I'm more than ever of the opinion that a decent human existence is possible today only on the fringes of society, where one then runs the risk of starving or being stoned to death. In these circumstances, a sense of humor is a great help.|
-- Hannah Arendt
Hobbes was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the bourgeoisie because he realized that acquisition of wealth conceived as a never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d'etat.
For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, deprived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.
The ultimate destructive purpose of this Commonwealth is at least indicated in the philosophical interpretation of human equality as an "equality of ability" to kill. Living with all other nations "in the condition of a perpetual war, and upon the confines of battle, with their frontiers armed. and canons planted against their neighbors round about," it has no other law of conduct but the "most conducing to [its] benefit" and will gradually devour weaker structures until it comes to a last war "which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.
By "Victory or Death," the Leviathan can indeed overcome all political limitations that go with the existence of other peoples and can envelop the whole earth in its tyranny. But when the last war has come and every man has been provided for, no ultimate peace is established on earth: the power-accumulating machine, without which continual expansion would not have been achieved, needs more material to devour in its never-ending process. If the last victorious Commonwealth cannot proceed to "annex the planets," it can only proceed to destroy itself in order to begin anew the never-ending process of power generation.
-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"
I cannot tell why the spokesmen I have cited want the developments I forecast to become true. Some of them have told me that they work on them for the morally bankrupt reason that "If we don't do it, someone else will." They fear that evil people will develop superintelligent machines and use them to oppress mankind, and that the only defense against these enemy machines will be superintelligent machines controlled by us, that is, by well-intentioned people. Others reveal that they have abdicated their autonomy by appealing to the "principle" of technological inevitability. But, finally, all I can say with assurance is that these people are not stupid. All the rest is mystery.
-- Joseph Weizenbaum
The salvation of the world depends only on the individual whose world it is. At least, every individual must act as if the whole future of the world, of humanity itself, depends on him. Anything less is a shirking of responsibility and is itself a dehumanizing force, for anything less encourages the individual to look upon himself as a mere actor in a drama written by anonymous agents, as less than a whole person, and that is the beginning of passivity and aimlessness.
-- Joseph Weizenbaum
Trillian led him for a short walk through the light before she said anything more. He stumbled uncertainly after her. The encircling flashlight beams were drooping slightly now as if they were abdicating to this strange, quiet girl who alone in this Universe of dark confusion seemed to know what she was doing.
She turned and faced him, and lightly held both his arms. He was a picture of bewildered misery.
"Tell me," she said.
He said nothing for a moment, while his gaze darted from one of her eyes to the other.
"We ..." he said, "we have to be alone ... I think." He screwed up his face and then dropped his head forward, shaking it like someone trying to shake a coin out of a money box. He looked up again. "We have this bomb now, you see," he said, "it's just a little one."
"I know," she said.
He goggled at her as if she'd said something very strange about beetroots.
"Honestly," he said, "it's very, very little."
"I know," she said again.
"But they say," his voice trailed on, "they say it can destroy everything that exists. And we have to do that, you see, I think. Will that make us alone? I don't know. It seems to be our function, though," he said, and dropped his head again.
"Whatever that means," said a hollow voice from the crowd.
Trillian slowly put her arms around the poor bewildered young Krikkiter and patted his trembling head on her shoulder.
"It's all right," she said quietly, but clearly enough for all the shadowy crowd to hear, "you don't have to do it."
-- Douglas Adams, "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"