The Technonaturalist

I’m in the process of reorganizing my blog into something more static. I don’t plan to post as many lengthy articles in the future, but I’ll continue to answer questions and explore more specific applications of the philosophy I’ve developed here, such as articles on new technologies. Feel free to contact me with your feedback.

Technonaturalism

We can never know this for certain, but it’s probably safe to say that when prehistoric humans went into battle with a wooden club, the number who died by accidentally striking themselves in the head would have been relatively low. A club is enough of a deadly weapon in a fight, but it’s relatively safe for its user to wield. A sword, on the other hand, is a more powerful and deadly weapon, but unlike the club it carries with it certain risks – if you swing it carelessly you may cut yourself, and so more skill is required to safely use it. Firearms are more powerful again, and again they pose more of a threat not just to the enemy but to the user. Early firearms could easily backfire. Even today many people die every year when their firearms accidentally discharge while cleaning them. The number who accidentally beat themselves to death with a club remains at roughly 0.

This is the story of human weaponry through history – as it becomes more powerful, the technology must become more precise and controlled, and the user more skillful, in order to retain the same level of safety for the user. The nuclear technology of the twentieth century brought us to an advanced point along this curve – one design flaw, one misjudgment, one escalation, and whole cities could be leveled, a climatic catastrophe could be triggered, and civilization’s future, or even our species’ future, placed in jeopardy. In order to prevent disaster, new doctrines of mutually assured destruction developed, complex agreements of limitation were negotiated, no first-strike policies advocated, non-proliferation treaties signed. All this represents humanity’s belated attempts to develop the social, intellectual and political skill to control the new weapons they had unleashed.

This is also the story of human technology generally. Civilian use of nuclear power represents is not designed as a weapon, yet the principle of precision and control remains the same. A coal power plant holds no risk of meltdown, but nuclear technology demands more sophisticated safety measures to be in place. In other words, as the technology becomes more powerful, our survival and wellbeing can tolerate less mistakes in its use. We must constantly develop greater precision. As our technology is more an application of our increasing knowledge, this precision and temperance exists less in the physical domain of the sword-wielder, and instead moves into the intellectual domain, with physical skills replaced by social, economic, political and moral systems.

In the 21st century we see a new extreme to this trend. The automation of warfare through drones, the understanding and control of our own genetics, the end of privacy, the widespread use of increasingly powerful artificial intelligence, almost complete global computer interconnectivity – these new technologies require a new intellectual precision. With fine control and highly moral application, they will lift us to new heights; without a new level of skill and ethics, they will utterly destroy us. The stakes have never been higher, and so now is the time for us to develop a new philosophical clarity to carry ourselves safely forward into a better world.

This site will argue that certain philosophical assumptions we take for granted today are bi-products of 19th century thought that lacked vital insight supplied by specific scientific discoveries. That is not to say philosophy ought to discarded in favor of science, for then we merely end up with unexamined philosophical assumption with a veneer of scientific authority. It is merely to say that precise philosophy, the kind that we urgently need today, must sometimes consider science when it makes claims that are empirical, or else risk introducing dangerous inaccuracies. This is particularly the case we we consider questions such as “who are we?”, or “what is the moral thing to do?”. In the 19th century, such inaccuracies can be seen as philosophical curiosities with little consequence. Today, they might rob humanity of vital opportunities in our development, or cause us to flirt with our own extinction.

In the place of the inaccuracies of 19th century philosophy, this site will advocate something new it calls Technonaturalism. Why is Technonaturalism worth your time?

  • It pursues the truth, uses reason, and faces up to scientific reality
  • It treats morality and ethics seriously and refutes amoralism
  • It recognises the importance of technology and futurism
  • It recognises the significance of our biological nature
  • It rejects the extremes of both luddites and techno-utopians
  • It provides the intellectual skills to handle accelerating technological change

The five minute technonaturalist (wip)

Technonaturalism is politically agnostic/neutral. To be a technonaturalist, you merely have to understand the following:

The self – In our historical ignorance of the scientific reality, humans have invented abstract representations of ourselves – the ghost, the spirit, the life force. These often religious concepts act as a focal point for our moral teachings, and as a comfort when we struggle to perceive our purpose. Consciousness and identity serve similar psychological purposes. They superficially appear more scientific to modern eyes, but they are merely confused versions of the same basic form, impossible to define let alone justify. Worse, they strip away religion’s everyday moral teachings (the best part) while keeping the inaccuracy that compromises philosophical clarity. Consciousness does not stand up to true criticism or scrutiny. There is no need to invent abstract concepts like consciousness anymore. We know what we are. You and I are biological organisms. A species. A difficult realization at first, but the truth, and a profoundly moral truth, when we have the courage to face it.

Evolution of morality – Cooperation and even altruism evolves through three known processes – kin selection, group selection and (non-learnt) reciprocity. In highly social animals, these processes bring organisms together into increasingly larger, more coherent and more cooperative groups – families, clans, communities, even multi-cellular organisms. Morality is a real, scientifically recognizable process. If we have an instinct to be moral, this is its true factual nature which, if we are good, we choose to pursue. A genetically defined bond to our fellow human, imperfectly evolved into our fabric as cooperative creatures – this is morality that stands the test of science.

The biosphere – Much as our genetics gives us a moral duty to other people, it also gives the human species a moral duty to other species in the Earth’s biosphere. We are the biosphere’s undisputed leader, but our ethical duties suggest we should preserve our fellow species by acting as the biosphere’s captain, parent and steward.

Technology – Progress is multi-directional. Technology is a tool to be wielded with skill in the service of the biosphere. Technonaturalists should be technological experts who bring technological discernment to bear – unsentimentally and strategically selecting technologies to support, invent, research and use technology that is beneficial, while discouraging harmful and superficial technologies.

Space – As captain we should aim to leverage technology to protect species and advance space-wards, establishing a biosphere that spans beyond a single planet. We should aim to transition heavy industry into space and make Earth the pristine living jewel at the heart of a colonized solar system.

Futurism and existential risk management – We should take seriously the big picture of humanity and Planet Earth, we should take seriously thinking about technology and the future, we should treat more seriously the threats to civilization and biological life.