Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hans Jonas, Ethics of Responsibility of Surveillance Modalities

Hans Jonas, one of the seminal thinkers on the ethics of technology, whose philosophy is that of the future cautionary view of the universalized effects of how technology can impair, or destroy humanity by the purely utilitarian grounds of technology which has no limit, other than the functionalist purposes to unharness new powers to control human nature.

He writes: "The univeralization is a thought experiment by the private agent not to test the immanent morality of his action. Indeed, real consequences are not considered at all, and the principle is one not of objective responsibilty, but the subjective quality of self determination."

If we consider the growing mass industrial effects of surveillance and cybersurveillance machinery and its effect on society, politics, criminal justice and the global intelligence community, we must consider how much qua freedom does one exercise through collective agency or personhood, if we are under the watch of a surveilling eye. The crux of matter--- society or the individual has become more observed under the surveilling eye of technological powers that does not manifest in itself in a matter of public accountability or transparency.

On a final note, Jonas writes: "This consumation of [his] power, which may well portend the overpowering of man, this final imposition of nature, call upon the utter resources of ethical thought, which has never been faced with elective alternatives to what considered the definite terms of human condition."

In this regard the theme of "Techne" of Heidegger, Ellul, Jonas and Foucault resonate in a polyphony of a precautionary conondrum and perplexity. We are left to ponder and reflect upon such difficult questions in a dark cave seeking light.

R.S.Y. Kim

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