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Does Technology Induce Nihilism?

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Image via Tim GouwModern life is suffused by technology. We humans do not live in the natural world. We live in the technological world. From dawn to dusk, our activities are facilitated and mediated through a variety of technological aids. These technologies change how we relate to the world and how the world relates to us. Some of them are bright and prominent in our lives. Others have become part of the background furniture (literally) of life — hiding in plain sight.Digital technologies are just the latest additions to our technological ecology. Their novelty means that they induce the most excitement and the most hand-wringing. People worry about the power of these technologies over our lives. Are they being used to surveil us against our wills? To control us and manipulate us to nefarious ends? Do they impair our cognitive capacities? Would we be better off without them?But here’s a question that I suspect few people ask: is digital technology making us more nihilistic? Indeed, most people might think it is an odd question. It is, nevertheless, the question that lies at the heart of Nolen Gertz’s book Nihilism and Technology. The book is a short, polemic about the impact of technology on modern life. Using Nietzsche’s thoughts on nihilism, Gertz argues that digital technologies are provoking and accentuating a form of ‘passive nihilism’ and once this has been identified it should prompt greater critical scrutiny of the role technology is playing in the modern era.Hewing to the nihilistic perspective, Gertz tries to avoid presenting a standard moral critique of technology, and tries to transcend the simple binary (pro/anti) thinking about technology that has become pervasive. He tells us that his goal is, instead, to get us to interrogate the process through which we evaluate technology and progress (Gertz 2017, Ch 1). For me, this makes the book somewhat confusing to read since it means that, at times, Gertz says he is doing one thing when it really seems. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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