Columns

We Have Technology, But Do We Have the Wisdom to Handle It?

Natacha Pisarenko

One analyst, writing on Twitter, suggested that even if suspicions that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a lab should prove well-founded, little would come of it because regional reactions had already taken it into account. The world would move on as before, in other words.

But this is unlikely for several reasons, the most obvious of which are:

  • The ecosystem of the world has been globally and forever changed. Billions of lives and careers have been altered, thousands of industries devastated and millions of lives lost.
  • A political backlash that may alter the balance of the 2022 elections in the U.S. and similarly in Europe.
  • Resulting tensions between China and the U.S.

The most imponderable impact will be a loss of naive confidence in technological progress as the public becomes increasingly aware that technology is also the greatest single source of risk to the human race. Dual-use technologies like climate engineering, biotechnology, and artificial general intelligence are not only the stuff of dreams, they are the well of nightmares.

The jury is still out on Ernst Mayr’s lugubrious conjecture that man is doomed because “intelligence is a lethal mutation.” Are the skies silent because every intelligent species that evolved before humanity passed the intelligence test but failed at wisdom?

The tree of life is not more important and perhaps inseparable from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We have technology, but so did the Nazis. Do we have wisdom? That is the crucial and yet unaskable question of today’s elites.

They act as if wisdom were unimportant, akin almost to superstition. That, at any rate, they’ve acquired this quality along the way, along with the rest of their virtue. It is telling that even catastrophe on a pandemic scale could not wean the establishment from its customary reliance on the narrative. They tried to cover up the facts until reality burned through their countermeasures.

And then they were irked at the questioning of their prerogatives. No, the world won’t move on. Humanity must face technology squarely because it can run from it no longer or, like Dr. Frankenstein, will find a monster dogging its steps until it finds an answer.