The Philosophical Blind Spot Of Technology or: “Cool! But What FOR?”
If every person could be characterized by a single question that defines their interests or outlook on life, I feel sometimes that the word most appealing or fitting to the vast majority of our generation would be “what?” As a person who would mostly characterize his outlook on life with “why?” that would put me in the minority then, I suppose.
One area where this applies is our popular celebration of science and technology as that which makes us as a species the best and greatest since the dinosaurs died off. A little while back, I saw two TED talks, one by University of Pennsylvania professor Vijay Kumar, and one by Regina Dugan of DARPA. Both made me think about this topic of whats and whys. The first talk was essentially a celebration and discovery of nothing short of amazing technology that Kumar and his students had developed to show off little flying robots that could hover (like humming birds), fly formations with advanced AI, and even play the song from James Bond in their own band. The second talk was also about humming bird robots (that even looked like humming birds) and also about a new Mach-20 flying supersonic glider.
In both cases, my first impression was “wow!” My second was “why?” My third was “what for?” Not sure if in that order, actually…