The Intentional Negligence of the Golden Rule Via Technological Advances

Christopher Benek
Rev. Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of Family Ministries and Mission at First Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

During Easter weekend this year The Washington Post published an article entitled "Tech Titans' Latest Project: Defy Death." That article depicts how many tech billionaires are spending tremendous sums of money to try and add longevity to their own lives. The ethical question that such ventures raise is one that is commonplace these days among advocates of technology and technological futurists. Mainly, should we suspend care for people currently in need in order to focus our resources on eliminating systemic problems more quickly?

While the easy, capitalistic response may be "People should be able to do whatever they want with their own money," advocacy about the usage of resources isn't stopping at private donations. Recently, in a Motherboard Vice article, Transhumanist Party Presidential Candidate, Zoltan Istvan, suggested that the US Government should forgo utilizing a projected 25 billion of taxpayer dollars on projects that would currently meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Instead, Istvan contends, the government should allocate those funds toward advancing potential technologies that would eliminate disabilities altogether. While his self-made political party is only reflective of a small percentage of the viewpoints advocated within transhumanism, it is of significance that Istvan is trying to portray his utilitarian views as the face of the techno-human future.

This growing trend, I believe, reflects a larger technological and ethical shift towards personal, individual advancement (I+) and elitism that is intentionally disregarding the historic Christian concept of the advancement of all of humanity (H+). In this way, many folks like Istvan are seeking to institutionalize utilitarianism thus moving the U.S. away from the culturally and politically pervasive concept of Christian care.

While utilitarianism advocates injustice in exchange for others' convenience and benefit, the Christian ethic of care advocates that all persons are currently worthy of being cared for compassionately. This Christian ethic is so engrafted into the present US secular social fabric that citizens often rely on it subconsciously. We see this fact evidenced in virtuous public commentary like billionaire Bill Gates' recent critique of techno-utilitarians. Gates was quoted as saying that "It seems pretty egocentric while we still have malaria and TB for rich people to fund things so they can live longer."

But such an egocentric utilitarian shift in the technological world shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those who have been paying attention to the ideological shifts that have been being implemented in the American academy. Utilitarian professors have become the hallmark of many of the United States' most influential educational institutions. This intentional move has resulted in students being subjugated by and indoctrinated with self-aggrandizing philosophical perspectives.

For instance, for the more than a decade now, Princeton University has featured predominate utilitarian professor Peter Singer as their chair of bioethics. This in spite of the knowledge that Singer has intently argued in favor of the infanticide of certain disabled infants, up to 29 days after birth, in exchange for the potential fiscal health of the child's parents. Now - in order to try and hide Singer's disconcerting legacy – he is currently touting his new book that advocates, essentially, a Christian ethic of philanthropy. But what Singer, Istvan, and the Tech Titans continue to fail to acknowledge is that the assiduous formation of a person's virtuous action is far more important to their development and advancement as a human being than any allegiance to utility will ever be. In other words: a single well-intentioned action does not a virtuous person make.

So what do you think the future holds? Will the utilitarian worldview become the prominent American political ideology? Or do adherents to concepts of Christian care have the collective conviction to implement and advocate a better way? However the technological future may develop, I for one still believe that it is important for us to consider that the advancement of humanity might just be best achieved via the genuine pursuit of the commands of Jesus. Instead of minimizing the current needs of others, maybe we are most fully human when we genuinely do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.

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