Technology, Design And Values

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Mar 23, 2014
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Some of the questions I've been thinking about recently ... 

--When we are overloaded with information, tech provides us filtering algorithms; nature provides us intuition.  How do we contrast algorithms and intuition?  Put another way, can all problems be solved?  Is a death a problem to be solved?

--Google engineering director, Ray Kurzweil, recently said: "Google will know you better than your spouse.  Better even than yourself."  Are we giving up this power consciously, or are we being mindlessly seduced into it?

--Heard at TED conference this week: "People will use nanobots to connect the capillaries of their brains to the cloud, merging biological thinking with artificial intelligence and enabling a leap in human capabilities equivalent to the great advances of millions of years of evolution."  But what's the flip side of that technology going into hands that use it for self-centered purposes?  What is our safeguard against that?

--Doctors have a Hippocratic Oath.  What about the twenty-something engineers, who are just trying to do 'cool things', and affecting how trillions of people connect?  The pace at which we are developing platforms, do we even have time to ask such questions?

--Larry Page recently said, "I'd rather leave my millions to Elon Musk than charity."  Are corporations our best bet for innovations that will change the world?

--Google started with "Do No Evil" motto, but as they scaled massively, they seem to have changed their value system.  How do we contrast design principles of Google versus Gandhi (who spoke about decentralization, precisely due it to capacity for resiliency)?

--We tend to view labor as toil.  What if labor wasn't something to be done away with, but rather an instrument for transformation that sustained a gift ecology?  Can we identify technologies whose design heuristics are to be "slow, inconvenient and unsensational"?

--We have a lot of faith in money and markets, like this couple who pays each other to put kids to bed and do dishes, or kids who are paid to do their homework.  What about innovations around the power of non-financial incentives?  

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Comments (4)

  • Radha Ivaturi wrote ...

    Wonderful thoughts Nipun !
    It is interesting to see how we think progress / future as machinized human beings rather than divinized human beings .
    I once heard that evolution after nature made human beings, is not in the physical realm but now evolution happens in the realm of the mind and spirit.
    Only trouble is, this evolution is voluntary and needs our 100% effort .
    As you rightly point out unfettered technology in the hands of uncontrolled mind is dangerous and self destructive indeed !
    Ultimately it boils down to this - it is easier to fix , buy control external bugs than the internal bugs.
    But what gives me hope and strange sense of confidence is that Nature/universe (as you call it ) and GOD (as i call it ) is always a few steps ahead and will lead us through .

  • Bill Miller wrote ...

    Wow, rich material for thought! Regarding the Ray Kurzweil item (also relevant to a couple others): brilliant as Kurzweil may be, he seems stuck in that materialist, reductionist view of the world where things - and people - are just the sum of their parts. And if some of those parts can be replaced or augmented with technology that he believes is “superior” in some way, then we’ll end up being “superior” humans.

    However I (and probably many on this list) believe that the essence of life exists in a realm quite apart from that of stuff pushed around by chemical and electrical forces. The trend of evolution, even technical evolution, as Buckminster Fuller termed it, is toward “dematerialization”. (For example, think of the infrastructure needed to hear a concert in 1850 versus 1950 versus today.)

    Consider that technology may be a useful crutch, and may be with us for a century or two, but I suspect there is something an order of magnitude more amazing beyond that. In that sense, a body enhanced with gadgets may be an interesting curiosity (if not a monstrosity) but that effort seems to be moving in the wrong direction.

  • Conrad P. wrote ...

    Thanks much Nipun. Great thoughts. You have my gratitude. Smiles and hugs.


  • Abhishek Thakore wrote ...

    Beautiful questions Nipun.....

    I think we mistake external activity that does something for genuine growth, while the deeper issues remain unresolved and manifest themselves in newer ways....

    Without working on the inner, all outer will continue to evoke responses about the possibility of misuse of new developments, their merits etc.

    A simple act of kindness coming from the heart can also be an innovation in that it hasn't been done in that way before perhaps. But, there is never a question of its 'misuse' or whether it is great 'technology'.....

    So my sense is that the inner space from which these innovations are being offered to mankind become important, they manifest in the nature of those innovations.....

    Moroever, looking at physical 'death' as a problem to be solved is such a limited view of life and living! In that it denies our interconnectedness and the Gaia that will survive irrespective of whether humans turn out to be a successful experiment or not....death has its own beauty, in many ways it is a blessing.....

    We are the inner work equivalents of many of these technologies i.e. we need to continue our inner work and exploration and come up with the other side of these evolutionary leaps (the inner side) - then the two can move in tandem and dance :)