Heidegger: The Implications of Technological Advancements
As the old saying goes; ‘The science of today is the technology of tomorrow’. Well, that is true for the most part, but it doesn’t make it easily digestible by the notable few, especially in regards to our person of focus who is none other than Martin Heidegger. Heidegger thinks that science has indeed yielded great benefits to humanity, but how valid or better yet, how relevant is the myriad of information ascertained? Science was a thought out attempt to make sense of humans, as well as to elbow out the pervading confusion that was, and still is lingering in the minds of the curious. On the same vein, discerning attributes in hopes of making more sense of things in the realm of science, would be dissecting an entity as to zoom in on its weight, mass, density, size, relativity to other objects etc., and all that would then morph into a clear cut picture of ‘being’. But then we stop and think to ourselves, is there more to being than how much that thing weighs, or how it is compared to other things? Is this a dwelling on some mathematical inquiry in a desperate attempt to curb out the potent question marks that haunt inventors, scientists, and thinkers?
We can relate Heideggers' thought process with Elluls’ and how he believed that the omnipotent technique of using quantitative means to solve problems will never fully satisfy the conundrum at hand. Because the fact of the matter is that the most important things in life are not measurable by numbers, charts, and statistics, and the most ‘human’ things cannot come from a quantitative root. I digress, but back to our point. What science has done in the eyes of Heidegger in terms of understanding existence and ‘being’ is lay out a bunch of facts that teachers and professors can reiterate to kids at school to fill up void spaces, prevailing question marks, and attempt to have a ‘once across the board’ approach to make sense of our existence. Science has given us a definition of existence along the lines of a spatial and temporal realm that's chock full of entities stretching from lions to mountains to fences that are all spatially and temporally related to one another. But what about our consciousness and our thoughts, how do they fit into all this? This is where science falls short and zooms in on the quantitative aspects of existence and completely evades the actual ‘human’ parts of it that are more worthwhile if you ask Ellul or Heidegger.
Science has alienated the visceral meaning we can cultivate from existence and has replaced it with facts on entities and their relation to one another which is far from what existence truly entails. If we are going to understand the answer to the question: what is ‘being’ and verbatim come up with an objective/mathematical way of looking at it from an outsider's perspective, we should at least vouch to look at the problem from an insider's perspective as well. So instead of analyzing entities, we ourselves are the entities that should be analyzed. Alas, the more we zoom in on science as a solution to the ubiquitous questions of the world, the more that it feeds into the ever growing catalyst for ‘change’ that is none other than technology. Heidegger thought that there are various aspects in the modern world that have rendered us sick compared to civilizations before us. That there is a palpable void that we are all itching to fill; there's always something missing, and we are constantly in pursuit of acquiring ‘it’. One of the culprits of this alienation from truly ‘being’, is notoriously known as modern technology.
The essence of technology is revealing; the things that do already exist in the world and that could potentially exist when pondering. Hence, ‘technology is the art of bringing forth the potential of the wooden chair latent within the tree, and it is also the art of bringing forth the potential of viable energy latent within the sun.’ However, modern technology per se does not emulate the ‘revealing’ that it once did with simple technology, in the times of the Ancient Greeks for example. For a minuscule part of human history the relationship between humans, simple technology, and nature has been adjacently symbiotic and emulated innocent craftsmanship: The curator would have a set of raw materials from nature, draw out a process plan, and carefully curate those raw materials to a finished form like a wooden chair or a tool. You can say that there was a personal relationship with the curator and the tree, where the tree was looked at as a ‘being’. But with modern technology, we’ve shifted the way we look at nature and no longer treat her as a ‘being’, but rather, as a means to an end. We exploit her to meet heavy demand, when her supply is scarce, sacred, and most importantly belongs to ‘being’. The primitive man would look at a tree and see how he could potentially make fire out of it for warmth and food. Whereas the modern man would look at a tree and see how he could potentially make 200 Coffee tables/chairs instead of 150 for better profit. Science and technology sets upon nature, not working together with her as opposed to simpler times. Alas, nature in this day and age is valuable insofar as it may yield utility to the masses in terms of products and services.