WHY AUTONOMY IS EVERYTHING

Forces are assembled as never before to deprive individuals of autonomy.

The way I understand autonomy is as far more than the ability of a particular area or population to govern itself.  I see it as the condition of a person being allowed to become self-actualized . . . as the great cardiologist and runner George Sheehan put it, “to become the person you were meant to be from all time.”

Why would I say that forces are assembled as never before to deprive individuals of autonomy?  Wasn’t the Third Reich a force that threatened the whole world with fascism and intolerance for minorities?  Yes, the Third Reich was indeed that force.  Yet, the collective forces of big technology, intrusive government, surveillance, cancel culture, gun control and other freedom-killing legislative initiatives is actually a far greater force for evil.

We could fight a nation gone mad.  It is harder to fight a worldwide, multi-trillion dollar initiative that urges people to trade their personhood for access to glowing tools of convenience like iPhones and GPS,  quick shots of adrenaline from Facebook “Likes,” all the while being drained of their personal data and discouraged from speaking out in any way that might offend others, lest they be marginalized or canceled or worse.

You may think I am overstating the danger, but human beings are already being cajoled, scolded, manipulated and threatened into not thinking for themselves and not acting based on what they believe.  Once companies like Elon Musk’s Neuralink start implanting computer chips into the brains of human beings – which will happen as early as 2022 – the turning off of autonomy will be as simple as threatening to turn off the chip to which human beings will, one day, have come to rely upon for their news, for translating foreign languages, for getting directions, for communicating with one another and a host of other functions we will have ceded to the company.

Losing autonomy, by the way, would be tragic enough for the countless individuals who will no longer have it (unless we shift course).  It is tragic for our species.  Tragic, as in—the end.  Why?  Because creativity and ingenuity require autonomy.  Scripted, robotic, monitored, mainstreamed thought and action never got a species anywhere.  Brilliance is an individual, independent, autonomous thing.  Cures for diseases, great art, inspiring literature and everything that makes life worthwhile, in the first place, relies on autonomy.

What can YOU do about it?  You can express your ideas and ideals—more loudly, perhaps, than you might even be inclined to.  You can exercise both your body and your mind.  You can try—at least, try—to titrate the amount of technology you rely upon.

Studies have shown that human beings have less of a sense of direction now than they did decades ago.  You know why?  Because of GPS.  We are giving up that ability to machines, then relying on them.

It could certainly be argued that human beings have less reverence for true friendship because of the cheapening of the notion by the concept of Facebook “friends.”

It could one day absolutely be the case that you using particular words again and again—say, the word “protest,” or the word “gun” might be data purchased by the government from Neuralink and used to monitor you more closely.

Do you think that is impossible.  Don’t think it too deeply, once you have a Neuralink chip in your brain.  Oh, you don’t want a Neuralink chip?  Try competing with someone who can look up and to the left and search Google for information much faster than a laptop could.  Try competing for a job with someone who can look at a screen on the wall of an office and get all kinds of information from it, whereas you look at it and see just blank space, because you aren’t chipped to see more.

The Brave New World isn’t coming.  It’s upon us.  And it isn’t free or brave.  It’s a road to the end of autonomy, unless we take ourselves in hand.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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