Is Modern Technology a Threat To Humanity?

Technology has become an absolute necessity in our lives. It goes without saying that it has made our lives much more accessible. But it is also true that it comes with a fair share of problems. Our phones and the internet have transformed our world; however, they also sent us spiralling down a hole of addiction, overdependence, and cyber-threats. 

A famous German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, warned us about the risks of modern technology. His overall argument was that technology is practically toxic because we passed the threshold where our inventions were just tools that helped us accomplish specific tasks to where the technologies we invent now practically have a mind of their own. They are self-evolving, the technologies we create solves the issue it is meant to solve, but along with its existence comes new problems that we can only solve by creating more technologies. It is as though we are losing touch with our reality because technologies are replacing them. However, despite this reality, we don't give up on our technologies. According to Heidegger, we hide behind this mental framework that as we create them, we are entirely in control of them. Which isn't always the case. During my intense quarantine Netflix binging, I came across this movie I am Mother, which touched on every issue posed in Heidegger's argument. 

I Am Mother is an Australian Science Fiction thriller by Grant Sputore. The setting takes place in post-apocalyptic planet Earth, where an automated bunker created for human repopulation is activated. An AI within the bunker is put in charge of the system, and she (the AI's given pronoun) takes care of the embryos. The AI goes by the name mother, and she raises one embryo at a time. Nurturing the child as a mother would "preparing them" for the new world. The female child, the protagonist of the story, grows up under mother’s supervision and excels. However, she is soon faced with realities that challenge her trust in her AI mother. She will quickly discover that the AI was behind the extinction of the human race. Although the AI was created to save the human race, the conscious bot eventually realized that the only way to save humanity is by completely restarting. Therefore, she killed the entire species and started over with the embryos. As she raises the embryos, she puts them through tests and kills them if they do not pass. 

The movie explores many of Heidegger's concerns. Heidegger was concerned that humans no longer have as much control over their creations as they wished they did. Yet we are under the impression that we do have full control over our inventions because they were created by us. The movie clearly indicates this phenomenon, the AI has complete control over everything. She controls human life, our species' outcome, and the other machinery's actions within the premises. Just as Heidegger warned us, this machinery that a human-created to benefit the human species was not under control but, in fact, beyond our abilities. The AI was so advanced that it has a singular consciousness; the mother robot has full control of all technology. She massacred human society, hunt down the last living beings, and set up the machines to revitalize the ecosystem for a new beginning. If the scientists of their world could have foreseen this outcome and would they have still made such a creation? 

The AI also drastically impacted and re-shaped the social, cultural, and cognitive life as we know it. Firstly, she changed the human species' relative outcome and lifestyle by voluntarily taking the outcome into her own hands. Secondly, she has also significantly impacted the child's social and cultural aspects of her life. The daughter lived an extremely simple life in that bunker, under the perception that the air outside is toxic. She had no social life. The only being she knew was the bot and the hope that she will one day have brothers and sisters (the embryos). However, under the AI's household, the daughter got an adequate education. She was trained in medicines, arts, and science subjects her mother perceived to be essential to one day becoming the next mother.

The life portrayed in the film is an outcome of a series of actions made under the misconception that we have full control over our technologies. Prior to extinction, human beings had the resources and intelligence to create a highly functional, resourceful, and intelligent machine. However, they did not stop to think if it was necessary and how its existence could alter their lives. In the storyline, mother did everything right; she did exactly what she was programmed to do. Her intentions were harmless. However, it does not justify the harm she caused. She alters the natural course of our species because she could not grasp human complexity. Is that good or bad? We do not know. But are we still willing to take that step? 

This is the primary concern Heidegger poses. The technologies are no longer just tools, "everything is functioning […] the functioning propels everything more and more toward further functioning," dislodging man and uprooting him from the earth. The technologies are replacing humankind, while we are still under the impression that our "creations" are for our benefits, therefore, entirely under our control. My prof once said artistic works like this film "usually appear during periods of rapid technological instability or change." Right now is a time of technological uncertainty. AI bots with human emotions exist; there is a high possibility that they will be fully functioning in the near future. However, the risks of having such technology are still highly debated, and many movies have been made on the underlying fear of modern technology. Heidegger poses a very legitimate concern. We live under the misconception of our own capabilities. We have the tendency to exploit everything with the assumption that it is for the better. Nevertheless, everything comes with good and evil, and at some point, we will have to know when to stop. The question is, when do we stop.