“There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and it is a delusion to believe that the technological changes of our era have rendered irrelevant the wisdom of the ages and the sages.”
– Neil Postman
Science and technology are ultimately human endeavours, and they are not neutral. In fact, both are only natural insofar as they are human, which is why we must think critically about science and technology. Our common pursuit of a good life starts and ends with people, not platforms or profits, or the promise of power. To judge which paths toward the future are best and which are likely to betray their promises, we must start with knowing what is good.
For this reason, we do not approach the latest technology and newest studies with blind devotion. We keep an open mind while remembering that open minds must eventually close on something good and solid. Criticism, as a discipline, should express appreciation where it’s deserved but also ask hard questions. And the hardest questions start with why.
What does the design of a product tell us about why it was made? Why does a survey ask one question but not another? Why do powerful firms ask for the public’s trust? These are necessary questions. Even when we can’t arrive at a simple answer, asking tough questions helps us understand our tools—what they give, and what they take away.
Asking questions isn’t license to doubt experts, however. There are already enough temptations to withdraw into comfortable, personalized bubbles. Why do we ask questions? For our neighbours’ good. Our common pursuit of truth should ultimately tend to the needs of our closest communities.
If there’s no escape from ourselves, then we may as well be human together.