With every passing day, the rapidly-developing technosphere of 21st-century market-dominated science comes closer to replicating human thought. Forces of technological innovation spurred by monetary incentives (as well as genuine human curiosity instincts) are probing deeper into what makes us human and how artificial creations can be utilized for fundamental biological and chemical enhancement.
All pre-Information Age philosophical quandaries relied on a sort-of biological fundamentalism. Human beings, regardless of innovations in ideas or analog technology, would remain the same biologically. But as time moves on, a growing sense of urgency and rapidity (likely spurred by a populous exposed to constant sensory stimulation and an environment in constant decline) is in the air. Advancements in science and computing are aiding us in our quest for maximum efficiency and maximum lifespan, and we seem to be approaching a new potential era of evolutionary growth. The natural and the artificial may soon become fused.
Where does this leave “regular people” trying to get through the day and live to the best of one’s ability? Well, to start with, it raises important questions about the nature of philosophy and the very fundamentals of what constitutes ‘self-improvement’ or ‘enlightenment’. If the biological continuum of the human animal is altered in a major way, thought paradigms will have to adjust. To use a simple example, let’s say the ability to live a guaranteed extra twenty years becomes a possibility within one’s lifetime. This is an opportunity that has never been possible before. It raises questions of developmental psychology, labor economics, existential anxiety, overpopulation and ethics (among many other tangentially-related concepts). Our thinking must be in constant adjustment to the technologies shaping how we perceive the world. It is a constant process of informational recycling.
Our methods of reading and interpreting must also be questioned. Realizing that everyone from Lao Tzu to Jesus Christ to Marcus Aurelius to Carl Sagan all existed preceding these massive jumps in technological capability and globalized economics must change how we read their thoughts and integrate them into our lives. All prior thinking must be adapted to these new frameworks of thought.
This is an important practice in ideological skepticism. It is deeply important to understand works of philosophy within their timeframe of creation. What appeared ostensibly “true” 500 years ago or even 50 years ago must be modified to present conditions. This doesn’t mean we ignore thinkers past and only read their descendants. It just means we learn to think and inquire with an ever-present grain of salt.
Most intriguing, if not downright frightening, is the accessibility with which the language and logics we use to program our computers can be applied towards programming ourselves. We can utilize the symbolic lessons of ‘binary’ to suit our own personal ends. Instead of relying on extremes in isolation, we balance them. A program that is all 1’s or all 0’s is effectively useless. We find a combination that works, a potential for wholeness and nuanced permutation. When something is faulty, we rework it. One does this, usually by trial-and-error, until one’s personal operating system is optimized for one’s environment.
You have the ability, within the obvious restrictions of geography, culture and socio-economic means, to choose what you consume and what you produce. You have more of an opportunity to program your world now than ever before in history, so use it wisely. This means reading and synthesizing, experiencing and archiving memories, all the while regularly challenging and testing your limits and diligently imposing periods of processing time (exercise, meditation, creative output). Your mind is being rewired by cultural engineers all the time whether you realize it or not; either program it yourself or allow it to be programmed by forces outside of your control, for ends that do not necessarily benefit you.