Technology, Machines, and the Future

One of the most remarkable things today is that technological advancement has become the dream not only of governments, but also of individuals. It is amazing that people do not, at any moment, pause to ask themselves what this really means for their individual rationality. The world as it is is consumed in the need to make itself more advanced, which eventually reduces the human beings to mere servants of the machines. All learning today is actually determined by the existing technology. In every way, the human person has learnt to abide by the dictates of the machines. In a word, the human person has become totally conditioned by the machine, and in just about every way depends on it for existence. This study aims at investigating why and how the human person ended up in this situation, considering that the situation in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries was very different. Rationality as understood during these times largely revolved around the individual. However, rationality today revolves around technology. Marcuse offers a very concrete explanation of the evolution, so to say, of technological rationality. It is in the interest of this study, to look at this explanation, in order to understand some of the aspects of life in the contemporary times.

Marcuse and the Development of Technological Rationality
As already indicated, there is a paradigm shift, from the traditional understanding of rationality. For a long time, this concept was understood from the point of view of the individual. In other words, the in the understanding of rationality, the individual as such, was the point of departure. Rationality could not be understood in any other way. The features unique to this individual were fundamental values and standards, which ensued, or ought to, from the deepest convictions. These characteristics of the human person were conceived as the truth of human existence. Rational thought was encouraged to the extent that it made these truths possible. That is why so many thinkers came up at this time, with various schools of rationality.

The main tension, which perhaps served the technological rationality well, was the fact of a contradiction, between rational self-interest and the individual self-interest. In other words, the interests of the individual were guided by the social demands, rather than by reason. The consequence of this was that the individual took precedence over society. This already eliminated all what came with individual rationality, namely, values and fundamental standards. As would be expected, when a system is gotten rid of, a new one must be established. What this meant was that because truth, as understood, had to continue being sought, the new framework for this had to be social performance, hence the liberalist society with its emphasis on competition as well as individual achievements. These achievements tended to be technological, and this in turn meant that the human person was slowly becoming dependent on his own inventions. This was done by ensuring that these inventions were incorporated into societal needs, which eventually everyone had to do with. Rationalization and mechanization became the two concepts that would determine the height and intensity of competition because the one who had the advantage of giant machines and technology had it all. This eventually does not stop it becomes a chain in which the more you have, the more you are likely to get even much more. In this new setting, what had been an individual rationality, guided by values dissipates into a technological rationality, where the individual is determined by the level of technology heshe has. Under the impact of this apparatus, individualistic rationality has been transformed into technological rationality (Marcuse, 1998, p. 44). Speaking as a matter of fact, technology has in absolutely every way assumed command of every aspect of the lives of the human beings (Gurland, 1941). What has actually happened here is that what had once been a free economic subject has now become an object an object of large scale organization. Therefore unlike in the past, where the individuals were at the center of their own lives, one is now determined by a reality external to their own selves. One is considered efficient in this case, to the extent that heshe fulfils the goals that are externally set for them. In his new role, man became a helper of the machine in its performance of its duty. The human person became so dependent on the machine that somehow, rather than the human person making use of machines, machines tended to assume this role.

This understanding by Marcuse is very real because life as it is today totally requires technology to persist. As a matter of fact, the more human beings rush to advance technologically, the more they become enslaved by it, and the more they become dependent on it. As it were, no one can stand independent of technology, because that would mean standing alone in society. Therefore even if one made an attempt to react against this reality, they would be bound to fail. In order to function in harmony, the human person has now to function in tandem with the machine, and this is so true with the present existence. For instance, if there is a power failure at an air port, and by bad luck it happens that there is no sort of back up, all persons scheduled to travel must necessarily wait for the machines to be set right for their lives to get back to normal. In deed, even considering what a power failure would do to the lives of the human life, one realizes the extent of human dependence on the machines. When there was a massive power failure across the United States, economists were interpreting it in terms of losses. This means that in order to function, we must comply with the demands of the machines. This effectively eliminates individual rationality. More bluntly put, it does not matter what one thinks, as long as that thought does not go along with the demands of technology. Perhaps this could account for the sky rocketing growth in technology. This eventually leaves individuals without individuality, Individuals are stripped of their own individuality, not by external compulsion, but by the very rationality under which they live (Marcuse, 1998, p. 46)

As established earlier, the fast paced evolution of technology has overshadowed the rationality of the individual. Individuals no longer command the autonomy that was once enjoyed in the earlier centuries, when individual rationality was celebrated. The shift has been so radical and well orchestrated that individuals dont even seem to realize that they have long been stripped of their own unique identities. This study does not mean to argue that technology is a bad thing. It simply says that where the individual becomes the handmaid of technology, then technology oversteps its mandate. It is the human person who should be at the top of these innovations, but when technology becomes a form of human addiction, something ought to be done with great urgency. 

As already indicated, self interest is largely to blame for this state of affairs. When the human person discovered that they could place their interests above those of the society, and competition became constantly encouraged as the way to go, doors were opened to a world where machines were the dominating factors in the very existence of humanity. This is very real because life as it is today, totally requires technology to persist. As a matter of fact, the more human beings rush to advance technologically, the more they become enslaved by it, and the more they become dependent on it.


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