There are some old questions that remain unresolved in social practice: does technology make us better people, more moral, optimistic and supportive? Can we establish an ethical responsibility to non-human entities for the course our destiny takes?
The Canadian thinker Marshall McLuhan devoted his research to demonstrate that technologies are sensory and cognitive extensions of the faculties that we possess as a species. So our mentality and behavior influence the evolution of technology as much as it transforms us on an ecological scale, creating a sensorium, that is, a flow of perceptive and historical sensitivity (either of attachment or security, of rejection or fear) towards the development of technology and its material adoption in a certain direction (as productive tools, comfort facilitators or means for the language). East sensorium it would have been there always, modifying, at different speeds but without interruptions, our beliefs and cultural schemes at a political, religious, socioeconomic and affective level.
On the other hand, if we assume the analysis of the world that Zygmunt Bauman makes in his posthumous dialogue about the nature of evil that is replicated and propagated by all the capillaries of advanced societies, we can infer that in everyday life the depersonalization of relationships predominates. with the neighbor, the flight of responsibilities over the dysfunctional, and the radical distrust towards everything that is not oneself.
Consequently, faced with such a bleak landscape, technology could openly receive a severe criticism if we ponder what has been its real impact on the homeostatic aspects (those that give balance and meaning to people) raised at the beginning, whose slenderness should prevent this gap from obligations to virtue.
There is a paradox that does not end up evaporating, because although the technological factor is admitted as an empirical constant of the rhythm with which the progress of the conditions of existence (literacy, health, food and life expectancy) happens at the same time there is a growing public opinion that considers that this same factor, in relation to other dimensions that structure the normal life of people, is being ineffective in influencing positively the ways of being, civic education, conception of freedoms and the perception of happiness.
This discourse of dissatisfied desires with the technological has reached the domains of the economy (when linked to the narrative axis of the end of work motivated by the incipient rise of artificial intelligence), and also to those of the organizational dimension of the companies ( in this case, linking with the lack of alignment and the low correlation between the notable investments made in technology and the supposed tangible increases in productivity, innovation and in the emotional commitment of employees with the corporate culture).
In the face of such uncertainty, how could a causality be achieved between the probable fact that next year there will be six intelligent technological devices for each person living on the planet, and a decrease in the type of human decisions that cause inequality and misery? ?
To pose such a bombastic challenge does not cease to be the symptom of what is disguised at the heart of the matter, that is, the threat that the most fertile seed of the human condition (its longing for the common good and concern for other) may be buried under technological overproduction focused on individual pleasure and interest, which will result in a canonization of social isolation, in a cultural impoverishment of generational scope and, sooner or later, in the emergence of a collective existential anguish the alienation that some technologists can encourage and the restrictions to promote peer communities.
Striving to provide alternatives to the hedonistic and consumerist tendency, in my way of interpreting it, obliges us to direct our conscience towards a recovery of the presuppositions of humanism. And I do not mean a nostalgic and idyllic reconstruction of a form of humanism that we know was not firm and strong enough to stay at the head of history in some of the most critical moments of civilization, but to take momentum to reconnect our mentality with the importance of validating and rewarding certain values, behaviors and virtues, which requires understanding what were the goals of the exaltation of the human at different moments in history, both to correct errors and to take advantage of contemporary technological opportunities with the ambition that certain precepts can be fulfilled in a more faithful and extended way.
Therefore, to what humanism do I refer as an expression of a corrective filter to ensure a moral purpose to the curve of technological transformation?
First, the flowering of the faculties of man should not be determined by the sole concern to satisfy one's own or particular interests by using other people as means to achieve them, just as the end of technology should not have as its central objective the elimination of any lock or interference for the achievement of such interests without the obligation to assume responsibilities.
Second, as it was built during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the scientific method, focused on curing the intelligences of people, should not be distorted, explained as a relatively reliable and susceptible to deception, but should be the flint ax to break with previously established limits of knowledge, and reach new heights in thought and the arts. Then technology can not keep to improve or preserve what exists, but must challenge the present state of things.
Third, satisfaction with belonging to a community, a company or the State is based on the fact that subjects can actively participate in serving a horizon of universal ideals. The generation of a purpose to be shared is only to meet transcendent meanings. So technology should benefit the mental and physical fulfillment of all the groups of a society, including the most disadvantaged and backward.
Humanism, which should be cultivated in the 21st century, and which is being adjectivally digital, is an opportunity to influence the sensorium encrypted by McLuhan so that a culture that lives up to it can flourish. If we focus on the world of work, this humanism has to use technology to allow professionals to achieve their full potential (using the Manichean dogma, technology should encourage the consolidation of our good side or, said of another way, technology can change people, although previously you have to decide what you want to change).
Intelligent optimism (as opposed to pessimism) must embrace this hope for the purpose of technology from the ethical construction of values, which can no longer be vulgarly dismissed as a naive or frivolous posture, but as a test of wisdom and experience.
Alberto González Pascual He is director of transformation, development and talent in the human resources area of PRISA. Associate professor at the Rey Juan Carlos and Villanueva universities in Madrid, he holds a PhD in Information Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Philosophy in Public Policy from the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville.