It is the job of science to expand the horizon of human knowledge to the very edge of the universe itself. It is the goal of science to explore every facet of the world around us in a way that makes sense. Armed with the tools of logic, reason, rationality, and imagination scientists of all kinds confidently tease out explanations of physical phenomena. So far, scientific pursuits have largely broadened technological abilities. To a smaller extent, it has also allowed for social progress. Yet, there is that startling, relevant question: why hasn’t ethics caught up with science?
In nearly every other area of life, people have found a better way to go about their business. Technology is streamlined despite much of its planned obsolescence, our information is crunched at incredible speeds, and the rate of scientific discovery and progress is an unprecedented burst of pure creation. There is a heavy emphasis now on STEM programs and jobs. We are encouraged to learn more about how the world operates and build it better, faster, and shinier.
Yet it seems to me as if the push for ethics is lagging behind. We are creating technology faster than we can create laws to keep up with it. Or is this even under the purview of law, since you cannot exactly legislate behavior, only punishments or a protocol one follows when another has broken one. What we seem to have are the deeply religious calling us back into the Dark Ages; they’d rather us eschew modern sensibilities, products, and “lifestyles.” I have never hated a word so much as “lifestyle.” It implies that a chosen life is somehow less honorable, less moral than one lived purely by sacrifice.
Humans are so numerous now, and our abilities and freedoms so many that the ways of the past cannot sustain an effective move forward. The pace of everything is speeding up every year and it seems like hardly anyone can hold on. We have record numbers of mental disorders, even though crime rates have dropped to record lows. We are turning inward on ourselves because we can barely grasp the pace of the world. This is an age where some scientists are literally creating never before seen elements, materials that shouldn’t exist, and are poking through the very fabric of space itself. We are planning to send scientists and regular people to Mars within the next few decades. We are also planning on quantum computers becoming a regular thing in the same amount of time, and many scientists aren’t even completely sure of just how many different uses they will have. They can barely conceive of it because it is just so wondrous.
I have to wonder if we are so excited by these prospects that we forget to put some ground rules in place. The rules of the past are showing themselves to be the temporary modes of operation and that they usually only serve as a detriment now. The scientific method has become its own weird source of morality, abstaining from all judgment until checked against actual reality, which is very very strange indeed. It almost starts to seem like anarchy, as if you cannot actually judge what people do, what privacy is, what freedom means, what is ethical and what is not. However, this is not the case. What this is is an opportunity to change the pace of morality and ethics as well.
We have such forward tech and such backward thinking. These two pull at each other and only one can win out. In the end, we may have to lose our minds just a little in order to realize that we can rebuild it better. There seems to be this mode of thinking that denies that change can happen within the mind, the personality, that people should not be broken. But isn’t it the most scientific of attitudes that when something breaks, you can learn how it all works together and improve upon it? Has that not been what human progress has been since the beginning? Our immune systems, our minds, even our entire race has been broken, infiltrated, and nearly completely destroyed only to come back as something newer, slightly different, and better equipped.
As we move forward towards a future stranger than we can even think of today, our morality must keep up with us. It must be rooted in actuality instead of speculation. Everything is literally up for grabs and nothing is sacred. Each of those deeply rooted ideas that people hold about community, gender, government, privacy, and freedom are changeable qualities of our lives. They have different meanings now. I don’t know how possible it is for the current law-making process to keep up with the pace of technology and practices that alter our perception of the barriers between us. I’m not sure how people will understand or utilize manners when lives are evolving in the public sphere in such a way as to erase what was once thought to be the public/private threshold. In the digital world, rights management and inheritance is a huge issue. What kind of morality and ethics last in a world that won’t sit still for long?
Do we use quantum physics or stick with the classical interpretation of the brain? It seems as if the world was so shell-shocked by quantum physics that we pretend it doesn’t exist most of the time, despite it being the most accurate model to date. Relativity has barely sunk into the collective consciousness. Too many still live in that classical, mechanical world, with it’s static and rigid classical morality. Relativity brought up the problem of there being no absolutes, and therefore no real way to judge. Quantum physics is all about taking account, about individual effect, and about the fact that we cannot escape our consciousness. If we go a little crazy in the process, it’s just par for the course.