This is a post from a former student responding to something I wrote about the potential dangers of socially isolating college education. Eric Holloway received a solid grounding in classical education at the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. Eric continued schooling to complete a MSc in Computer Science at the Air Force Institute of Technology and a PhD in Computer Engineering at Baylor University.
It is said our greatest strength can become our greatest weakness. The engineer’s great ability to focus and create amazingly complex and powerful technology is also a danger. Our pursuit of revolutionary technology blinds us to what is being harmed in the process.
The tech industry has developed a few major tech centers around the United States, which are consolidated around a few of the largest tech companies. These centers draw the best technologists from around the world to focus on the hardest problems. The goal of these centers is to create technology promising a great pay out. Yet, our migration to these specialized centers isolates us from the very communities that will be disrupted by the new technology.
Our immediate environment shapes our view of the world. We work together in environments insulated by wealth and demanding few obligations. The Internet is our filter through which we see the broader world, but the people we meet most often online are our co-workers. We live in a social bubble.
Technology can be a religion, giving us a vision of the future. Popular science says our fellow humans are the same as the electric machines we build and control. The only distinction: one is carbon and the other silicon. This is thrilling. We can create and become an all-powerful and all knowing machine, which will make all our fantasies come true, forever.
The combined effect is we often do not see the human impact of the technology we create. Our worldview quiets any concerns we have, while driving us toward the greater goal. A dwindling population, the dumbing down of society, and lifestyles that do not create children are of little concern to us. We are making a better tomorrow, a new humanity, and we believe it will be worth whatever the cost.
An alternative viewpoint is humans are not computers. Instead, we are embodied minds that cannot be reduced to our material components. The disruption of society with technology will not result in a better humanity. We will degrade what it means to be human. A better vision for technology is to foster and empower jobs, build relationships instead of sucking them into our handheld screens, and recognize the different roles of man and machine.
A note from Holloway: I’d like to thank Tiffani Holloway, Steve Holloway and David Nemati for their invaluable review and insights.