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Our foolish abuse of new technologies threatens our very future

We live in a time of so much scientific and technological advance that we can now (almost) detect megastructures of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy and that we can now (without the “almost”) digitally duplicate any person, living or dead, and interact with that person. But so much technology creates immense risks for the future of humanity (assuming there is still a future).

The German-British economist Ernst Schumacher (1911-1977) claims that humanity is in “mortal danger” “not because we lack scientific and technological knowledge, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom.”

In other words, what is so helpful to us and opens up so many new opportunities for us is the same thing that we foolishly use to self-destruct. In other words, the mechanism that makes us intelligent is simultaneously the mechanism we use to deceive ourselves. When that happens, wisdom disappears, and only ignorant and arrogant ignorance remains.

By confusing “knowledge” with “wisdom” and, at the same time, confusing “knowledge” with “information” (“I already know, I saw it in a movie), all possibility of reconnecting with the source of wisdom disappears because, due to the aforementioned confusion, we will look for “wise” answers by increasing our knowledge, but without ever reaching wisdom.

Acquiring knowledge solves the problem of ignorance, but it does not solve our foolishness. It is possible to have acquired an impressive amount of knowledge and, at the same time, be impressively foolish to foolish. Wisdom is the antidote to foolishness. And the constant search for that wisdom (accepting that we will never find it in its fullness) is philosophy.

I agree with what the Spanish philosopher Carlos Javier González Serrano recently expressed when he said that “Never before has philosophy been so necessary to know.” But know what? González Serrano proposes that, at this moment, “knowing” can be understood as “thinking and acting with the manipulation” (emotional and psychological) to which we are subjected precisely by technology.

In this context, folly consists, paraphrasing González Serrano, in seeking a way to live “in an uninhabitable world.” Or, if I may, we seek to live peacefully in a world that we ourselves have made uninhabitable, a totally artificial world that we believe to be real, a technological Platonic cavern that manages and governs all our desires and our attention.

To quote the Spanish philosopher again, “infinite scrolling” has become the prevalent way of “existing” in the world. We think without questioning what we think, and we confuse “normal” (for us) with what is “real” and, even worse, with the only possible reality. Therefore, not even a pandemic can make us reflect on our lives, our culture, and our society.

What can you do then? Obviously, I don't know. I am not wise, and I never will be. I am a perpetual seeker of wisdom. Therefore, I dare to suggest that what we should do is talk with truly wise people (not “influencers”), regardless of what era they lived in and what tradition they belong to.

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