We use technology to help us do things we cannot do on our own, or to help us overcome problems, but can technology actually build a better human?
I wonder, “What is a better human?” When we are sick, we get better. When one person accomplishes more than, or triumphs over, another person, they are said to be better. We can do things that are better for us than other things (eating better foods, comes to mind). It occurs to me that without technology, humans are subject to extensive dangers, such as wild animals or, the elements. Technology allows us to conquer the dangers and become better humans. Yet, as we are learning, technology can also present dangers. Further, since I am editing this durning the Coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic, we see that technology can’t be relied on as the final saviour of humankind. The best defense against the virus is to distance from other humans. This, of course, is dehumanizing. A simple cloth face mack cover half the face thereby extinguishing half of ones facial expressions and reducing the effectiveness of face-to-face interaction. But how might the Technojungle have played a part in the pandemic and how the Technojungle might help rescue humankind is still to be discovered. Ultimately, I feel as if all technology of the Technojungle is, and will be, at play here. This is a fascinating time and keeping an eye on the Technojungle is more important than ever. Humans can make better products and do things better (improvements), but can we make better humans? We want to be better humans, but we want to be human, so taming the Technojungle is a priority.
We use technology and the Technojungle to help us do some truly amazing things that set us ever further apart from any animal on the planet. As I mentioned earlier in the book, technology, and thus the Technojungle, is part of who we are and seems to be part of what makes us human. It can also dehumanize us in unexpected ways, often without our actually realizing it. Sometimes, I think, we simply let it dehumanize us for a variety of reasons such as, it can be quite captivating.
We can’t get rid of technology, nor should that be the aim. What would we do without technology and the Technojungle? What would life be like? Would we still be able to be human beings?
We need to, if possible, harness and steward this Technojungle to help us be the most human we can be in the future. As you safari both with us and on your own, learn to recognize the baggage the future can bring. Ask yourself, “How does the baggage that comes with the future humanize or dehumanize me and other people?” If we can come to understand what it means for each one of us to be human; and if we understand how technology affects our lives, we can have better control over how we each steward and manage the technology in our lives as we live and safari in the Technojungle.
The main question you need always ask as you travel on your Technojungle safaris is, “How does the technology in my life make me more or less human?” You can also ask, “Is technology changing my life in ways I really want, or like?” Both of these questions and other questions we have been asking along the way, need to be asked and answered if possible after careful observation and reflection.
Much of our technology solves problems. Hardly anyone would argue that Technojungle medical advances which help to heal injuries and illnesses should be questioned. Natural solutions might be worth considering first. Are all medications or surgeries necessary?
I had plantar fasciitis and was hobbling around. The doctor said I would need very expensive technological orthotics. I hobbled into a sports shoe and clothing shop. The fellow said that he’d had the condition before and that all I needed was this particular insole. He grabbed a box and tore it open as he told me that I was wearing the right kind of running shoes with a stabilizing section in the sole. He explained exactly how my feet would feel with this insole. I walked out very happy. I could walk with little pain, and he had saved me hundreds of dollars with a simple bit of technology.
At one point on my journey to healing my plantar fasciitis, I was talking with a fellow in the locker room who happened to be a doctor. The doctor said, “The longer I have been a doctor, the more I realize that the human body heals itself.” That is quite a statement. Does it imply that we run to the doctors first for Technojungle solutions, before we let the natural abilities of our own human body do their job? Do you expect technology—the Technojungle—to heal you? Or do you expect your body to heal itself and that your part is to help it to health and to stay healthy? Like other technologies that can cause our own abilities to rust, such as spelling using a spellchecker, could some medical technologies and medicines cause us to lose some of our body’s own healing abilities?
Can you make similar statements about other technologies we use? Calculators and spellcheckers can be seen as helping us along. A calculator helps us do math fast and accurately and a spellchecker helps us with words. What happens when we use Technojungle technologies like calculators and spellcheckers before we exercise our brain in doing it? Might we be leaving behind our ability to do these tasks naturally? Is it not better to exercise our minds? Are we losing skills and abilities that we should hold on to, or should we be letting them go as we safari into the Technojungle future?
The doctor in the locker room made an important observation that we should take with us on our safaris through the Technojungle. We must always strive for the human before the technological. Always be asking, “What is the more human way of doing a particular task and obtaining a particular result?”
We can wonder about how far medical technologies can go. Medical technologies have gone from fixing and repairing the human body, often with transplants from other people, to replacing parts with artificial Technojungle technologies. Knee, hip, heart and other similar replacements have been done for years, even decades. Some body part replacements may not last as long as the natural ones, however they get a person active again and that makes the person more human, right? An entire face can now be replaced. A partial face transplant from a donor was in 2005 and full face transplant was done in 2010. But who is the person when that happens? Can they be recognized?
I can remember the first heart transplant. It was 1967 and it made a huge splash in the news. I can also remember the first artificial heart. That was not too many years later in 1982. It also made a huge splash in the news and was made of plastic.
A person missing an arm or leg can have a prosthetic one that can bring them some of the functionality of a real human arm or leg. When a better prosthetic is available, the old one can be replaced. What happens however when the Technojungle replacement parts become better in some ways than the real human body parts? Would a smart limb with extra features beyond those of a human be advantageous for some people? Would somebody with a non-limb threatening injury opt to have an artificial limb to gain extra abilities? It struck me that a football quarterback could have his real arm replaced with a bionic one to throw perfect football passes. How would that change the game? 3D bionic super-seeing eyes are just around the corner and, to be sure, they will have cameras. With so much money involved, something like this happen is possible in the unexpected future. In the future, will certain humans be modified to better perform certain functions in society—humans with bodies built for particular purposes in the Technojungle? What if the replacement part is connected to the Internet of the Technojungle? Would there be an app for that?
We use computers to amplify certain abilities of the human mind. Plato suggested that writing would cause humans to “…implant forgetfulness…” and “…cease to exercise memory…” (see sidebar). People had tremendous memories in ancient times; it was felt that if ideas and thoughts could be written down, people would no longer have need to remember things. How often do we use an Internet search engine to find information that we might already have known in the past? Where is this leading to for life in the unexpected future of the Technojungle? What baggage is there to unpack here?
“If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.”
― Plato, Phaedrus
Clearly stated in this work of Plato is, not only a comment on the results of turning to writing things down, but also the difference between information, knowledge, and even wisdom which I explained earlier in the book.
What would Plato say about AI? That it offers no intelligence, but simply the amplification of human data and information devoid of real knowledge and experience that leads to wisdom?
We carry around devices that put the Technojungle and the world at our fingertips. We can connect with anyone anywhere at any time. How often have you used a communications technology when a real face to face human communication was possible? What are you avoiding in these instances? What would Plato comment here, that we offer a semblance of communicating and connecting? What else would Plato say about our ways of communicating and connecting?
We all seem to love our devices and some people can’t wait to customize them in some way, often with a decorative case. But, doesn’t the idea of us humans carrying around devices with our important personal information held inside them seem to have some drawbacks? Have you ever lost your smartphone or left it at home? I have and I know how it feels.
We have come to rely on these devices for communication and information—they are our world and the Technojungle at our fingertips. They are a part of us and contain much of who we are. We allow them to command our immediate attention with a simple ping, and to interrupt our conversations with other people. Do these devices make us better humans? What might you have thought about this if you lived fifty years ago?
The Technojungle keeps moving, growing, and evolving. If these devices are just an interim step toward some unexpected future, what might be coming down the Technojungle path? What Technojungle development could be spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic and how will they impact our humanness and humanity?
Can that which we use externally from our own body and mind make us better humans? Does Plato object to using writing, or does he just warn that we must be carefully aware of what we are doing and how it changes us? This would be exactly what I am proposing in this book.
In our attempts to develop technologies to build better humans in the Technojungle, at some point, will these devices, machines, and other technologies, such as biological, end up building us in some way? You will order a boy or girl, and even predispose the child to have certain abilities. How do you see our machines and technologies defining who we are, what we do, and how we live our lives today? What would define an even better human? What changes would we call improvements?
Will the problems associated with carrying devices around, such as dropping, losing, or forgetting to bring them with us be solved in the future by making the Technojungle, part of our bodies? Could embedding sophisticated technology in the human body to merge human and smart machine be one day considered normal? Do you think this might make us superhuman? Can you think of any baggage that might come with such a move of the Technojungle? Surely by then, this will mean we have built better humans. We are already embedding technology in the human body, so it is likely that more and more sophisticated technologies will become part of us in the future, particularly as threats such as terrorism rise. I leave you to think about these ideas and the unexpected baggage that might arrive with the future of building better human beings for life in the future?
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced the need for contact tracing. Technologies have emerged for smartphones to keep track of who you come in contact with prior to being confirmed as infected with the Coronavirus so those other people can be tested. With the rush to create a vaccine which would possibly allow people to resume a more pre-pandemic lifestyle, ideas of tracking who has had the vaccination and is therefore safe to move about in society freely have brought up ideas of tattoos and implants. People without the protection will be restricted. A serious unexpected future has arrived and the Technojunge plays a part. Will other pandemics follow? What other emergencies and disasters will likely come in the future? How will the Technojungle jump in and play a role?
We are living in the future, and our lives may be nearing what would most certainly have been referred to as far-fetched only a few years ago. While we can be fed promises of possibilities that are coming in the future on the one hand, on the other hand, we are often told that these technologies are a long way from becoming part of our regular life. In my observations, experts who are close to the development of a technology are usually blinded by the difficulties of the development process. This makes them notoriously short sighted in their predictions. However, if governments and corporations (or people dealing with disasters like a pandemic) of the future see the technology as beneficial or necessary for them, they will find the ways and means of persuading us to integrate the new technologies into our lives and our bodies as we live deeper in the depths of the Technojungle.
What Technojungle technologies have you seen or experienced that you would have considered far-fetched earlier in your lifetime? How have they changed your life? What other far-fetched technologies can you imagine for the future? Why might they come into our lives sooner than we think?
Should we be attempting to build better human beings—even being superhuman beings—by making the Technojungle part of our bodies? Wouldn’t learning how we can redeem and reclaim that which we may have lost, retain and maintain what we have today, and protect our humanness and humanity in the future by being human beings and living in a world of technology—the Technojungle—make more sense?
As we build better technologies, we are also building better humans and better human lives. With better the key word, we need to keep our eyes on just what that means.