Know-How and Technology

Reducing knowledge to know-how and doing away with thought leaves us trapped by an impulse to see the world merely as a field of problems to be solved by the application of the proper tool or technique, and this impulse is also compulsive because it cannot abide inaction. We can call this an ideology or we can simply call it a frame of mind, but either way it seems that this is closer to the truth about the mindset of Silicon Valley.

The trouble with this way of seeing the world is that it cannot quite imagine the possibility that some problems are not susceptible to merely technical solutions or, much less, that some problems are best abided. It is also plagued by hubris—often of the worst sort, the hubris of the powerful and well-intentioned—and, consequently, it is incapable of perceiving its own limits.

Zuckerberg’s Blindness and Ours– L.M. Sacasas

I wonder if a connection can be made back to Kierkegaard here on his distinction between objectivity and subjectivity. In CUP, although he is specifically writing about our relationship to Christian existence, he writes:

In a logical system, nothing must be taken on that has a relation to life itself, nothing that is not indifferent to existence. The infinite advantage over all other thinking held by the logical, by being objective, is limited in turn by the fact that, seen subjectively , it is a hypothesis, it is a hypothesis just because it is indifferent to life in the sense of actuality.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 94- Johannes Climacus

Kierkegaard is writing here on the inability of humans to objectify existence, and to subsume existence itself to some logical system that we can somehow control and understand. The Hegelians of his day spent their time on speculative metaphysics, on grasping reality as it really is. The thought was that the building of a speculative system would allow for absolute understanding. I wonder if the same is true of our current techno-modern situation. We cannot fathom a scenario where all knowledge, all problems, all of existence itself could not one day be subsumed under our technological prowess.

That’s why I think we don’t need to get rid of individualism — we just need a better one. We need an individualism that recognizes the necessity of subjective knowledge; one that doesn’t assume that objectivity (of the kind found in our relentless desire for technological solutions to humanity’s problems) is the only valid sphere of knowledge.

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