Pablo's Law

January 16, 2019

"Any technology susceptible of being used to curtail personal freedom will eventually be used in such manner." That is Pablo's Law ©.

 

There are two sides of a human individual's worldview hardwired into its self-consciousness: the theorizing side and the modeling side. Succinctly put: One is the caveman connecting the dots between drops of water, getting wet, and figuring out that a hut made of dry leaves may keep him dry. The other is the searcher, the one who needs to feel a connection to something while guarding himself from rain under the hut. Mind you, both are indispensable in forming of a coherent oneness within the individual, though they are two different takes on the world around. A massively erudite though readable book by Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary, talks about the brain's left and right hemispheres not as independent but as (both) collaborators and competitors. Moreover, he makes use of his long expertise as a brain scientist and medical practitioner and invites the reader to see the brain hemispheres not in terms of "what" they do but, instead, on "how" they do it. This was a true whoa! moment for many of us readers. While the left hemisphere apprehends the world bit by bit, classifying and ordering what is known, predictable, and prone to be manipulated for advantage, the right hemisphere apprehends the wholeness of the experience, up close and personal, when encountering novel elements to perception.

 

I enjoyed that book. Very much, actually. But having read Leo Apostel's worldview model way earlier, it was more the experience of a re-encounter rather than a discovery. While reading, my mind couldn't stop bringing back The Rashomon Brain, i.e. Eliade's sacred vs. profane, Isaiah Berlin's hedgehogs vs. foxes, Kolakowski's mythical vs. technological cores, and William James' tough vs. tender mindedness. This is the thing with nature's pervasive duality, though: it is not an "either/or" game but instead a cooperative work for survival spiced up by a jockeying for primacy. The struggle within every individual, which mirrors the line crossing through every heart, contains how the world is experienced and, with that, the form in which the world will be transformed. If an individual is geared or primed towards being a minutiae-loving "accountant of life", or he allows that side of him to conquer, that is how he will look at the world and how he will transform it. Same goes the other way around. Now, let's add some chili sauce to the battle in everyone's mind, shall we?

 

Azar Gat's "War in Human Civilization" is my go-to lifesaver whenever the spirit of the proto.-snowflake J. J. Rousseau lurks around my heart. It exorcises it by reminding me that humans have been both helping and slaughtering each other since the dawn of time. There is absolutely no proof behind Rousseau's assertion that there was once an idyllic hunter-gatherer hippie utopia when everyone was living like in Woodstock, and that it all got ruined by the advent of what we know as "civilization". False. Hobbes win. All evidence points out to humans being pretty much the same as today, minus the modern institutions that have tamed it a bit. Being that the case, the introspectively dual heart of the human being (parallel to the mind's cooperative yet competitive modeling vs. theorizing dynamic) has a cherry on top: an evolutionary trait that, from time to time, tells the human to just chop heads off.

 

Opinions about doomsday for humanity coming through technology are abundant. Also abundant, though, are the opinions in the contrary. Honestly, I don't think often about apocalyptic scenarios and things like artificial intelligence. That's way too far to invest emotional, mental and time resources. Here and now is all you need to know about what humans will do to themselves: there's no functional difference between the technical prowess of an obsidian arrowhead thousands of years ago and one of those walking animal robots you see on Youtube™ all the time. None. Both are achievements of human's technical brain, its modeling drive if you may, i.e. the one isolating everything else outside a tiny turf of technical knowhow, laser focusing on it, and, without any value judgments attached to it, engineer the shit out of it until it becomes a functional wonder. Humans do that because they can't help it. It's in their nature to overthink models in the here and now: microwaves, steel reinforcing, mind altering chemicals, weather control devices, laboratory bacteria, you name it. What humans can't do well, though, is to theorize, also in the here and now, the implications of a technical wonder. That's the longterm, wholeness capturing side of their perception that takes time to turn its engine and foresee all the consequences of the acts arising from their non-value driven side. Therefore, inevitably, all technological progress achieved by humans will fall on the wrong side of their evolutionary tactics and be used against their own, and, ultimately, themselves. Like the hydrogen bomb, microwave pizzas or advertising.

 

Humans have reached the borders of the possible. Therefore, they have started to look for the next frontier to engineer: themselves. What is the greatest enigma and taboo in society? Liberty. You don't mess with it yet you want to mess with it all the time. It arises from the free will of humans, based on their self-consciousness. Humans are aware of their finitude and fear it, lament it, and search for it. That's how contradictory a species can turn when aware of its mortality. Knowing your weaknesses and fears is knowing your fellow humans' weaknesses and fears. It follows, then, that man is a wolf to man. It sounds fancier in Latin, actually, so here it goes: homo homini lupus est. Humans are condemned to freedom inasmuch as their freedom is the measure of erasing everyone else's freedom. And the ultimate unfreedom is death, henceforth death is procured by humanity, ironically, by trying to preserve it. Read Jeremiah 42 or Job 3. These have been the fears of humans since time immemorial and, as a clock, what they fear is what comes true for they are the engineers of their own suffering.

 

That's the why of Pablo's Law. It doesn't matter if it's a new lacquer to remove paint, a nail clipping device, or a life saving drug: whatever technology humans come up with will inevitably be used against themselves, particularly what they value most: their freedom. Exhibit A: you, online, right now.

 

 

 

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