Wisdom and skills


There have been more inventions in the last 100 years than in the 40.000 years before. Science and technology have created many new opportunities and liberties, which have led to many changes. And change, especially fundamental change, is initially accompanied by insecurity.

When something is really new, it can only be described by what it is not, as there is no established name for it yet. Without this reference and/or prior experience, we lack the means to assess, whether this new “thing” is reliable and trustworthy. This makes us feel uncomfortable and insecure. Naming, also known as branding, ultimately raises the familiarity and eases our tensions. It helps us in adopting the new. “Googling” is a good example. But adopting something new doesn’t necessarily mean that we will deal with it in a responsible way.

Looking at the world around us today, it is quite obvious that science and technology have advanced a lot faster than our human capability to deal with both responsibly.

Skills by far outweigh wisdom.

“The saddest part of life right now is that science gathers
knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
(Isaac Asimov, author and professor)

“Is it progress, if a cannibal uses a knife and a fork?”
(Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, aphorist)

And is it progress, if we feel more comfortable – if that is the right word – with a smartphone than with a knife and a fork?

Incidentally, my major 2015 New Year’s resolution was not to take my smartphone along anymore when meeting family or friends for dinner. One of my better and more successful New Year’s resolutions, I’m happy to say.

By the way, isn’t the rule that the knife is held in the right hand and the fork in the left hand a clear discrimination of left-handers? That’s what behavioral codes – the so-called dos and don’ts – often do. They aren’t just about good manners, they discriminate the heretics and by doing so, they aim to preserve the status-quo. But that’s another story.

Wherever I go these days, people are talking about scientific and technological progress. But as always, all that glitters is not gold. We spend way too much time dreaming about what science and technology might eventually be able to do, instead of spending more time considering what humanity must do. Over-reliance on skills, i.e. science and technology, is dangerous. For the future of humanity, human progress is at least as important as scientific and technological progress.

We must re-balance wisdom and skills.

Smart this, smart that, but what about smart people?

Can we change to become “better”?

Do we want to become “better”?

What is “better”?

Who defines “better”?

What do we want to be?

What are our goals and ambitions?

How do we want to live?

What are we willing to do for it?

What are we willing to give up?

Why would we do what we might be able to do?

Will we change and evolve voluntarily or must we be forced and/or led?

By whom?

Are we hoping that our tools – science and technology – will take care of everything?

Who controls these tools for now?

What will happen once these tools become more than just tools?

What will happen to us, once these tools become autonomous?

Will they still be tools? Will they still be our tools?

Will we still be autonomous or will we lose our freedom?

Are we presently free? Really?

Do we care?

Will science and technology dehumanize us?

Isn’t it happening already?

Could we eventually be redesigned by having our brains rewired?

Could we rewire our brains ourselves?

Wouldn’t a redesign change who – or what – we are?

Who – or what – would decide upon the redesign?

Biological and genetic engineering?

The return of the “Übermensch”?

What does it mean to be human?

Is techno-feudalism our future?

“Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology,
whether we passionately affirm or deny it.”
(Martin Heidegger, philosopher)

By the way, Martin Heidegger said this back in 1954!

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