Signs of the apocalypse: Not technology
So let’s get one thing straight: I’m pretty sure the advances humans are making in technology are a sign of the apocalypse – whether that means that we will cause the world as we know it to implode ala nuclear war, or if it means we’ll land ourselves in horrific dystopia – I do not know. Not everyone agrees however, and it certainly behooves us to take the skeptic’s perspectives into account.
Our dear pals over at Wired featured the most charming story in the magazine’s latest edition proposing that technology, rather than being a harbinger of the apocalypse shall spare us all. The reasoning is this: Over the past several decades – millennia in fact – humans as a species have faced countless challenges and predictions of doom…and we have overcome them all. So who’s to say we won’t continue to defy all odds? As technology continues to advance we continue to overcome.
The article cites the below events as the basis for it’s argument:
“The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes. So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons—the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It—have consistently failed to materialize.”
While some, including the writer himself, look on this as a fairly sound argument I question the author’s inherent assumptions. First, he argues that, because something has not happened to humans it is impossible. I stress the word ‘humans’ here because mass extinction has occurred before – dinosaures and the dodo bird, for instances. While it’s certainly true that dodo bird intelligence is not analogous for human intelligence or the capacity for innovation we – knowing that we do not know everything and that there is room for improvement – cannot possibly know there will never been an event our intelligence is unable to overcome.
Second, the reasoning in the Wired argument is circular, meaning it assumes what it sets to prove. Humans will be alive tomorrow because they are today and they have been alive in the past. This is not an argument, it’s a prediction. Quite similarly, as preppers we predict that the world may end in our lifetimes however, this prediction is made in the face of imperfect information rather than assuming, by analogy, that things will continue on as they always have. Dare I say that preppers may be the more logical party? Perhaps.
That aside, the Wired article raises and interesting point and I encourage you all to read it. Human beings are innovative, we have overcome everything ranging from the inability to hall weight long distances (animal domestication and the wheel) to public health (sewers) to long distance, real-time, non-verbal, indirect, interpersonal communications (blogs). Humans have done some truly amazing things – I just worry the next amazing thing will be the first foot into a dystopian society I’d rather not be a part of (who’s to say that just because humans continue to exist means we all want to be part of humanity?) or that it will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s (read: mother earth’s) back.