The more technological power grows, the smaller we become

By | May 18, 2022

Audrey Borowski writes:

For [the philosopher Günther] Anders, the disasters of the 20th century were simply the logical outcome of a pernicious process that had already been underway for many years, involving the gradual exclusion of mankind from all production processes – and, ultimately, from the world created by those processes. The real catastrophe in this regard, which Anders hoped to make ‘visible for the first time’, lay in the transformation of the human condition, a transformation that had become as naturalised and imperceptible as it was destructive. ‘The atom bomb,’ he argued, was ‘thus the ultimate emblem of an unearthly, unsettling and haunting force channelled by complex technological objects: it illuminates that the more “our” technological power grows, the smaller we become; the more unconditional and unlimited the capability of machines, the more conditional our existence; the more machines connect us by virtue of their very existence, the more we are also singled out as being expendable and inadequate.’

Like his first wife, the philosopher Hannah Arendt, Anders paused to reflect on the retreat of human morality, and on man’s ability to suspend his ability to reflect, to take leave of his sensitivity and empathy. No task was more pressing than examining those processes ‘inscribed at the very heart of our technical modernity’, which meant that ‘the repetition of the monstrous is not only possible, but it is probable’.

At first protective, technology and artifice, by mediating every dimension of human life, had exacerbated our alienation in the world and now threatened to overwhelm us. [Continue reading…]

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