Technology vs Humanity: What will be our ethics, as we face "hellven"?

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Technology is developing exponentially and is becoming more and more powerful in the process. On one side of the "what will our future look like?" spectrum, technology can enhance our human lives and save our planet. On the other side, technology can take away our freedom, rob us of our human identity and quality and destroy our planet. 

As Futurist Gerd Leonhard puts it - "Exponential technological change is #hellven (heaven and hell at the same time). Right now, it is a 90% heaven, but where is it going in the future? Will we be tool-makers or tool-made?"

Leonhard believes we do not have to feel controlled by technology but we can take control of, and feel at ease about, the role it plays in our lives. We should embrace technology, but not become it. His book Technology vs Humanity (title meant as a provocation) is a call for "the reinstatement of people and purpose into the technological program".

On the accompanying website Leonhard outlines four of the book's main points:

1. There are two kinds of happiness – passing and profound. Technology is good at the first, but not at the second. Hedonic happiness is something technology excels on; for a more eudaemonic happiness and overall contentment we must look elsewhere. Eudaemonia i.e. a deeper happiness that involves what I call CORE (Creativity, Originality, Reciprocity and Empathy) – is what defines humanity.

2. It often seems that increasingly, algorithms are starting to encroach on what I call androrithms in the book- those unpredictable human patterns that result in discovery, invention and culture. Exponentially invasive technologies are amplifying this trend – are we heading towards an augmented, implanted human, supported by robots and (soon) cyborgs…?

3. Everyone’s talking about Digital Transformation but this is only one of ten Megashifts involving technology that will totally change the human game. A less documented sign of this approaching storm is the burgeoning wave of what I call Digital Obesity (there’s an entire chapter on this topic in my book)

4. We will soon discover a desperate need for a code of Digital Ethics if technology is not to proliferate uncontrollably (maybe towards machine super-intelligence?) and seriously erode human identity. Transhumanists seem to welcome this irreversible change (clearly, I do not… read the chapter in the book) so those of us who want to be on  “team human” will need to provide a powerful counter-conversation; and soon!

As outlined in the last point succeeding in reinstating people and purpose into the way we interact with technology requires ethics. But how do we develop these ethics and who gets be involved? In the video below Leonhard calls for a Digital Ethics Council but it is crucial that such a council represents and deals with the concerns and needs of the people whose lives will change with the increasing implementation of technologies such as AI. 

For this reason we believe that the conversation must start in local communities. At an A/UK laboratory event in Brighton last year we explored how VR technology can be a tool for increasing empathy (read a report of the event by Phil Teer here) and we aim to encourage and take forward conversations like that at up-coming laboratory events. Get in touch ( if you would like to get involved. 

Watch more videos from Gerd Leonhard here and download a pdf preview of Technology vs Humanity here.

FUTURESpat kane