Technology and the significant challenges of humanity
Technology and the significant challenges of humanity – Issues. We live in a time of accelerated scientific change. Could this change affect human evolution? How? Will the essence of the human being change? Antonio Garrigues, jurist and honorary president of the Garrigues law firm, and Juan Luis Arsuaga, Instructor of Paleontology at the Complutense University of Madrid, director of the UCM-ISCIII Center for Human Evolution and Behavior and co-director of Atapuerca, try to answer these questions.
technology and human evolution
Arsuaga remembers that we were not born yesterday. On the contrary, we have lived thousands of years as homo sapiens and millions as hominids. In Cervantes’ time, there were no motor vehicles, aeroplanes, television, or mobile phones. However, the works that he wrote are still perfectly valid in today’s world. What has not changed are the human soul and its fundamental aspects. And they will not change in the future. Ambition, greed, love, and jealousy are great passions of the human soul. Don Quixote tells us about them, and they continue to interest us. Those passions that make us understand Cervantes are not going to change.
Despite all that technology is changing, all of that will continue to be present in future generations. So businesses should keep our aspirations, desires and certainties in mind. They will be the same as Shakespeare’s time, in his passions and greatness. It is around this that the future must be built.
Technology and human values
The problem, warns Antonio Garrigues, is that technology is beginning to play an outsized, determining role. That is a drama that comes from afar. Heidegger hated technology. Ortega, a little less. But he said that the mathematical man does not accept the integrity of knowledge, which goes much further. We cannot talk about technology if we do not connect it with human values. We cannot forget that we have a technological deficit in Spain, nor that technology helps economic growth. But we cannot mythologize technology.
Technology, however, is not reversible, points out Juan Luis Arsuaga. Everything that is invented cannot be uninvented. That is the premise of the story. The second premise is that the solution is never in the past. Nostalgia is a human feeling, but that happy past is not accurate. It is the myth of the Amish, who have decided to live as in the 19th century, which was a horrible society. They accept a predictable community, which produces a lot of tranquillity. For this reason, the security provided by a predictable community is sought.
Ortega said that our parents give us life, but they provide it to us without doing it. We have to do it ourselves. That didn’t happen in the past, but having to live our lives is the price of freedom. Among the Amish, that concern does not exist. This model, however, is unfeasible. Parents cannot help their children build their own lives. So you have to make your own life out of it and that’s painful. That vital anguish is accentuated in the present because the future is more uncertain than ever. It changes quickly because we have abandoned the traditional societies in which they gave you everything, even marriage. What is the recipe for overcoming this worry? That of trust in your abilities. If you trust your abilities, you don’t have to see the future as a threat.
In the end, the goal of human beings is to be happy, recalls Garrigues. There are studies, responds Arsuaga, which say that the happiness index is higher, precisely, in societies without freedom. But, he adds, I don’t want that society for myself.
knowledge and happiness
Knowledge, philosophy, effort, generosity, understanding of others, and being a good person make us happy.
The human being, continues Garrigues, has to maintain intellectual curiosity permanently. Connecting one’s human satisfaction with the idea of doing nothing is stupid. Technology has nothing to do with happiness, nor should it make us happier. Knowledge, philosophy, effort, generosity, understanding of others, and being a good person make us happy. Kindness has a lot to do with happiness. The bad guys are not satisfied; they can be powerful and wealthy but not happy.
Technology is neutral, adds Arsuaga, but it is cumulative. Be part of knowledge, and you can only increase it. You mix biology and computer science, and you have biotechnology. The next generation is already there.
Is it possible to improve the human condition with transhumanism? asks Garrigues. For Arsuaga, that doesn’t make any sense. The capacities to accumulate knowledge in our brains are as old as the Sumerian tablets. None of that is going to happen. Transhumanism improves human conditions via technology and through manipulating the brain, responds Garrigues. Arsuaga believes this will not happen because we do not have a notion of intelligence. When it is said that we will expand intelligence, the first thing to do is to ask what intelligence is. There is no single intelligence.
Arsuaga indicates that intelligence is widely distributed. Our knowledge of being smart has been changing over time. Before, an engineer was considered very intelligent. Then it has been seen that he could be socially incompetent or without motivation. In the end, it was even said that intelligence consists of knowing how to sell a second-hand car. Human intelligence is a machine that has grown and evolved to process social information. That machine, which was selected to survive in a group, can be applied to other systems and analyze different situations. Twenty-four hours a day are spent processing social information. What worries us most are the others. A person without social skills would not be an intelligent person.
At this point, Garrigues asks Arsuaga if Atapuerca has given him any insight into the human condition. And Arsuaga answers that we are a biological species that has evolved. Furthermore, there has been a paradigm shift in intelligence. Our brain is an organ whose function is to analyze systems and predict their behaviour. For a while, we thought that it was developed to solve ecological problems, such as hunting. Before, the plan was the ecosystem, and our intelligence had developed to predict its behaviour. In primates, brain size is correlated with group size. The larger the group, the larger the brain size. Loners have smaller brains. There is a correlation because the brain is a machine for processing social information.
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