and remain captivating to the reader.

He glossed over the name of Edward Jenner, the man who, in 1798, “used liquid from cowpox pustules to vaccinate people against smallpox” (Burke, 2000, p. 109). Now, here's an idea that may have done more to affect human reality than any other in modern times. What I mean by that reality, is the very reality of existing.

This was groundbreaking stuff, indeed. Jenner started the idea of vaccination, which was picked up again nearly 150 years later by Louis Pasteur, who took the idea further by developing ways to attenuate actual pathogens and use that to stimulate an immune response, notably in two particularly lethal diseases: anthrax and rabies (Asimov, 1984, pp. 679-680).

Today, what were once common killer diseases are nearly unknown. Some are eradicated, like smallpox. Polio is probably the next disease to be eradicated. Even in my own lifetime of nearly fifty years, immunizations have been developed to prevent some of the very childhood diseases that I enjoyed: measles, mumps, chickenpox, rubella.

I can hardly think of a more profound effect to the nature of our reality than to enable us to exist to experience it.

One wonders then, what possible future developments may have similarly profound effects? Effects that would change how we perceive ourselves, as set forth in the topic for this paper.

I find I have considerable difficulty getting my mind around the possibility of changing my self perception based on any new information or technology. That, however, is not the end of the quest to answer the question, I suspect. I would like to expand on the example given in our assignment for this paper, that “empirical proof of life beyond earth would certainly change our self perception and understanding.”

As found in a Gallup poll (Newport, 2012) and subsequently reported by CNN (Merica, 2012), just short of half of Americans hold a creationist view of our origins, and subsequently, the origin of life. That bald fact should shock the reader. America, the bulwark of technocracy, where nearly half of the people still hold a theistic or deistic cause for their existence.

Having some personal experience with matters of faith, and finally thinking my way through it, I have to agree that if we were to uncover unassailable evidence of life having arisen elsewhere, it would seriously affect the self-perceptions of the credulous.

Things we hold true in the absence of evidence, or even in the presence of contradictory, evidence put us in a precarious position indeed. Particularly when we are taught from the earliest age that it is a positive benefit to hold those beliefs, untested. Blind faith is taught as a desirable trait to possess.

The reason I bring this up in this fashion here is not necessarily to have another go at theism. But, to demonstrate the strength at which such beliefs are held. To strike so hard and resolutely at such beliefs with unassailable evidence will be met with formidable resistance. If past behavior is a guide, probably with outright denial by many.

I would expect a similar effect when we ultimately discover the likely sequence of events that led to biogenesis on this planet. Particularly when that sequence (or a similarly successful one) results in the formation of life from lifelessness in a laboratory.

Such a discovery would bring the concept of parsimony, otherwise known as Occam's razor, to bear on the problem of explaining the beginnings of life. We would be faced with a choice between two possibilities. One, a demonstrated physical process. The other, a supernatural explanation, by definition, untestable and unfalsifiable. The most likely of those two possibilities is the simplest.

My own concern regarding that day will be the realization by some of the credulous that we are, in fact, mud. Animals, though clever ones. I fear there will be some, perhaps many, among those who will begin to act like said animals, as if there is no consequence to their actions. Mobs are fickle things.














Asimov, I. (1984). Asimov's new guide to science. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Burke, J. (2000). Circles, 50 round trips through history, technology, science, culture. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Merica, D. (2012, June 1). Survey: Nearly half of americans subscribe to creationist view of human origins. Retrieved from http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/0 ... n-origins/

Newport, F. (2012, June 1). In u.s., 46% hold creationist view of human origins. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold- ... igins.aspx


Waddya think?
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#2  Postby Matt8819 » Jun 10, 2012 10:29 am

Bookmarking to read in the morning, what I skimmed seems interesting.
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#3  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 10, 2012 10:33 am

I have a half dozen of the other written assignments that I could put here, too. I just didn't think too many people would find them terribly interesting.

They are available for destructive criticism if anyone wants to see them.
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#4  Postby Matt8819 » Jun 11, 2012 5:57 am

That was actually a really good read. If I was smarter I would have more to add, but...well, I'm not.
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#5  Postby byofrcs » Jun 11, 2012 6:34 am

I remember the Burke Connections programs. They were great. They seemed just-so stories but compelling argument and that's why I believe that our technological development is a punctuated gradualism. We'll never always understand what is a kicker for technology to get it to a new metastable state until after the fact and Burke seemed to sweep the floor here in finding these.

I also believe that we are human simply because of our technology. Whilst supernatural thinking is the remnant of our animist views of the world I believe that our technology will prevail and will replace that thinking. More technology is more human. To retain your faith you need to freeze your technology level (vis a vis Amish etc).

Whilst we view the American technocracy as an anomaly with such high levels of belief in the supernatural, what I believe will happen is that there will be some innocuous kicker that will cause the society to jump to a new state of understanding of the world and it will be a sudden and massive change. I don't know what this will be - could be demonstration of abiogenesis, could be a talking ape, could be that one too many preacher skims the Church donations, could be that the current generation draws a line in the sand and says "No more religion".
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#6  Postby The_Metatron » Jun 11, 2012 3:19 pm

matt8819 wrote:That was actually a really good read. If I was smarter I would have more to add, but...well, I'm not.

Thanks for the compliment. My prof seems to enjoy what I've contributed so far, too. Good for my grades...

byofrcs wrote:I remember the Burke Connections programs. They were great. They seemed just-so stories but compelling argument and that's why I believe that our technological development is a punctuated gradualism. We'll never always understand what is a kicker for technology to get it to a new metastable state until after the fact and Burke seemed to sweep the floor here in finding these.

I also believe that we are human simply because of our technology. Whilst supernatural thinking is the remnant of our animist views of the world I believe that our technology will prevail and will replace that thinking. More technology is more human. To retain your faith you need to freeze your technology level (vis a vis Amish etc).

Whilst we view the American technocracy as an anomaly with such high levels of belief in the supernatural, what I believe will happen is that there will be some innocuous kicker that will cause the society to jump to a new state of understanding of the world and it will be a sudden and massive change. I don't know what this will be - could be demonstration of abiogenesis, could be a talking ape, could be that one too many preacher skims the Church donations, could be that the current generation draws a line in the sand and says "No more religion".

I tell you what caught my attention about your post, there. The talking ape. I suppose a similar idea would be if we ever figure out how to talk to cetaceans. Man, that'd rattle some cages for sure.
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#7  Postby byofrcs » Jun 13, 2012 12:04 pm

Yes, we genetically modify its genome to allow it the physical throat and voicebox structures to form words. The shit would then it the fan.
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Re: Technology and the Human Community

#8  Postby JoeB » Jun 13, 2012 2:39 pm

Nice read, cool assignment. :thumbup:

I can imagine that Computer Consciousness / True A.I. smarter than humans would also create a big splash in our societies.
You know the type, the one that mocks us for calling its superhuman intelligence 'artificial' :lol:
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