Omnipotence and the Digital Humanities

In my first blog post I discussed the implications of digital humanities in relation to the medical field. The past several years we have seen incredible developments involving digital humanities that have culminated with 3-D printer technology so advanced that we are artificially producing skin tissue, organs, and even appendages. However, little too often do we stop and take the time to look at this subject matter from a philosophical point of view. This post’s aim is to tackle the question, “are the digital humanities intrinsically bad” by tackling two smaller questions first: “is the implementation of digital humanities us playing God; and is THAT intrinsically bad?” This will be done through the analysis of digital humanities impact in the storage of knowledge, and application to medicine.

Whether you are religious, agnostic, or a person without a faith you most-likely understand the underlying concepts behind religion. Although most religions differ in their beliefs, the basic premise is as follows: an omnipotent being (or beings) was involved in the creation of life, and this being is (most of the time) all knowing. However, the digital humanities is challenging the perception of whether those abilities are exclusive to an omnipotent being.

All throughout the history of humans we have fought against death. It is encoded into our very DNA to survive the longest we possibly can, to reproduce and continue our species. However, are we taking it too far? With recent developments in medicine and technology humans have the longest life span in recorded history. As the digital humanities enter the medical field with technologies such as 3-D printing, highly advanced medical devices and artificial organs are being created quicker and cheaper than ever. At first glance one might this is a purely positive effect. However, that would be a too simplistic view of the matter. As we increase the life span of people we are causing a potentially unsustainable population size. With increasing scarcity of resources and the growing population we are nearing critical levels that could led to a worldwide disaster. So we ask, should humans play God and provide life after life?

The second example of humans taking on God-like abilities would come in the ability to know all. The recording of human history has been an element of our life for thousands of years. Now that we’ve enter an era where a seemingly infinite amount of information is at our finger tips we must ask the question, “are we taking it too far?” With recent developments in the digital humanities that have made anything from storing detailed 3-D models of ancient ruins to recording digital copies over millions of books easier and quicker than ever, we have truly reached a point in which humans are recording all of history. Although quite obviously this is a good thing it does have one major negative side effect. It is destroying the novelty of information. With any and all information at our finger tips information no longer needs to be worked for. The average person no longer needs to think critically and question things, and this is removing the human element from knowledge. What makes us human is that we think in such an advanced form. If we can simply know anything at any time in an instance, we no longer are required to think thus losing the unique human nature.

For a long time humans have tried to live forever and know all. We have never taken the time to stop and think about what that would actually mean. As we near a reality in which those attributes are not very far-fetched it is important to think: perhaps in the pursuit of god-like abilities, we have lost our humanity.

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