Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Morality for Humans in a Field of Robots

Recently, I have discussed the need for developing a morality based on more contextual blendable rules.  Such rules would reflect the need to act in a more organic way as a defense against all the technologically-caused sensory distortion in our living environment and the rapid change over time of our living environment as a result of rapid technological change.  The rapid technological change creates constantly evolving life situations with constantly evolving sensory distortion and a need for constantly evolving postures and rules to deal with these experiences.   The nature of the boundaries of our moral rules and actions are as important as the content.  Today we need more fuzzy boundaries for many of our rules to deal with these evolving life situations in a more flexible way.  These fuzzy boundaries of rules reflect the more fuzzy blendable boundaries we want to promote in ourselves to survive the evolving sensory distortion.  As more fuzzy organic beings, our sense of self is not defined as much by a very specific rigid discrete self-definition, but rather by a more flowing continual self-coherence.  Through our words, our actions, our beings, we need to will a more organic presence for ourselves.  Although we still need some basic well-defined moral rules, too many rigid, discrete, moral rules will cause us to become like all the angular technological machinery that surrounds us with its choppy discrete rhythms and processes.  Within the context of our modern technological living environments, these rigid moral rules would contribute to making us robots.  Again, I want to emphasize that the use of contextual blendable rules does not mean bending or breaking rules in an opportunistic immoral way.  It means the ability to be flexible and to adjust rules to survive rapidly changing and potentially harmful environmental circumstances.

        We need a morality that supports our organic coherence.  This means supporting those situations that create an experiential organic grounding within ourselves.  This means creating more continual blendable situations in our external environment, situations that can exist in spite of all the technological sensory distortion.  Such situations include strong family relationships,  committed sexual relationships, and committed community interactions and activities.  We need people holding together their human essence through continual explorations in all the categories of the humanities, a mental area of creation and intellectual exploration with an emphasis on more intuitive truths that help people to bond with others.

Modern technology puts a wedge between people.  Many of you will ask how that is possible with all the new forms of communication available through technology: e-mails, texting, teleconferencing, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo Messenger……..the list just goes on and on.  But all of these are mediated attenuated forms of communication that displace the kind of face-to-face interaction that leads to meaningful organic bonding.  If anything, technological communication reinforces our sense of isolation.  It reinforces the sharp discrete boundaries in us of robots.

So if technology reinforces robotic isolation, we must make moral decisions to reinforce our humanity with surrogate organic grounding.  If the boat of humanity is tipping over to one side as a result of excessive immersion in technological experience, we must make a moral commitment to put weight on the side of the boat where we can get more organic experience in order to keep the boat afloat.

If we can’t have as much organic stimulation in our external physical living environment as we would like, then we must dwell in the organic stimulation we generate amongst ourselves and in the complex mental entities in which we dwell in our heads.  This is a time when most industrial countries are pushing science and engineering as vehicles for giving them power.  Science and engineering are the intellectual careers that are given honor.  There are fewer and fewer courses in the humanities, as careers in the humanities are increasingly considered impractical and irrelevant.  Who has time to read great classics reflectively and to think anymore, when there is so much seductive technological activity at our fingertips.  But the humanities get us in touch with deeper human truths that allow us to connect more deeply with the people around us.  The humanities, which include artistic and philosophical works created in more traditional organic times, are a surrogate mental traditional organic world that can help us to survive sensory distortion from technological living environments.  It becomes a moral decision, in order to maintain our humanity, to spend meaningful time reading serious fiction and essays, looking at and reflecting on serious works of art, and listening to serious music.  This activity creates a protection against the crumbling apart of our sense of self and our consciousness from the isolation we experience as a result of all the technological media that surround us.  Movies, television, computers, smart phones, video games, all put us in a vacuum where we become numb to ourselves.

And when we become numb to our senses of self, we become vulnerable to technological control by other people.  I am afraid that at some point, people in their technological isolation and their robot-like mentalities will lose their independence as organic entities.  Many corporations today treat their workers like robots who have little down time and are on call 24/7.  Where is the moral outcry from traditional sources of moral protection?

In previous articles, I have discussed the concept of a surrogate immortality as a means to have something live on from us, after we die.  The surrogate immortality consists of all the meaningful imprints we have both made and preserved on the surfaces of the field of experience around us: children, businesses, works of art, trees we have planted, buildings we have erected, sporting titles we have won, all the memories we have left in other people’s minds.  Just as we need a surrogate immortality to prepare for death, so we now need surrogate mental organic  entities to create mental living environments where we can feel fully alive as organic human beings.  Yes, some of us live close to patches of nature, and that is wonderful.  However, few people today have intense interactions with organic environments.  Few people feel a part of an organic ecosystem that in turn stimulates them to feel at one with themselves.

So it is my belief that people today have to work at staying organic mammalian human beings and this involves focusing on organic grounded interactions with other people and organic grounded mental interactions with themselves.  The world of the humanities creates a surrogate mental grounded organic entity for us that allows us to stimulate the organic aspects of ourself through the imprints we receive from already created works, through the imprints we can make from the comments we can make on these works in conversations with others and through the works that we are stimulated to create by ourselves.  Immersion in the mental activity generated by the humanities is like doing exercise for the organic aspects of our senses of self.  It is a way of pushing out all the vacuum and static stimuli from our modern technological living environments that increasingly are making people more and more robotized.

The humanities are one very important way of keeping people in a mental state that allows them to defend themselves against their gradual transformation into robots.  The humanities are not a sharply defined place of existence and they involve many different kinds of phenomena.  They are complex, but we need complex mental organic entities to create surrogate mental organic fields of experience for us. These fields of experience can act as surrogate organic grounding and help us fight the effects of sensory distortion in our modern technological living environments.

c 2012 Laurence Mesirow

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