Facebook, twitter, amazon, your phone and all sorts of other stuff is atrophying your ability to make decisions which is eroding free will from existing at all.
Seriously, it is.
But let’s back up for a second, most of the people I engage with around the subject of advancing technology are optimistic about its influence on humans and the future in general.
I am too.
I would consider myself a “futurist” in that I experience almost endless amounts of enjoyment fantasizing about technology.
Sci – FI is my favorite genre by far.
However, as much as I would like to admit it, I can’t help but notice that technologies influence on culture and humankind isn’t always so easily measured as a net positive..
In order to make my case for the opinions that are about to follow (remember opinions) I will need to “set the stage so to speak”.
First, technology interacts with humans in one of two ways. Amplification or replacement.
Second, the definition of free will, at least in my mind includes not just the internal spark or soul that we usually attribute to free will but also the freedom and/or capability to execute it. To me, free will isn’t real until is is brought forth from the quantum soup of possibilities and actualized by someone or something executing it. How is free will executed? I would argue that it is executed when anything conscious engages in decision making. Which from my monkey brain’s limited understanding sounds an awful like how smart people explain quantum physics to dumb people.
So I may be onto something here.
Furthermore, the definition of capability in my mind also includes not just being physically & mentally able to execute free will but also possessing the desire to execute it in the first place.
Hypothetically speaking, if you are physically capable of running 5 miles, but have no desire and will forever have no desire to do it then I would lobby you are actually incapable of running 5 miles.
You may not agree, but for the sake of this post run with me.
Let’s discuss what most would unanimously agree is a positive effect of technology on humankind. It’s ability to amplify or increase our physical, mental and/or emotional potential.
Any substance that is performance – enhancing would fall into this category. Steroids enhance your ability to build muscle and lift more weight. Stimulants enhance your energy and your focus. Weed enhances creativity. Mushrooms enhance your ability to see different perspectives.
So on and so forth, you get it.
The key here is technology merely enhances our ability to do something. In these cases we are still the ones doing the doing. And in order to do, we must decide. And when we decide we are executing at some level a type of informational processing in order to make decisions. This practice of informational processing or thinking, is the primary mechanism which grants us the capability of executing our free will via decision making.
For example, if we are taking supplements to enhance our strength in the gym, we are still deciding to go and lift. We are still deciding to push through pain. We are still deciding to hit the gym even when we don’t feel like it. Why? Because our thinking predicates our decisions by anticipating what decisions in the infinite nebula of possibility will actualize results we desire (swole ass muscles) and then executing those decisions allows us cash in on free will shaping our reality around us.
We still do the thinking, we still do the deciding, we still do the executing. The skills the technology is amplifying are still being used.
You could measure your max weight for various lifts, practice with the help of technology and supplements for a period of time, take the technology away and still have a increase in max weight from your starting point.
You would lose some strength without the assistance of the technology, but you would still be lifting more than when you started.
Also you wouldn’t have gotten worse at lifting, your technique would not have deteriorated. You wouldn’t have lost knowledge, and most importantly you wouldn’t have lost experience. In-fact all these areas you would have an net increase regardless if technology was used or not.
Every Time Netflix tells you what to watch, amazon tells you what to buy or Facebook tells you what to read your free will is eroding. Why? Technology isn’t amplifying or enhancing your decision making process, it is replacing it. Piece by piece. You may be thinking “But I still decide what to watch ultimately, not Amazon.”
True, but a large portion of the decision making process is done for you and that portion of the process your skills are most definitely atrophying. They are not being amplified, they are being replaced. They are not being used.
Eventually amazon could get so good that it wouldn’t even give you a handful of options, but simply tell you what to watch and you would be ok with it as everything it threw in front of you, you loved. Because it became better and better and knowing what you like coupled with you forfeiting more and more of your ability to decide what you like, maybe one day you become such a blob of indifference that it could put straight horse shit if front of you and it would matter not.
At that point, it could decide anything and you would enjoy it as you would no longer know how to know what you enjoy.
Make no mistake, technology is going to get there.
You know that ol’ saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”?
If you hit your max on bench only to have a robot replace you at the gym every morning, eventually you are going to lose not only the strength, but technique, and ultimately the knowledge on how to even lift in the first place as well. Furthermore this activity of lifting weights doesn’t live in a vacuum. That robot will also be replacing all the thinking and decision making that goes into lifting weights which will negatively affect your thinking and decision making ability across the board.
And as your decision making ability atrophies your free will and sense of self start eroding right alongside with it.
Now in defense of replacement type technology, it can be a very beneficial thing if used correctly By outsourcing our decision making process we free up time and bandwidth in theory to focus on other more important decisions. We can build upon the scaffolding of those that came before us.
Which is absolutely true.
In this sense I am a huge advocate of technology as it allows us to apply our ability to actualize possibilities via decision making and executing free will, to better and better causes. It allows us to apply the creative spark to a wider array of possibilities and problems.
The issue is that in most, if not essentially all cases, humans don’t replace outsourced decisions with other, better decisions and continue honing our decision making skills. We don’t continue to practice thinking. Instead we leverage our newfound freedom to engage in passivity or “resistance avoidance.” Which ironically ultimately reduces our precious newfound freedom until we reach a point we have less freedom than we originally had when technology first entered the picture.
There a million ways to illustrate this, but to me the most important is highlighting how our ability to think is being replaced in greater degrees by technology each year.
Not only do we allow but we financially incentivize the dissemination of division information. Accuracy isn’t priority uno, rather monetization is. We rely wholly on others to aggregate and curate the information we use to form opinions with forgetting completely the criteria and skills used to filter out the bullshit.
Simply put, when technology replaces a skill, that skill eventually dies. If we don’t add another more beneficial skill to replace the skill technology replaced, then we are moving backwards. We are de-evolving. We are at a net – negative.
What happens when the skill of thinking dies? We can’t make decisions, free will vanishes and we don’t have the basic tools to even be a real man.
In reality, this extinction point of free will is only a thought exercise. I don’t think we will forget completely how to think, but I do think that we could go backwards. I think we could become so dependent on technology and if it were ever to be taken from us for whatever reason, we could be thrown back millennia in an evolutionary sense.
If the burning of the library of Alexandria was such a huge blow to human advancement, imagine if we simply lost all the digital data we rely on now, let alone in the future when it has replaced even more skills.
We are fucked.
My advice to reduce the level of fucked you and your love ones may experience in such a situation would be to make sure that you are at least replacing the skills replaced by technology with other skills. Even better is to maintain a level of functionality for some basic skills even though you can replace them with technology. Like dating, don’t devolve into a lazy porn addict who occasionally swipes on tinder hoping by some god miracle a hot girl will swipe, accept and come over with pizza ready to fuck at your beck and call. Put some effort into learning how to date, ask good questions and get some real pussy. Whats stopping you? (hint it’s your fear based inner bitch)
However, most importantly protect your thinking. Never let technology replace that one. Your free will depends on it.