Hello out there in cyberland, how are you? Things have been happening. This has been a very telling year. The true meaning of the technological age is becoming apparent, and it is not a benign thing. Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend. Democracy Can Sow the Seeds of Its Own Destruction. Your Mind Can be Hijacked. These are just three of the titles of significant articles, written by respected philosophers, journalists, and others interested in our current cultural situation that have appeared in the press the last few months.
I have been researching the impact of technology on the mind and soul for decades now. Make no mistake: This is a warning. It’s time to surmount the terminally defended attitude that any global criticism of the burgeoning technological age is the province of the tinfoil-hat crowd. I will be discussing a nexus of associations that can be traced back to the likes of Samuel Butler with his seminal examination of machine technology from 1872, Erewhon, Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society, and Giedion’s Mechanization Takes Command, from the mid-20th century, and many other related texts. At bottom, what I will be doing is to articulate a critque of the spirit of science as it has developed since the rise of Positivism in the mid-19th century, itself an offshoot of the drive to install Empricism as the master myth of our time. This is destined to lead to a place not one of us wants to go. Intelligence, contrary to the opinions of thinkers imbued with the positivistic spirit such as Sam Harris, and Ray Kurzweil, cannot legitimately be reduced to information processing. The Zuckerberg contingent is deficient in the grasping of the implications of the Geisteswissenschaft/Naturwisssenschaft dichotomy, and the individual mind and the social realm are both showing major deleterious effects already, only a quarter-century into this brave new experiment. Come with me on this journey. It will soon be too late to turn back from our plunge into that frigid realm where the affective domain meets its Waterloo.