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University of Toronto Scarborough
Ted Petit

1 Jeongho (John) Joo HUMA01 Tutorial 003 2013.01.17 What Lies Beneath: Technology and the Human Question Introduction There is a powerful irony in the fact that the novelty of modern technology, of both Internet and genetic engineering varieties, has given rise to concerns exponentially matching the omnipresence of them. More exactly, there appears to be a “runaway train” mentality gripping mankind, and not for the first time. The question asked with increasing frequency is what precisely are we doing to ourselves, and the question is voiced as we feverishly continue doing it. There can be no real answer, of course, simply because the nature of being human is a thing too fluid to be properly identified in a way satisfactory to those seeking answers. On one hand, great concern is expressed over the potential for true human contact to vanish, due to a reliance on the virtual and a subsequent redefinition; on the other, genetic manipulation takes such worries into darker territory, as it is feared that the meaning of human existence must be sacrificed on even deeper levels, when we elect to alter human mechanisms of physical being and thinking. What is most extraordinary in this sea of anguish, however, is its ignoring of fundamental qualities of humanness no machine may eviscerate: baseness and self-aggrandizement. The sadder reality is that humanity cannot be diminished by technology because its inherent worth, in the past and today, is of itself a debatable attribute. More precisely: if humanity loses its essence through technology, the technology is then only emphasizing a more regrettable essence. Discussion As noted, concern regarding humanity's embracing of technology that may undermine 2 humanity itself is rampant. It also takes a wide range of both forms and degrees of gravity. For example, Susan Greenfield – perhaps optimistically – reflects the widespread feeling that concern over technology as dehumanizing is misplaced, simply because the human adapts in ways that protects what is essential the integrity of being human: “If the environment is changing in an unprecedented way, then the changes too will be unprecedented” (Schmemann). People will, she believes, maintain their core humanity because they will evolve to shape the technology of the Internet to do so. That there are “bumps” in the road is inevitable, for we are today obligated to reexamine traditional ideas of what knowledge is and how it is pertinent to us. More intrinsically worrying is the human ability to engineer traits. Bill McKibben is unequivocal in his distress over, not how communication technologies are eroding individual identities, but in how genetic engineering will invariably encourage “safe” programming which eliminates vital uncertainties in human development. The parent who orders genetic construction in their unborn child, he affirms, robs the child of any possibility of comprehending their own life (McKibben). In the meantime, also as noted, Facebook gathers millions of new users daily, and those same users scan Internet headlines for breakthroughs in identifying specific genetic codes subject to alteration. If these concerns are understandable, they are also highly suspect, in that they uniformly ignore essential components of what “being human” means, insofar as human history has provided some consistency of definition. More to the point, the articles bemoaning the potential horrors of technology seem to reflect an inflexible perception of something irrefutably “noble” as being threatened, when humanity's history more clearly indicates a presence or thing by no means worthy of preservation at all cost. This viewpoint is by no means merely a cynical response to the concerns, but one co
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