Since the beginning of human history, earth has appeared as a nutshell that encloses many secrets. These secrets have hindered man from accomplishing his dream of mastering the world. However, as need is known to be the mother of invention, man has started to be critical about every phenomenon that takes place. Accordingly, learning has been regarded as an important tool for the improvement of humanity. Throughout the years, education has given birth to a huge database of scientific principles. Technology is known to be the application of scientific principles to the problems of everyday life. Technology is the ability of no other species but humans. Moreover, technological activity has been a measure of civilization. One cannot imagine a society without technology, as it will hardly be advanced or long-lived. Technology in itself is morally and ethically neutral. However, it is a double-edged weapon. The twentieth century has witnessed an extreme upheaval in the negative usage of technology. Therefore, many voices have been raised asking for a moral technology that respects human rights and ethical codes. It is very important to discuss this issue together with the role of various institutions that trigger the widespread of this idea for the benefit of humanity and for a better future on earth.
Aristotle has outlined that man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all. Technology has been used primarily for the welfare of humanity. Through technological advancements, many secrets of the universe have been revealed contributing to the overall man civilization. No one can deny that good and evil are as old as the existence of man on earth. However, one can trace that as man reaches more and more progress, he looses more and more of his good instinctive human nature. This interesting but depressing relation poses many questions concerning the effect of technology on our lives. Sadly, we have witnessed many examples that show us that many immoral actions and unethical practices have been a sign of the last decades. It is crucial to define some terminologies that add a lot to our understanding of our life in general such as human rights, ethics, and morality. These important concepts will help us to see technology in a wider vision rather than the narrow one that most people perceive.
Human rights are ones, which all human beings should possess irrespective of their citizenship, nationality, ethnicity, race, language, sex, or abilities. They are therefore distinguishable from civil rights that are conferred on individuals because they are citizens of a certain state. These rights have been developed as result of two motives, which are ethics and morality. The first motive is ethics; ethics is known to be the science of dealing with human nature. It is analyzed with respect of normative norms and practical norms. Normative norms cover many doctrines such as the Altruists, Hedonists, Consequentialists, and Deontologists. Despite the diversity of all these doctrines, they all agree upon one golden rule that is one should act towards others as one wants them to act towards oneself. On the other hand, practical norms deal with the study of specific ethical problems such as abortion, euthanasia, and war. Clearly, the study of practical norms is not independent of the study of the normative ones. The second motive is morality; morality is the system of moral rules. Without morality communities perish and their survival has no value. According to Kant, morality is governed by two imperatives that are the hypothetical and categorical ones. The first imperative is the hypothetical, which one should obey if he has certain desires. The second imperative is the categorical, which one should obey whatever his desires or interests. Accordingly, the newly born concept of moral technology has to obey all ethical norms and the categorical morality imperative in order to stress our human nature. It is known that bad manners spoil everything, even reason and justice. On the other hand, good ones supply everything as they highlight the truth and add a touch of beauty to old age itself. However, manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than haste.
According to Jacob Bronowski, “Man is unique not because he does science, and he is unique not because he does art, but because science and art are expressions of his marvelous plasticity of mind”. One would have expected that scientists of what is so called civilized nations would spend most of their time researching in fields of science that will help man to lead better life. However, this was not their only goal; their major goal was to master the technological activities that will grant them power. Technological advancement is not only a sign of civilization but also the ultimate source of power. Sarcastically, this pursuit of power has made our world look like a fierce jungle where human and ethical norms are not respected. Every one just look at one-dimensional perspective, which is his own interest forgetting all about the rights of other humans. Many of our principles have been just ignored in the age of technological exploration. One can pinpoint many examples that show how man has violated all codes of ethics with his advancement in technological explorations.
As previously mentioned, technological advancement is the granting source of power. Bertrand Russell has indicated that science, by itself, cannot supply us with ethics. Therefore, it is not strange that power in our age is equivalent to human control, dominance, and greed. Consequently, our world has turned out to be a brutal field where nations and people are competing for the acquisition of mass destruction weapons and initiating unfair wars that murder millions of innocent souls. Accordingly, technological exploration is a virtual coin with a face featuring prosperity for humanity and a tail destroying human rights. No one really knows why the majority of people try to neglect, either with or without intention, the tail of this coin. Scanning through the past centuries, we can see endless examples of the dominating powers at every historical point trying with viciousness to extend its’ power over others due to its technological superiority. No human mind can forget the French who colonized Algeria for more than 130 years taking away all the civil and human rights of its people. Likewise, Africa was deprived of all of its natural resources for hundreds of years by the colonizing powers. Similarly, Japan was bombarded with two nuclear bombs that murdered thousand of helpless civilians. Moreover, most of the nuclear pollutants resulting from the production of mass destruction weapons have been dumped in the developing countries leaving an everlasting destructive effect on its environment. Even some of today’s scientists have been engaged in unethical activities to clone human beings. The examples are infinite and they only show that we are forgetting all about our humanity in this atrocious struggle for power and control. This quest for power is the main reason for most disasters since the early history. These catastrophic events are making people deviate from their natural roots of being real humans. By time, scientists are only using God’s gift of knowledge to reach their own personal goals destroying all ethical and moral values. The great Martin Luther King has said “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control”. I guess if people have understood this profound meaning outlined by this great man, our world would have been a better place.
Therefore, Moral Technology appears to be our sole shelter that will help us to reach our human goals without leaving behind our human nature. It aims that every scientist puts in his mind the good of the whole people as well as all ethical and moral norms before his own gain or benefit. It aims at making use of the human mind only for the progress of the human race. Alfred Nobel is a real example of the ideal scientist who applied this concept. He has invented dynamite to be used only in peaceful application but unfortunately, it has been used as a weapon to kill people and force power over others. Therefore, he has established the Nobel Prize for scientists and people who contribute to the welfare of earth through their inventions and ideas. It is very important that most scientists try to think in this way to eliminate sadness from our world. Michael Harrington has outlined all these ideas when he said “If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery”. It is obvious that he has read history quite well. Many people would claim that these ideas are just platonic ones that can be found in books but never implemented in real life. However, these ideas cannot be carried out without being rooted in the minds of the youth that are our future scientists and leaders. Educational institutions are expected to play the most effective and vital role in this process.
Universities are the most important institutions that help in the formation of our minds. At the university, we do not only learn science but we also learn how to think and formulate ideas. This is the real secret behind the importance of the four or five years that we spend at the university. One can claim that AUC is playing its dual role of being an educational institution as well as being part of the society in a very professional way. The commitment of AUC to community service has been anchored to its mission: “AUC considers it essential to foster students’ appreciation of their own culture and heritage and their responsibilities to the society”. Through the five years that I have spent at AUC, I can see that the spirit of serving the community has been promoted among AUC students through the diverse curricular and extra-curricular programs. There are many active community service volunteer clubs at AUC, which focus on making students aware of the challenges that their own society is facing and give them the opportunity to be engaged in positive social action. According to Dr. Mohamed Dabbour, Director of Office of Student Development, AUC has invested in improving the conditions that will make the community service activities become more effective both in their impact on the community and their contribution to the student development to become a whole person. Moreover, as a student, I can see that AUC has taken serious steps towards the introduction of service learning courses within the academic curriculum. However, there is no doubt that there is a lot to be accomplished within the community service programs at AUC. However, with all these efforts, we can say that our institution is on the right track towards achieving its goals to develop more socially aware students, who can better serve their community and the world.
Paul Goodman has indicated that the philosophic aim of education must be to get each one out of his isolated class and get him into the unified humanity. Lately, I have witnessed a wonderful event that took place at the Greek campus. The AUC has hosted on April 16th, 2003 a community service day in partnerships with NGO’s and organizations working to help in being part of the solution to a number of problems: education, poverty, youth, environment, refuges, and much more. These activities are very beneficial as it grants students with two benefits. The first is about giving students’ time to help out people who are less fortunate then themselves and by doing that society gains a lot. The second is a direct benefit to students who learn new skills such as becoming more compassionate, working in teams, dealing with different sectors of society, and above all be more content with their lives. This was a vivid example that shows how AUC is actually breeding a moral technology concept within its campus and classrooms. It is obvious through this example and many others that AUC is practicing its dual role as being a teaching institution as well as being part of society.
Attaining moral technology is like balancing the two sides of an equation. One side of the equation should include all elements of technological advancement that facilitate our life, while the other side of the equation should include all elements of respect for our honorable creation as humans. Despondently, our world is witnessing a severe unbalance in this equation. This unbalance is due to the lack of moral practices in our struggle for technological development. Accordingly, the world is striving for the application of a moral technology that will provide us with a multi-dimensional view regarding the benefits of the entire human race Through my experience at AUC, I have gained many tools that hopfeully will help me to be a first-class engineer who applies science for advancement of the world but keeps in mind that the this world is just one body. It is very important that we understand that a blemish at any part of the earth will eventually affect all other parts. Being ahead of my practical life, I will do my best to apply moral technology so as to contribute to science as well as to humanity.
Finally, technology is a central activity of human thought, a main function of human curiosity and ingenuity, and therefore one of the core activities that makes us unique among all other creatures. However, human uniqueness is not only attributed to his technological progress but also to his respect of morals and ethics. The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them. Man can be a blessing or a curse in this world and it is his own choice!
DeBruhl, Marshall and Ehrlich, Eugene The International Thesaurus of Quotations, HarperPerennial, New York, 1996.
McLeish, Kenneth Key Ideas in Human Thought, Facts on File, New York, 1993.
Islam Hassan El-adaway
Graduate of The American University in Cairo June 2003
39, Abd-El-Aziz Gawish Street, Mohandseen, Giza, Egypt.