You will probably be aware that the phenomenon of technology is central to my philosophical worldview. The human species IS that part of life on Earth which has become technological, and it is this fact that distinguishes the human species from the rest of life on Earth, this fact that elevates it to a position of 'superiority'.
In my writings I have outlined why it is obvious to me that technology is in the interests of life on Earth, obvious that the bringing forth of technology is a positive event in the evolution of the planet. This view does not entail that ALL aspects of technology are positive/beneficial/in the interests of life on Earth. Indeed, such a view would be blatantly absurd. Everyone knows that technology has both positive and negative aspects.
Yet, when it comes to the environment, people typically have a very polarised view of technology. The neo-Luddites see technology as a wholly bad phenomenon which is the cause of the environmental crisis. At the other extreme is the view that whatever environmental problems arise technology can provide a solution; technology is conceptualised as a silver bullet, a panacea.
Sometimes people mistakenly believe that the Silver Bullet view of technology is part of my philosophical worldview. The reason for this mistaken belief seems to lie in the conflation of two different beliefs: 1) The belief that the evolution of technology is a positive event for life on Earth. 2) The belief that technology can provide a solution for every environmental problem. These are two very different beliefs; I advocate the first belief and reject the second.
In my latest book:
I outline the environmental realms in which technology is obviously in the interests of life on Earth. I also outline the environmental problems which seemingly cannot be solved by technology; non-technological solutions are required. A serious view of the place of technology in an evolving planet needs to do this, needs to embrace both the positive and the negative aspects of technology. Technology simultaneously eliminates risks which threaten the survival of life on Earth, and presents a danger to life on Earth. A serious approach to the 'environmental crisis' needs to outline which areas require technological solutions and which areas require non-technological solutions. The extremes of the neo-Luddite view and the Silver Bullet view are equally useless.
In a broad sense the suffering caused by technology is crystal clear for all to see. When one hears on the news, as one regularly does, that a bus full of children has crashed and that the vast majority have died, what is one to think? One thinks if it wasn't for the technology of cars/buses etc. that this death and suffering wouldn't have occurred. One wonders: Why on earth do we whizz around at 80 miles per hour in bits of metal in confined spaces? Of course, the death and suffering which results from such whizzing about is a wholly negative effect of technology, but it is a price to be paid for the benefits of technology for life on Earth. Non-human animals also suffer immensely because of technology. Hit by cars, ripped to shreds by airplane propellers, shot by guns, harpooned in the ocean, killed by wind turbines. The suffering is there for all to see, a price to be paid for the benefits of technology for life on Earth.
There are good grounds for believing that the suffering caused by technology will reduce in the future, whilst the benefits will become exceedingly clear. When this happens a widespread reconceptualisation will be possible - the human species, as that part of life which has brought forth technology, is the saviour of life on Earth. The earliest stages of technology are the most dangerous ones. As time progresses technology can be more effectively controlled and suffering can be greatly reduced. For example, in the future the amount of road deaths looks set to be slashed as technological advancements enable cars to be self-driven. The Metro newspaper reported on Wed 30 May 2012 that ('Convoy of driverless cars completes 200km test run'):
"a convoy of self-driven cars took to a public road for the first time. The convoy of Volvos kept a gap of 6m (19ft) as they travelled at speeds up to 52mph for 200km (124 miles) on a road outside Barcelona. The test cars were fitted with cameras, radars and laser sensors that allowed them to maintain a gap as they copied a lorry, which was controlled by a professional driver."
Clearly, the suffering resulting from the bringing forth of mechanised vehicles and roads initially increases as they spread over the Earth. However, there becomes a tipping point, after this point technological advances enable the suffering to dramatically fall. In this realm, and many others, technological solutions ultimately reduce the suffering which was previously caused by technology.
Whilst there are these grounds for optimism, it needs to be remembered that technology is a complex phenomenon. In some areas technological development provides large benefits for life and no risk or suffering whatsoever (when the realm is considered in isolation); for example, the technology to protect life from a meteor strike. In other areas, such as geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere, there is an absolute need for the technology, but there is also risk and a potential for suffering. In this realm, one naturally hopes that the technology will 'work first time'. But, as with the evolution of technology in the realm of road safety, there is every reason to expect progression. In other words, there will be lots of small-scale experiments which don't go exactly as planned, but these will lay the foundations for a technological solution which provides vast benefits and negligible deleterious impacts.