Time travel and future-sight are two forms of agency that can allow you achieve your will… but what is your fate, and how does your will dovetail into realizing your fate? A look at “Dark” and “Dune” (with a bit of Schopenhauer and Frankl) to consider will power.
Time travel is a technology that allows us to fix mistakes: to rewrite our failures. This gives us more agency and less humility. We begin to relate to our agency more than people, which removes our humanity.
In the movie “The Fountain” the doctor spends his time searching for a science (tech) solution rather than spending time with his love. His desire to fix something removes him from the very thing he wants to protect.
Does increased agency lead to more happiness? sure , it might provide more justice, but at what cost? And what about your fate? Does technology simply deliver it faster?
Man can do as he Wills, but not will what he wills.”Arthur Schopenhauer
The issue here, is what do you “will”? If tech amplifies your desires (speeds them up), but we cannot control our desires (what we will) we are doomed to become monsters. The series “Dark” on Netflix explores this morphing of compassion and increased agency into goals that rationalize betrayal and murder… for the greater good, of course. Oddly, the power to change something makes people declare they are going to save humanity, but at the cost of their humanity and those around them.
In the West science, chemistry and tech solve everything, yet we are less happy now than 50 years ago. We have no way to make suffering meaningful, so it is shameful. Eastern religions and ancient wisdom offer alternatives for how we should approach the world.
Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.Viktor Frankl
Sci-fi in the 60’s and 70’s played with training humans to become super-human, where biology and discipline become the technology by which to change the world. In movies we still see increased biological power in superheroes and mutants, who fight against the fate of the world (an alien attack or asteroid).
They don’t accept fate, they shape outcomes to their desires: their increased agency, enacting their will, is heroic. And stupid.
In the Dune series, people are the technology: bred to enhance computer-like or prescient tendencies. But, with people as a weapon, they are trained to be rational and not cave to their animal instincts. “Fear is the mindkiller.” To be human is to not react like an animal, following your impulses.
The alternative to Dark, where people’s love turns them monstrous, is found in Dune, where the trained mind attempts to retain humanity despite monstrosity, which generates suffering and sacrifice.
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.Friedrich Nietzsche
The key thoughts are 1) can you control your desires, because they shape your will? And 2) technology amplifies your agency, allowing you to act (invoke agency) rather than being humble or accepting suffering; so you achieve your desires faster, but do not learn to control what you desire.
To parallel Dune: With increased technological agency we may become more animal than human.
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REFERENCES / RESOURCES
World Happiness Report [link]
Arthur Schopenhauer [link]
Viktor E. Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning” [link ]
“We now have the means, but no meaning.” post-script
Robert Heinlein [wiki]
Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind [link] (the 3 great untruths)
Netflix: Dark [link]
Frank Herbert, “Dune” 1965 _ Bene Gesserit and Kwisatz Haderach [wiki]
Zardoz [ link ]
Holy Mountain 1973 [wiki]
The Fountain [ link ]
Hot Tub Time Machine [link]