20200910 - LeanAgileX2020 - Nihilism and technology, Dr. Nolen Gertz

by Thierry de Pauw on


Nihilism and technology, Dr. Nolen Gertz


Assistant Professor of Applied Philosophy at the University of Twente

Book: Nihilism and Technology

Why do we use technology?

Technology gives you leisure. And it is liberating.

Aristoteles: leisure through slavery

Karl Marx: why not have leisure for everyone also for the slaves

That is what technology tries to promise: leisure for everyone

  • @jamgregory: @ethicistforhire "Technology is providing us with leisure... but is technology providing us with liberation?" That's a deep question for 9:45am on a Thursday! #LeanAgileX

What is technology?

Is technology just a tool?
A means to an end?
Or is it just destroying the world?

  • determinism: technology is dangerous
  • ...
  • utopianism: technology is progres

  • @jamgregory: @ethicistforhire There's a few different perspectives on technology.
    For example, Tinder could be seen as a utopia for dating. Perhaps it's just an analogy for how we date in real life? Or is it dangerous - the "keep swiping" button that appears if you aren't swiping enough! #LeanAgileX

How do we use technology?

Whenever a philosophy professor offers you 3 options, there's a fourth:

  • postphenomenology: technology is all of these things and none of these things simultaneously

Technologies are not neutral.
They are trying to change something about ourselves and about the world. @ethicistforhire

Technologies reveal and conceal simultaneous. What the technology gives us and hides from us. @ethicistforhire

  • @hibri: “We don’t exist independent of technology and technology doesn’t exist independently of us” @ethicistforhire at #Leanagilex

Traditional Philosophy:
humans perceive
humans act
technologies are means to human ends

technologies are not mere means

  • @jamgregory: If you look at the stats for Tinder... what is actually the satisfaction of it? Are we actually being excited by being cruel - by judging people? #LeanAgileX

Tinder is not a dating app. It is a judging app. @ethicistforhire

Facebook at the beginning was also a like/dislike app.

Descriptive: technologies mediate practical life
Normative: ...

technologies are not neutral
influence experience
influence ethics

  • @jamgregory: What does it mean that we so blindly follow technology? i.e. the Apple Maps mishaps, when their directions were causing cars to invade an airport runway - mainly because it told them to! #LeanAgileX

What does technology mean?

According to Marc Zuckerberk, technology has a mission to bring the world closer together.
... but
Facebook is the death of democracy, judging women as hot or not

Data drives all we do

... we are necessarily strangers to ourselves ..., Nietzsche
- sufficient time? too busy
- sufficient earnestness? too cowardly

Make ourselves busy in order to avoid knowing who we are -> Why???
We like to have a boss who we can blame we don't have enough time

Nihilism is really what's in play here.

What does it mean? We are weary of man

  • @jamgregory: What is nihilism? Is all of our progress - instead of actually bringing us joy, it actually brings us sickness? Are we weary of other people? #LeanAgileX

Progress is not Human Progress

Why would we be "weary of man"?
Responsibility is Regulatability = Predictability

...a grand struggle against the feeling of displeasure..., Nietzsche
Religion = Salvation
(from the suffering created by religion)

  • @hairyagile: In C19th Nietzsche realised that people were becoming depressed. He gave examples of how priests make people feel better and offer salvation.
    @ethicistforhire makes the case that technology companies do the same sort of thing. #Leanagilex

  • self-hypnosis

  • herd formation

  • mechanical activity

  • orgies of feeling: most dangerous, occasianally we need to explode (positive: , negative: hooliganism)

  • petty pleasures

Tech Companies are modern day priests

  • @wouterla: "It's useful that facebook and twitter use Nietchian terminology like 'followers'" - #leanagilex, @ethicistforhire during his opening keynote "Nihilism and technology" https://t.co/hya8ywzOl2

Nietszche: God is dead
Bostrom: don't worry, Technology is God

"Brave New World" is not a tale of human enhancement gone amok, but is rather a tragedy of technology used to cripple humanity.

Too see technology as the solution to life's problems leads to seeing life itself as a problem, @ethicistforhire

  • @hgdrury: Is the leisure that tech affords making us see life itself as a problem that needs solving? Thought-provoking keynote from @ethicistforhire at #leanagilex

Sketchnotes from @twalsh92:
- @twalsh92: A really interesting keynote from @ethicistforhire on “Nihilism and Technology” at @leanagilex #leanagilex #sketchnote https://t.co/r9ACb6ixaY


  • @jamgregory: An interesting question and answer session now about how we teach children they shouldn't be spending all their time on a tablet, but that the tablet is now their teacher.
    Why - as adults - do we stop asking "why?" Maybe we're the problem...? #LeanAgileX

  • @jamgregory: Do we have a rush to the bottom in technology ethics?
    Does the excuse "if we don't do it, someone else will" actually hold any water? #LeanAgileX