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Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google

Roger Berkowitz, Director of the Arendt Center, held a lecture this week titled “Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google,” as part of the Rostrum Lecture Series sponsored by Bard’s Language & Thinking Program.

“Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google” —Roger Berkowitz, Director, Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking from Language & Thinking at Bard Coll on Vimeo.

You can read the text of his lecture here: EarthAlienationgtogbardtext

In his talk, Berkowitz writes:

My Thesis today is: The scientific way of thinking inaugurated by Galileo in the 17th century is, in the first decades of the 21st century, forcing us to ask the question that the scientific approach to the world has harbored all along: Is humanity important?

How we humans answer this question will have a greater impact on our world than any scientific, technological, economic or artistic innovation that we may witness. For one thing, in an age of nuclear and biological weapons, we—or some few of us—may well choose to extinguish humanity. Or, in an age of automation where robots and machines are able to perform most economically necessary tasks, those in power may decide that it is better to euthanize the masses of superfluous persons for either economic or environmental reasons, or both.

Although nuclear Armageddon is one button away and Sun Microsystems Chairman Bill Joy has publicly raised the possibility of culling the superfluous,  it is far more likely that we as a species will ignore the question.

I fear, however, that the refusal to confront the question of humanity’s worth will lead to very nearly the same effect as an affirmative decision of humanicide: In other words, we are now threatened with the possibility that the kindling of the human spark will dampen so that the darkness of the world will be interrupted only with the most fleeting fires of the human spirit.

Posted on 20 August 2010 | 3:07 pm

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