As man hurtles towards the point where man and machine become inseparable, referred to by many as “The Singularity”, there has been little attention or debate in mainstream circles about the ethical impacts of this rapidly advancing technology. Like fire in ancient times, technology can wildly improve the lives of the people who know how to master it. But technology also has the power to destroy those who do not treat it with the respect it commands. On Wednesday night’s episode of The Glenn Beck Program, Glenn explained that the rapid expansion of technology and the ethics involved will be the biggest issue that people will have to deal with in the next ten years. Glenn welcomed futurist David Gelernter onto the program to discuss some of the ethical questions raised by rapidly expanding technology.
Glenn stressed that neither he nor Gelernter were anti-technology, but are focused on the ethical implications as technology is expanding whether people want it to or not. Everyday people must be prepared to handle it and to treat it in an informed and respectful way.
Gelernter explained that there were two types of merging between man and machine that could come with the approach of the singularity. He explained that the merging that comes with the body only will serve to improve the human condition as people are able to strengthen their body and expand their lifespans. The concern that Gelernter has is with merging machines with the mind where cognition and thought is changed because what makes human beings human will be lost.
Gelernter and Glenn specifically pointed out the dangers of a movement called transhumanism, “the intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities”.
“It used to be the sanctity of human life meant something to every Jew and every Christian,” Gelernter told Glenn. “We’re not there anymore, we’re dealing with aggressive science worshipping and pagans.”
Gelernter explained that “the moral environment is very different” than it was just a few years ago when most people in science viewed their work through the lens of faith.
Gelernter told Glenn that for many in the area of science that they were no longer approaching science from a moral standpoint, but were essentially doing science for the sake of science. Scientists are no longer asking the questions of why they are doing something and rather believing that science is self-justifying. He added that science is serving as a replacement for religion and as a result these advancements are taking place in a world without a Judeo-Christain moral code that held life as sacred. Both Glenn and Gelernter found the implications of that lack of ethics unnerving.
“We have slipped from that limiting mechanism, that cultural environment isn’t there anymore,” he warned.