Written by John Muthukattil, Author on Ecology and Humanities, from Kottayam, Kerala, India
Machines, from the Maxim gun to the computer, are for the most part means by which a minority can keep free men in subjection.~ SIR KENNETH CLARK, (Civilization)
Men have become the tools of their tools ~ THOREAU
The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do. ~ B. F. SKINNER, in Contingencies of Reinforcement
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. ~ MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Strength to Love
The inventor tries to meet the demand of a crazy civilization. ~ THOMAS ALVA EDISON
We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. ~ LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN
If we can believe advertisements, what matters to people most is the personal ownership of machinery: cooking machines, blending machines, driving machines, picture machines, sound machines, tooth-brushing machines, computing machines, machines to kill insects, deliver intimacy, send messages through wires or the naked air, entertainment machines, shooting machines, and many more mechanical extension devices of our physical self. Indirect control over even more ambitious devices like flying machines, bombing machines, voting machines…. seems to matter a lot, too. Medical science has machines that will breathe for you, talk for you, hear for you, eat for you, circulate your blood and even sweat for you if you should ever happen to need them. Medical science even now has marvelous machines which will replace parts of human body or do the work of parts that fail.
Surrounded by all-powerful tools, man is reduced to a ‘tool of his tools’. As the years go by we won’t be able to survive without the use of current and future technology. The internet and the cell phone, for example, haven’t been around for a long time since millions of years. Can you now imagine living your life without them? We’ll continue to depend on technology until that time when we find ourselves lost and confused by them.
This crisis, it bears emphasis, originates in human success or what we call ‘progress’: humanity’s accumulating, accelerating success in acquiring, disseminating, and applying science-based knowledge. Then, at some point within this period, something happened. To take a phrase from nuclear science, human inventiveness reached critical mass, and advance led to advance at increasing speed. Viewed through history’s eye, this success has come in a sudden burst. In just the 200 years we call the Industrial Age, humanity became an influence on Earth’s fundamental mechanisms. Now this anthropogenic impact threatens to destroy the very environmental conditions that enabled human ‘successes’.
The individual has become increasingly dependent on large-scale production and the operation of society as a whole, and relationship are far more complex and interdependent and susceptible to mechanical control than in any earlier period. From the outset, it was clear that mechanization involved a division of labor. That demands submission to controlled environment and this has proceeded until now it is increasingly difficult for man to be in control of any given situation. When his car goes wrong, the owner seldom knows what part is causing the trouble; an elevator strike can paralyze the whole life of New York.
The story of modern society is the story of mechanization of human society – the story of evolution of human life process from automation by Nature to manual operation by man. This is the story of a society of intellectually degenerate human beings who are today completely dependent on a recently inherited, market-led and technology-sustained social system that can no longer be understood nor be controlled. By the time the machinery breaks down, humanity would be too degenerate to care for itself. In the present context, even genetic decay of all life forms is inevitable.
One of the reasons why contemporary man is overpowered by means is because his powers of integration gradually atrophied under the pressures of the fragmented and specialist approach of the nineteenth century. Today’s broiler (hybrid) chicken-like new generation humans do not know extempore even to light up a candle when suddenly the electricity fails. Now the crucial question is as to how long the intelligent system can go on building upon itself with more sophistication and more intelligence necessarily being incorporated into them, according to the growing demands of the time. It will soon reach a stage when the collective human intellect go awry – many later trends are pointers towards that direction – leading to the total system break down.