Engineering Philosophy

Technology is Hope

I recently saw this
TED talk
and it really crystallized why I love technology so much. Go ahead
and watch the talk before you read this post, or not in which case I will sound
far more original than I might otherwise be.

Have you watched it? Good.

The main thesis of Professor Herr’s presentation is that people are not
disabled, instead their technology is insufficient for their needs (14:25 in
the video). This turns out to be an incredibly potent idea. Before disabilities
like deafness, blindness, loss of limbs were permanent conditions. There were
no solutions. Through time and effort humanity was able to build crutches or
stop gaps. Hearing aids, peg legs, crude imitations of the organic components
they were replacing. This was all that could be accomplished at the time and
this is why we considered people disabled, because there was no way to fix what
was broken with them. Their condition was permanent. Professor Herr shows us
differently. By taking an incredibly hard problem (replicating a human leg) and
applying his skill and that of his team they were able to produce a very close
facsimile to a human leg. Is it a perfect replica no, but it is a start on a
long journey. And unlike our legs, his team’s work is constantly improving and
will (I have no doubt) eventually surpass our own organic ones. This work
proves that people are not broken we just have not developed the technology to
fix them.

Why does this show how much I love technology? Because the root of Professor
Herr’s philosophy is ultimately the belief in a better world. Not just hope
that things will get better, not just a faint hazy dream of an improved future,
but a real steadfast unshakeable conviction that the world is becoming better
through improvements in technology. And in true empirical fashion he asks us
not to take that conviction on faith, but on the real concrete evidence he
presents. Do not underestimate the power of this ideology. Embrace it and make
it part of your identity. I do not just believe, but I know that humanity grows
its knowledge daily, cultivated by the work of all of us to push ourselves and
our technology inexorably forward.

When I say I love technology I really am just saying I love humanity’s will
to better themselves and our world. I love our intellectual strength that we
wield Thor like to crush the problems of our ancestors. Can you imagine how
things used to be? How our species used to be hobbled by inefficiencies, by
disease, by the dark. Technology is that great shinning light in the distance
illuminating the future for us.

We have not solved all our problems yet, but we can and we will. No gods
will rescue us, our own will and might shall be our salvation.

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