In Defence of Moralizing High Technology
By Stephen Ainsah-Mensah
Modern societies are more and more becoming technical. The revolution in computer usage is a major contributor to this state of affairs. But this technicality has its demerits despite its huge advantages. While technical societies confer the enormous benefits of modernity and admirable sophistication on life, they also bring about the doubtful benefit of restructuring individual and group psyche in a technical fashion. The habit of "technicalizing ways of doing things may ease work, access to information, and social goods - as we can see with information technology. Nevertheless, the psyche does not sustain its privileged independence when technology pervades the society. The psyche, indeed, tends to lose such independence on matters that include its comprehension of what ought to constitute the most appropriate education for the individual. Due to the excessive and unrestrained barrage of technical phenomena on the sensory receptacles, the psyche, thereby, registers new information on its structure, a kind of information that happens to succumb to the all-too-powerful technical structure of the external environment. Once the psyche is restructured in such fashion, it impinges on the movement of life in general.
Thus, a vigorous conditioning of the psyche can easily arise from the psyche's constant interaction with an external environment that is itself being progressively conditioned in an unduly technical way.
For example, a man can feel that his prized talent is being wasted because pursuing it would not land him a secured success in life. Deep down the structure of his psyche, he can realize that an academic pursuit in world religions is what can grant him the best performance. Yet, he quenches any hope of studying such subject(s), mindful of how a technical society such as his has very little use for religions compared to, say, information technology, engineering, medicine, law, accounting, and such like. He strives to enroll in an information technology program whereupon his competitive advantage happens to be weak. What he has done is not personal carelessness. He has been compelled to pursue this line of action; otherwise, his future financial survival could be put at risk.
The matrix of formal education gets revised whenever marked technological changes permeate the society, and one has no choice but to program one's sense or understanding of academic pursuit in a direction that may not have any bearing on one's identifiable talent. But formal education does not have to be technical, nor does it have to focus on the arts or social sciences. Formal education has to offer the individual the full opportunity to choose for himself/herself what can project the spirit of genuine advancement without needless societal constraints. This can bring the best in each person and, at the same time, update stakeholders about the desirable programs that can be established or revised to further enhance the quality of formal education.
The practice (by stakeholders) of letting individuals restructure their educational choices in line with prioritized programs imperils academic democracy. It hints that a technical society is overtly prejudicial in its grasp of what is productive formal education. Yet, it is the unbridled educational choices of individuals that have to decide the structure of programs stakeholders wish or want to establish. Plurality of ideas are spawned from a people who are capable of demonstrating, in a corresponding fashion, plurality of choices in the fields of science and technology, the human sciences, the liberal arts, and other forms of education. Unless this kind of academic democracy is respected, whatever is construed as democracy tends to lose not only its conceptual clarity but, also, its practical efficacy.
The mainstream thinking that technical expertise has to be rewarded far more than other kinds of expertise undermines the free, far more comfortable choices, which, otherwise, a large class of individuals would have preferred to channel their untapped skills. A technical mindset, much as it promotes technical sophistication in the doing of things, may fall into the trap of viewing reality in a regimented fashion if such mindset is not ready and capable of appraising a kinship with, at least, the human sciences or/and liberal arts. Technicalities are great, but they have weak points when valued from the perspective of humanism.
I have grown to derive a new kind of pleasure from my technical society. I can access all kinds of information around the world from my unrestrained, privileged access to my personal computer's internet. I see a special connection between myself and my computer, a connection as strong as can be compared to the inseparable bond between glorious married couples. Indeed, my computer has become my best friend even though a computer does not possess the moralized charm that a human being, filled with a psyche, a body, and continuous physical movement in space and time does possess. But this is where the problem resides: I have abandoned the once wide social field from which I could physically connect with numerous friends and enhance my understanding of all kinds of people as a means to humanize my moral fiber. I have become a technical agent squeezed of much of the moral dross that used to connect me to others in a wide social field. In short, my social vision has been badly truncated while my technical vision has been gladly amplified. Life fashioned in this way is not proper since one of the essential attributes of a person - indeed a dominant attribute - is his/her being a social entity.
High technology keeps isolating a large class of human beings from engaging in wide physical relationships crucial for sensitizing - especially - the social aspects of life. One can prefer to shut oneself from the social field of human agents and artificially create one's own microcosmic world. But this is a fundamental weakness of high technology since it tends to hack into pieces the communitarian spirit so important for understanding diverse human beings and developing measures from time to time that can bridge the unpalatable chasm between different cultures. As humans, we appear to be far more programmed in our lifestyles and thinking than before; and we also appear to be rejecting our moralizing role as social architects who have to proceed in life with godly consciences even as we continually devise advanced technological strategies to cope with the growing pressures of a shrinking natural environment.
High technology is not the issue. We need high technology to live within the limits of the natural environment; but we cannot live properly if high technology severs the moral foundations of societies. In any field of human endeavour - formal education, social, economic, political, and moral life - the ease with which high technology has penetrated marks a decisive point in the progress of humanity.
Progress has to be sound in all possible respects; and stakeholders have to devise inexorable policies couched in the statement that there ought to be a logical connection between high technology and morality in all spheres of life. And on the strength of this logic, one can also claim that the craving for universal high technology necessitates a craving for universal morality.
About The Author
Mr. Ainsah-Mensah has worked in various capacities, mostly in Canada and now in China. He is an education consultant, race relations consultant, projects coordinator, writer, post-secondary instructor in business courses and life skills, and critical thinking. He is currently the principal of Handan-Lilac Education Group in China.