When I was younger, I was convinced that machines specifically – and technology in general – where some of the causes of the evils of our time. I need them but this need was a burden on my shoulders. At that time, I was just a philosophy student without a grasp on how a raw material is actually transformed to a real good. Yes, it is true, I always admired engineering and I started to be an active craftsman working with the wood to transform it in my pieces of furniture. As a matter of fact, I worked on projects first, then I considered their costs, where to buy the wood banks, screws etc. Then, with many tools I transformed the already crafted materials in a finished work. I loved so much engineering and tools that I also thought to study for being a naval engineer, given my love for the ships and sea. But since I started to study philosophy in secondary school, I understood my life would have been meaningless without a deep philosophical analysis of reality and then I discharged engineering as a way of living but not of studying. Problem solving is simply part to my nature and an engineering approach to life is what I always found healthy and productive. However, I became critical of the human dependence on machines and – more broadly – technology. In few points I want to show you how I understood I was completely wrong.
First, I recently realized how important is hard work. As a matter of fact, hard work is what makes me feel a good person, a worthwhile human being and I understood I cannot live differently. Stress is not something I bother. Boredom is something I despise and there is something wrong, deeply wrong in a life without work. In fact, without a great deal of time and effort, nothing great can be achieved, from a philosophical masterpiece to a cathedral. Besides, our sheer existence requires work and taking care of ourselves is a way to fulfill a moral duty we all have with ourselves, as many philosophers recognized explicitly. All the ancient philosophy, after all, from Aristotle to Epicurus and Stoics reflected on the simple fact that having a life worthwhile requires philosophy, which is a big effort for our minds to achieve if we needed Aristotle and others to elaborate what happiness really is. Everything we prize as humans require a great deal of work. Indeed, even recognizing the value of the other humans beyond our limited self-esteem, require a great deal of time, as far as great thinkers spent a lot of time arguing for it. After all, the recognition of the human rights is something quite recent and never taken for granted… let’s put aside their ubiquitous recognition and endorsement.
Second, looking more closely on how human reality is shaped, the realization of how life is difficult in nature came to me as a logical conclusion. Our cells strive to exist and demand energy from outside and they don’t run with sun light or wind. They require biochemical energy in a sheer number of calories per day. As a matter of fact, to being able to survive is a difficult task because we don’t find the goods directly in nature. If we want to survive and then strive we simply need to eat and drink – and breathing which means transform a lot of different raw materials into ended products able to give us the means to burn the energy we need to live and substitute the broken parts of our body with something different. So, basically, changing reality requires a lot of work and work require energy and energy require materials. This abstract understanding of production was plowed into my mind through a long thinking time on the value of efficiency. Hard work is important, but it is useless if it is not efficient, it would be just a waist of time. Hard work and the strive for efficiency are my trademarks in everything I do. They are the ways in which I try to translate reality in something better for the human existence – at least this is part of my goals. Of course, this implies also finding the ways to survive because the negation of my own life would mean the negation of my reason and, as such, of what makes everything I esteem the most possible.
The second important reason is grounded on a recent experience I had. Working closely with machines, machines that make your work possible, is an exhilarating experience. At the beginning, you think how complex they are and how difficult is taking care of them. So, the mutual recognition for a trading condition of goods is not a given. First, you know them, and you start to use them. Then, you start to watch carefully how they work, how they make you able to do so many things that otherwise you simply cannot do. So, you start to realize that they really deserve care and attention, that they are not a given and that you must be grateful to the people that worked so much to make you able to deliver your products that, at the end of the day, is what you strive for. Then, it starts even an emotional relation, grounded on a rational understanding, of the crude fact that without them your life would be different, without many opportunities and probably much, much more difficult. Without a kneading machine the dough should be done with your hands. Kneading is a very tiring process especially if you need a big dough. You look at the kneading machine working as you look to somebody you love because he/she is taking care of you simply taking out a bit of fatigue from you. The same thought is given to many other machines such as an oven. The oven is able to reach the right temperature to cook a pizza. Without it, you cannot deliver anything. To deliver a pizza you need a car and a bag (nowadays). Without them, the pizza lays in a cold dish waiting for a customer (that is the COVID-19 teaching, right?). So, when we take a bag to deliver the food to a customer, we must be grateful to the kneading machine for what it does because without it the pizza wouldn’t have been created in the first place. We must also be grateful to the oven, for transforming a cold dough into a delicious pizza. But what about the car and the bag that make us able to deliver the food to who is really in need of it? This kind of argument can be reiterated for all the machines that made the chain of production possible in the first place, freeing the human imagination and power of reason from the crude, hard manual work.
To conclude, human beings put a lot of intelligence inside the machines and the machines do not transform us into slaves because they free our time, our energy and our ability to discover new ways to change reality better. However, it is true, machines rely on us on taking care of them. But this is because ultimately, they cannot exist without us, taking out the piece of chaos that always put friction (a bad friction) inside them. We cannot ask to machines to do what we cannot do for ourselves, that is living in the Eden where the work was useless because the raw goods were already finished products for the only two human beings existing in that possible world. Instead, we live in a world of entropy in which energy goes away forever and we need help if we want to strive. There is no other way to define what I discovered working closely to machines as sheer love for them, that make me able to strive for my life consistently with the idea that life is about hard working for good reasons.