Techno-Science, Enlightenment and Happiness
Wim Rietdijk, D.Sci.
|Within hundred years we go to bed with a robot; and bargain for it that it produces better sex.|
From a review of the movie A.I. in
NRC Handelsblad, Nov. 2, 2001.
1. Throughout history, science and technology were the primal movers of socio-cultural evolution and of increasing man's capability of taking his destiny in his own hands. By the way, the latter is also the basic aim of the original left, and its purpose is increasing man's well-being. Why should this process be discontinued in the future?
Mind what techno-science did as to poverty, illiteracy, democracy, emancipation, health, sexual enlightenment (the pill, Internet as a basis for a more rational and large-scale love market,...) and much more.
2. Some examples of the above in particular catch the eye:
a) Feudalism has been brought down by the invention of gunpowder - causing castles to be no longer invulnerable - rather than by people argueing with and convincing the relevant noblemen that their power was unjust;
b) The Reformation has been promoted by the invention of printing - fostering the dissemination of ideas - rather than by mere theological dispute;
c) Techno-industrial developments had much to do with the French and Russian revolutions, with a general intellectual elevation and with a rationalization of the value system;
d) The sexual revolution and the emancipation of women has been helped much more by mobility, film, tv, contraception and the consumption mentality than by some argueing that conventional morality did no good to most people's happiness.
3. The above is in agreement with J.K. Galbraith's remark that old ideas will not succumb to new ones, but because they have no defence against "the onslaught of circumstance". In actual fact, the latter is primarily defined by techno-scientific and concomitant socio-economic developments.
4. A few well-meaning people advised me to restrain myself somewhat as to social criticism and also to invest energy in networking. Both would be necessary to get my ideas be accepted to some extent and thus to achieve more. Mainly two reasons caused me to refrain from following the advice:
a) I think so little of the speech-making community - such as those hushing up my work and accepting so many abuses - that I am not willing to make concessions as to "moderating truth" or investing time in networking. In addition, the people in question would not be persuaded anyhow, no more than nationalists or fundamentalists are by rational arguments...
b) I am happy to have been able to develop socio-cultural theories and explanations which, I feel, are not in need of help from our mandarins in order to eventually prevail by "the onslaught of circumstance", as primarily moved by techno-science. These will revolutionize the world and our "orthodoxies", as they did throughout history. My work testifies to that mankind did not witness all of this unawakened...
5. Above we indicated such revolutionizing with respect to the past; let's now consider the future.
a) Genetics. As knowledge and capabilities will increase, man will certainly not refrain from curing concrete genetic defects in the domain of physical or mental health because of "moral" (sic) reasons. But the boundary with genetic engineering towards more health, more beauty and more intelligence in general is rather vague... Also, man will more and more be considered as (partly) makable rather than "God-given".
Well, why wasting our time in trying to convince stupid opponents of improving man's genes by engineering and eugenics as the above techno-science approaches?
b) Brain research. While brain and brain wave research, and measuring brain impulses of various kinds, get steadily refined, why should I waste energy to convince moral simpletons that better lie-detection, measuring mentalities and intentions, and selecting leaders, elites in general and sex partners also by subtle brain and DNA measurement, will get more and more important in the future?
c) Does any better means exist than artificial intelligence for eventually "coaching" social, political, philosophical and other debates in order to purge them of fallacies and tricks and to raise the level of argument?
d) Internet and techno-markets will do much as to the efficiency of markets in jobs, kindred spirits and love partners. Also, evading de facto censorship and fostering free markets in ideas, wants etc. constitute an enlightening aspect of them. The mere substitution of social markets by technological ones often frees people by making things more transparent and well-ordered.
Just as some other advances in these points a) - f), the relevant techno-scientific progress will contribute to a scientifization of evolutionary struggle, which is an utmost humane transition.
e) Parapsychological research - also referring to out-of-the-body and near-death experiences - may contribute much to dispelling uncertainties and anxiety about a possible hereafter and the meaning of life. What's more: it is hard to see what else than matter-of-fact research into these problems can raise man above the level of speculation and subjective opinions about "the last things".
f) Various other advances of techno-science will transform our individual lives, production methods and ways of managing society radically. So much so that, inter alia, making concessions to the prejudices and group interests of our time, in order to get my ideas a bit more accepted, is indeed far from being my first priority. If my opponents don't want discussion, well, let's anticipate "the onslaught of circumstance".
Apart from developments as indicated above, also think here of nanotechnology (mini-micro engineering of molecules and atoms), nuclear fusion, research into what consciousness actually is and how evil comes into a psyche, and of various kinds of bio-engineering as to intelligence, ageing, sexual beauty and satisfaction, and emotional life in general.
6. Both history and common sense show that techno-science and the associated way of thinking tend to undermine traditional religion, myth, convention and ideology, whereas individual happiness becomes more prominent as a rational purpose in life.
As techno-science etc. did so much in demystifying and "disenchanting" relevant old-time religions and "cultural dogma", why shouldn't they undermine modern variants too, such as the "canonization" and "inviolability" of man and the group (other-directedness, cult of the "Personal" and the "Subject", anti-eugenics and the like)? Ideologists like Adorno and Horkheimer (Dialektik der Afklärung, 1947), radical conservatives as Heidegger and romanticists like Harry Mulisch (The Discovery of Heaven, 1993) sense this and distrust both the Enlightenment and much of technology. Most of current philosophy and ideological intelligentsia do the same.
7. In all, techno-science is the pre-eminent ally and a vital part of red-thread (enlightened) developments. It satisfies human needs and reduces poverty, uncertainty and, therefore, anxiety. It is the engine of progress. Not by coincidence, little attention is given to it by established, "adjusted", academic sociology, just as is the case with progress in general, happiness and rational values.
8. Also joining with 6. above we remind of our referring, in various pages of this Site, to Schelsky's theory that ideologists will distrust technology because it reduces man's dependence on the superior powers of nature. (By the way: such decrease is the very essence of both the problems of life and civilization.) Schelsky correctly understands that it is the relevant dependence that stimulates people's demand for the ideologists' main product: social or religious gospels.
We radically extend and generalize Schelsky's idea as to both technology and ideologists, in positing:
Techno-science, rationalism, individualism, rational (arguable) values, transparent coherence and enlightenment in general are not liked by the establishment-minded and the "orthodoxy" because they will tend to lessen man's dependence on nature, social groups and social markets, convention and religion, myth, "the others", social control and (power-delegating) solidarities such as nationalism. We not only see such anti-enlightenment being prominent in most non-Western cultures hating the West for this very reason, but also in the West itself, as my work emphasizes time and again. Think of the spiritual climate of anti-technology, anti-rationalism, uncertainty and relativism, other-directedness, postmodernism, incoherent art, softness on Third-World cultures etc. The powers that be continue not liking man's emancipation from dependence, "solidarity", uncertainty and myth. Both Voltaire and the Promethean are feared by them.
Therefore, even things so self-evident or demonstrable as rational (that is, objective) values and the idea and actual appearance of progress are ignored by most sociologists: they make people independent and give them a rational ideal and purpose.
Within the whole of the above scope not only leftist ideologists (Schelsky's bêtes noires) and religious traditionalists hate rationalism and the Promethean, but also the adherents of current secularized neo-"leftist" religion. This is characterized by "solidarity", other-directedness, the inviolability of man (who should "be accepted as he is"), of his body and "privacy", and also by his being (rather) good by nature and predominantly defined by social rather than genetic factors. The "social" is the centerpiece in current secularized religion.
Note that rightist ideology will emphasize some other accents in order to effect the individual's essential dependence: sexual frustration, tradition, family, God, "his country" and his being sinful.
9. Of course, apart from the "onslaught of techno-science" itself, a crucial weak point of anti-enlightened values and ideology is that vital parts of the establishment have financial interests in such "onslaught".
10. It is remarkable and even indicative of some radical and systematic "psychological flaw" that so few social thinkers, philosophers and idealists - alpha and gamma people - expect the solution of human problems from techno-science (and the red thread in general).
The explanation may be mainly this:
Western (and various other) religions, and more recently even Freud and many others, rather dogmatically postulated an antithesis of on the one side lust and instinct and on the other human conscience (Über-Ich, super-ego, the higher emotions,....). E.g., think of "sublimation" and the anti-sex tradition of Christianity. Such antithesis is completely irrational: loving one's fellow-men as oneself means fostering his happiness and lessening his frustration, the sexual domain included. Roughly, the only instincts that should (very much) be controlled are aggression and "it's always me, me, me" that man inherited from the jungle as an "original sin", and that had a function at the time (competition as to survival).
In actual fact an individual's mind and soul are innerly divided in an unsound way as soon as his conscience, his longing for happiness (including sexual lust) and his reason (intellect) are not each other's allies. Conscience and reason should "only" see to it that one's own lust is not to the detriment of otherone's happiness, far from distrusting it in the first place, e.g., by positing repressive morals to be needed for "civilization" and performance. Even the hippies and the counterculture share(d) the relevant Christian and Freudian dogma, viz. by holding "performance ethics" responsible for the anti-sexual climate in "bourgeois" society. (They preferred sex to performance.)
As soon as the emotional domain, including striving after happiness, reason and the ethical dimension are logically integrated - made coherent by awakening and the insight that reason and conscience simply are instruments to optimize happiness and avoid unhappiness, others' included -, techno-science appears as systematized reason serving such optimizing.
In Section 29 of The Scientifization of Culture - entitled "Divide and rule: disuniting the psyche's rational, moral and emotional faculties as an anti-red-thread instrument" - deeper reactionary tendencies are discussed which made and make establishments unconsciously tend to foster inner conflicts in the human psyche, mainly via the above "anti-lust ethic" and an antithesis of the rational and emotional domains of such psyche. Particularly realize: people divided in themselves will lack the inner strength for being a nonconformist of substance. For this, inter alia, rational values and experiencing one's lust as beautiful or even elevated and just are major "assets". "The group" can not so easily mold the relevant individuals, e.g., by enforcing taboos.
Conclusion: Inner coherence of moral, emotional and rational faculties conduces man to clear, coherent purposes and striving after "the organization of happiness". That is, to techno-science and progress as the cores of public cause. Some do not like that.
11. In time of war free-market priorities are rightly subordinated to one all-dominating one: winning the war. Similarly, in times of peace we should go rather far in subordinating many other priorities to one central purpose: progress of science and technology. For it is these which can contribute most to solving mankind's essential problems.
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