The hype around the technological future is all too real these days and it is subject to all too little skepticism. More than likely, you have seen the headlines: extending human lifespan, genetic engineering, “designer babies,” space exploration, etc. There is undeniably a cult of personality surrounding futurism, accepting any advancement as a win for the human species and a move towards a better future.
Just recently, Elon Musk demonstrated an almost-hilarious act of capitalism — literally launching his own commodity into space as a PR stunt for his space expenditures. CRISPR studies have become as synonymous with biology students as pre-med. The prospect of “designer babies,” i.e. the selective genetic engineering of DNA in unborn children, is no longer a dream of sci-fi hobbyists. Calico, a project created by Google, has been recruiting assets and support for its mission of reverse engineering biology and controlling lifespan. These technological advances, now just at the fingertips of humankind, have generated much hype and excitement among not only scientific communities, but the general public as well. We all had a friend who was practically drool-sodden watching a Tesla roadster glide through space to a David Bowie soundtrack. Quite simply, this should be incredibly concerning.
These technological advances, paraded as doorways to a stronger and better humanity, are extremely dangerous for the reason that they are a product of, and would be implemented in, a class-based society. It is common knowledge that healthcare is often discriminatory and perpetuates classism. The poor and marginalized groups in society are not given access to the same kind of health facilities and resources as the richer classes and thus are disadvantaged on a basic level of physical health. These disparities can lead to community-devastating conditions of infant mortality, shortened life expectancy and general poor health. How then would the extension of human lifespan not follow similar patterns, especially if it would involve specialized services? While the advancement may seem noble, its implementation is a matter of concern in a society which gives priority to the upper classes when it comes to resources.
On another note, expenditures in space exploration (particularly those by Elon Musk) should also be concerning for a different reason. It has shocked me quite a bit how both sides of the political spectrum seem to agree that Musk is this kind of sage billionaire, whose vision for the future is rooted in a bold desire to advance the human race. We have to start making the simple yet unpleasant observation that Elon Musk is and has always been nothing but a typical capitalist who is more interested in the expansion of his profit than in forwarding any kind of human project. When Musk is not busy launching cars into space in a bizarre meta-commercial, you’ll find his company SpaceX taking contracts from the Department of Defense and commercial telecommunications companies. You’ll also find Musk settling class action lawsuits for denial of proper wages and benefits to his employees (both of SpaceX and Tesla). A recent worker-abuse lawsuit with 4,100 plaintiffs yielded $4,000,000 for the plaintiffs, which is roughly $500 each. It’s hard to see the supposed altruism of such a master of industry when below the surface he proves to be no different than those around him. Thus, we should be much more tactful in our analysis of his space launch and ask what he stands to gain. I feel there is not much doubt that his interests, like the interests of most corporate figureheads, lie very far away from the best interests of the people.
Of course these advancements in futuristic technology can be said to pose certain benefits. And it is certainly difficult to forecast their potential dangers without envisioning the typical dystopia you can find in a science fiction novel. But living as we do, in a classist society where disparity is continuously perpetuated by the upper echelons of society, we should always be suspicious when those upper echelons make great bounds in technology under the guise of advancing humanity. We have to consider that what they really aim to advance is the current institution of division and that is no advancement to be valued.