Hitting the Books: Is the hunt for technological supremacy harming our collective humanity? - Engadget
May 01, 2021 1 min, 23 secs
Hannah Arendt, the philosopher made famous by her phrase “the banality of evil,” in reference to the Nazi Nuremberg trials, argued that Comte’s technoscience — which, by the middle of the twentieth century, certainly had not lost any steam as a philosophical idea — amounted to no less than a redefinition of human nature itself.

Arendt pointed to the classical understanding of humans as Homo sapiens — literally, wise man — and to the historical focus on wisdom and knowledge rather than technical skill, and argued that to embrace technoscience as a worldview was to redefine ourselves as Homo faber — man the builder.

The faberian understanding of human nature fits perfectly not only with Comte’s nineteenth-century idea of a utopian technoscience but with the twentieth-century obsession with building more and more powerful technologies, culminating in the grand project of, in effect, building ourselves—artificial intelligence.

Though Von Neumann, a scientist and mathematician, did not (as far as we know) further explain his remarks, they perfectly reflect Arendt’s insistence on the deep significance of technoscience for ourselves and our future — for what philosophers of technology call “the human condition.” It would perhaps seem perverse to Comte that technology could accelerate past our control, but nowhere in his writing can one discover an inkling of the point that Arendt (and others) would make, that in championing technoscience as a human answer to human problems, we are also engaged in the project of redefining our understanding of ourselves.

The turn toward techne rather than, say, episteme (knowledge of natural phenomena) or sapientiae (wisdom relating to human values and society) makes it difficult to carve out a meaningful idea of human uniqueness.


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