(Image: TheBlaze TV screenshot)
"Technology is fire. If you can control it, it's great. If it controls you, you're in trouble."
This was the theme of the latest episode of the Glenn Beck program on TheBlaze TV. Sure, some technology and ideas Beck showcased on his show Wednesday night might sound crazy and remind you of a science fiction flick -- Beck himself acknowledges this -- but they're not, he said.
Take drones for example. There was a time when people couldn't imagine the capabilities of an unmanned aerial vehicle. Now such drones are being used in strikes against hostile adversaries, which Beck said is good. But just this week a memo from the Obama administration said U.S. citizens could be subject to drone strikes if they are a "senior operational” leader of al-Qaeda or “an associated force."
"The president is using drones right now and nobody is really talking about the ethics of this," Beck said on the show. "We should have seen this day coming but we didn't. At least as a society, we didn't."
It is the conversation about the ethics of use of what might now seem like science fiction that Beck says has happen.
"It's not the app, it's not the gun, it's not the drone, it's what you do with it," he said.
Watch this segment from Beck's program:
Part of the ethical issue regarding the use of technology that Beck has focused upon at length is the transhumanist movement. The groundwork for merging the human body with machines to the point where the concept of the Singularity would be reached, an idea strongly supported by futurist Ray Kurzweil, is well on its way. Beck pointed to the recent breakthrough of 3D-printed human embryonic stem cells that scientists hope will someday allow for 3D-printed organs. He noted a "million dollar bionic man" named Rex that is outfitted with technology to hear, speak, move and even has artificial organs.
So if humans are fixing their physical beings to live longer, as they already are today in many respects, how will this affect society? As an example, Beck called up how soldiers are being mended and returning home physically fixed to an extent, but their internal scars are not being addressed. The recent shooting of acclaimed sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield by a Marine reservist who reportedly had PTSD is an example.
Another question if humans are to live longer is if the Earth will be able to support that. In another example, Beck highlighted a water purification system called Slingshot by Deka that can make clean drinking water from any, and we mean, any liquid. If this product were to be made smaller and more cost-effective, millions of people would be saved from conditions that result from a lack of potable drinking water. But some have been saying for years that the Earth is reaching a "tipping point" with regard to its growing population and that more growth would cause "severe impacts" on quality of life.
Beck posed the moral dilemma regarding whether this machine would even get to the people who need it based on this argument of finite resources and global warming.
And what of the human mind? Kurzweil's ideas are that humans will not only augment their organs and other physical features with technology but their minds as well. Technology is on its way for computers to begin reading our minds. Take the soon-to-be-released MindMeld app. MindMeld" from Expect Labs is described by San Francisco-based founders as an "always on Siri," according to Technology Review.
Here's more from about how the app works:
Users can sign up or log in through Facebook and hold free video or voice calls with up to eight people through the app. If a participant taps on a button in the app during a call, MindMeld will review the previous 15 to 30 seconds of conversation by relying on Nuance’s voice recognition technology. It will identify key terms in context—in a discussion to find a sushi restaurant, for example, or one about a big news story that day—and then search Google News, Facebook, Yelp, YouTube, and a few other sources for relevant results. Images and links are displayed in a stream for the person who tapped the button to review. With a finger swipe, he or she can choose to share a result with others on the call.
Furthermore, where will the line between "what is life and what isn't?" be drawn, Beck asked.
"We're in trouble, but the future is bright if we go in with open eyes," he said. "If we lose the concept of the soul and become the creator at the same time, what does the phrase 'we're all endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights' mean?"
Have we past the point of no return? Yale computer science professor David Gelernter, who was a guest on Wednesday's show, used paint as an example to illustrate his point. He said paint has changed over centuries and has improved, but has the human artist exponentially gotten better? No, because human nature itself hasn't changed, Gelernter said.
Still, the ethical discussion about technology coming down the pike is important now none the less, because it could reach a point where it might be used to alter human nature itself.
"We have to talk about technology -- the good side and the bad side," Beck continued. "We need to have the moral and ethical debate."