“He and the tech titans who founded Google,Facebook, eBay, Napster and Netscape are using their billions to rewrite the nation’s science agenda and transform biomedical research.“
“It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer.” Bill Gates.
Has science failed humanity? Dead Science Walking
What is the purpose of science? Whatever it is, it has failed in improving the quality of relations among humans over the last two centuries. Many of the products of science are inaccessible to the majority of people; they often end up used as weapons of mass destruction and in private hands.
But if you thought that science has lost touch with our personal and social needs, expect things to get really grotesque:
“their objective is to use the tools of technology — the chips, software programs, algorithms and— to understand and upgrade what they consider to be the most complicated piece of machinery in existence: the human body.”
This is the new science, were the concepts of knowledge and the thing to be ‘known’ – the body (not the person that inhabits it) – are devoid of their humanity and of human concerns: thinking and the self are reduced to 0’s and 1’s, to wiring and coded instructions, to digitized brains.
Computer technology, as with all technology, is a tool; it produces computerized consumer goods, but has been elevated to the class of new science, one which officially dispenses with the scientific method, the heart of Western science, and with all the requirements it demands fulfilling before one can claim a scientific achievement.
In this post I will discuss how the tech giants are enacting a technological coup against our national science sector to crown computer and data hoarding technology as the official valid ‘science’ of our society. It’s a ‘science’ controlled by them; and it is up to you to decide whether it is in your best interest and of society for this handful of billionaires to impose their personal god-like ‘scientific’ priorities (immortality, for example) over the rest of us.
I also discuss at the end of the post my view of Buddhism as a conception of the ‘new Homo sapiens’. The Buddha said “you don’t need technology to achieve an all-knowing mind”. Well, he didn’t say it like that, but that’s what he would say today. It’s either the tech giants’ grotesque idea of ‘all-encompassing mind’ as mind uploading sci-fi or the Buddha’s development of mind by natural means to achieve knowledge with a heart, with a purpose: developing compassion to stop hurting each other and destroying the planet. It’s your choice.
Is it sciences’ duty to fix social problems? What is the purpose of science? What is science? Is science the same as technology? Should it be in private hands?
Ditching the Scientific Method: Tech Giants’ Scientific Revolution
The new millennium has started with a humanity-changing ideological scientific revolution, um, not a good one. Today, an elite of non-scientists billionaire computer technology businessmen, dubbed “the tech giants” (TG) by our mainstream media, are single-handedly, openly, shamelessly and arrogantly subverting our notions of science and appropriating our public national scientific sector. They are imposing on our society their ‘scientific’ agenda, and they don’t welcome our input.
Their attitude, exquisitely saturated with overestimation of their personal importance to humanity, is most relevant today in any discussion of the state and future of the modern scientific profession, and in deciding our scientific goals and policies in the future.
These technocrats have declared that the scientific method, science itself, is useless and anachronistic, basically unnecessary to achieve what god and nature have been unwilling to grant ‘man’ (meaning them): immortality. You don’t need science or god for that! All you need is hubris. Their next logical priority is ‘controlling the evolution of the new Homo sapiens’ through their patented computer technology
Their impact on the scientific sector is palpable. They are buying scientists and researchers (privatizing science) who are churning out the results they were paid to produce, without oversight and with disregard to ethical and quality control considerations, without conventional science to corroborate their claims. And their futuristic visions are now part of our culture, absorbed through our interactions with their computer products: PC games, iPhones and other computer tech wonders.
The New Homo sapiens Roboticus
The phrase now in vogue ‘the evolution of the new Homo sapiens’ is nothing but a metaphor for the envisioned transformation of every aspect of human relations through technology in private hands: finance, business, entertainment, access to improved ‘life-expectancy’ technology, crime prediction, environment-changing technology, warfare…That’s enough to merit worrying about junk science, again.
The focus of technology is on products of physical comfort, not on the pursuit of deep knowledge about life, what is the mind, what is the self, consciousness, what makes us human, and knowledge itself; yet, they claim having successfully replicated some of those human capacities they admit they don’t understand. But they have also said they don’t need to understand what consciousness is. That claim from them make sense to me.
In technology you only need data because you are only producing objects, consumers products. So, the technologists‘ vision of the new Homo sapiens is of a robot imitating human motions devoid of moral components. This is passing as science, even though the robot is only a tool, i.e., technology.
On the other hand, the act of inserting a chip in a human brain (to ‘update’ that person’s mind, I guess) doesn’t create a new humanity: the person can’t pass the chip implanted in his/her brain to his/her child during conception. What is new is the relation between humans, where the owner and producer of the chip and software can control the behaviors of those carrying his computer products by code and from the distance. If that prospect doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you, I envy you.
THE LANGUAGE OF PSEUDO-SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY
Being that the tech giants expertise is computer technology, their view of ‘man’ evolves parallel to their products, conceptualized in the language of their craft, visualized as dressed with the materials of their products: computer, PC, (digital) data, software, electronic circuitry, silicon chips…
For example: In computer technology the words ‘store’ and ‘primary storage‘ used to define a container that stores electronic circuitry which can be turned on and off by applying high or low current; those words are now obsolete, not representing the evolved tech giants’ view of humans as an inferior form of the super computer they are striving to build.
So, the tech giants swapped terms of art of their craft, like ‘primary storage‘, with terms associated with human capabilities or living matter: the container for circuits became ‘memory‘. It’s not human memory – we have no silicon chips in our brains (yet) – but computer memory, coded commands, 1’s and 0’s, now viewed as equivalent or superior to that of humans, even though it is still only a ‘container’. Computer memory is a metaphor usurping the identity of human memory, so to speak.
The consumers’ passive interaction with the products of computer technology (PC, iPhone, etc.) allows, by mere habit of using the technical terms, for updating their definition of memory, accepting the metaphorical as being the real thing.
Computer technology is the accumulation of data acquired, mostly illegally and unbeknownst to us, from every single human interaction with a computer online, for the purpose of coding instructions for a machine to produce movements which we interpret as ‘human-like’. That is their science, how to acquire data and organize it. But, that’s really technology, not ‘living science’. Life is about biological processes, computer software is about electronics and coding. There’s a big difference, folks.
The Tech Giants: Attitudes
They are the Silicon Valley CEOs business men of computer and digital technology who have come to believe that their god-like self-image, arisen from their financial power, from their indisputable creativity and, sadly, from a public that treats them as divine avatars, is the real thing. Included in this category are the similarly thinking giants of other economic sectors.
They have made statements to the effect that, due to their superior minds and importance to society, they should not be subjected to the same laws that apply to the average human being. While criminal laws were probably in their minds too, it is to the same laws of existence discovered and developed by the Buddha to which they were referring in interviews, i.e., the law of impermanence, that everything is subject to change, and death is an inconvenience. Well, the Buddha didn’t say it is an ‘inconvenience’; the tech giants did, and their aversion to it is the fuel behind their ‘vision’ of human evolution.
For Thiel, death is the “great enemy” of humankind
“Death makes me very angry. Premature death makes me angrier still.” Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation and the fifth-richest person in the world
You will be hard press to find in any interview with these dreaming billionaires a discussion about applying their research and technological magic to reduce poverty and inequality in this planet. That’s probably because their magic is being heavily used for military purposes, an economical sector that specializes in producing death en mass and the most terrifying tools to do it with utmost pain.
Viewing the tech giants’ ‘mind science’ for what it really is, advanced electronic technology, not science, should make it easier to understand why they don’t discuss philosophical questions about the human characteristics they are “imitating” with their robots, like the nature of ‘self’, ‘personality’, ‘soul’, whether it exist or not. Well, maybe it’s better they don’t get into that.
The Buddha, on the other hand, had answers to those questions.
One could interpret the Buddha’s teachings as his vision of humans influencing their evolution. He knew the only way we can transform the disheartening violent and emotionally ignorant Homo sapiens into a new and compassionate humanity is by developing its mental capacity so it can finally catch up with its ability to create tools and transform the technology of self-destruction into life-affirming tools.
He aimed at the mind with mind as a tool, teaching that there is no human progress without the ethical/moral elements of compassion. The goal of evolution in the Buddha’s vision is to end self-inflicted personal and social suffering and its source: wars, hate, greed…The tech giants see it as a business.
He taught that while soul and self are not permanent, they are necessary for us to live in society because those characteristics, which not only humans have, are the basis for compassion and love for everything in this planet.
So, the question is: How this anti-science coup will affect humanity? I’m OK with questioning science; I’m not in favor of being dragged into the delusions of this elite computer technocrats. We need to question them and their intentions.
The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha
A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya
Bhikkhu Bodhi Look for the first sutra: The Root of All Things. I highly recommend this 109 pages discussion in PDF by Bhikkhu Bodhi.