Tuesday, May 03, 2016

What shall we do?

I read somewhere that ancient Greek philosophers kept slaves, and that apparently, having someone else do lesser tasks gave them the time required to discuss and debate and wonder and ponder. In other words, the silver lining of slavery was the birth of philosophy.

Before you start thinking you may want to own a person yourself, consider that these philosophers had not yet extended person-hood to those unlike themselves. Now, I'm guessing here, but with improvement in transport, print media, education and our understanding of biology, humanity's eyes opened a little further to see others as not so different from themselves. Today, we have grown as a species, and believe all humans are equal, and slavery, with all its benefits, is certainly unconscionable.

However, we may yet have slaves in the future, in a mechanical dress this time. I speak, of course, of robots. People wonder what there will remain for us to do when we have all been replaced by robot. I believe this will bring in a new era of enlightenment, where humans will be free of labor, and have all their needs of food and shelter and transport and entertainment met without having to work 16 hours a day.

By the way, we are already seeing this with automation and outsourcing. So this is simply a more extreme version of what we see today.

Then, we will have art and we will have philosophy. We will have people doing what they love and not what they must. The lower levels of Maslow's pyramid shall be scaled and we shall all run around in the playground at the summit of self-actualization, trying to meet our true potential. And we shall be happy.

And yet, all anyone can talk about is variations of the Frankenstein complex. I do not know why we so fear technology when all it's ever done is improve our lives. When women were freed from perpetual childcare with the invention of birth control pills, they finally realized their potential as doctors and programmers and scientists. When medicine improved enough that most humans would live to be 70, people spent more time learning in college than their parents.

Speaking of learning, many years ago, a woman of thirty may have been a grandmother. I wonder how much time she would have had to wonder, to figure out who she was, before dying of disease or in childbirth. Did she even have a choice, or realize that there may be something else out there?

Today, I am on the wrong side of twenty-five, but I am still, in my eyes a child, in need of a lot of growing. I haven't found myself yet, and I don't even know who I am, much less who I will be. If only the robots would take away driving and other chores, I'd have enough time to find out. Or to binge-watch the next season of my favorite TV show of course. That counts as art appreciation, right?

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