Nietzsche in the Age of Automata
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Nietzsche in the Age of Automata

By Ratneshwar Jha

Nietzsche in the Age of Automata

Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the revered German philosophers of the 19th century, wrote in his book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” about Ubermensch (“Beyond-Man”, “Superman”, or “Superhuman”) which was the central force behind his idea of humanity.

After proclamation "God Is Dead" in his book, he sought to create humanity ideals for us. For him, the Ubermensch world was a world of highly motivated and super potent beings who are not be enslaved by pity and mere desires. They will rise from the ashes of Schopenhauer’s pessimism and shoot beyond themselves, beyond their current ideals, in order to foster a better and potent version of themselves.

Think Ubermensch, as a feeling, when we compare ourselves with our biological evolutionary ancestors. We would pride ourselves on being much more sophisticated and potent than them. Nietzsche’s Ubermensch thought to carry the same pride and potency.

The ideal of Nietzsche was how we would be compared to our future versions and how our future versions should be like. For him, humans should make themselves responsible for their actions and always choose the highest ideals for themselves in order to make sense of their existence.

In the late 1930s, during the Second World War, Nietzsche was hugely misinterpreted that earned bad light to his philosophy. In hindsight, I feel that this recognition gave his idea a global home and global prominence at least in scientific advancement.

Amid and after WWII, Automata (machines) became much more sophisticated and potent than their ancestors (from the Industrial revolution). This act of becoming was not evolutionary (natural) but was purely an artificial act done by us. Soon, this act of ours caught the imagination of the world where it was both revered and feared at the same time. "Metropolis", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Clockwork Orange", "Dr. Strangelove" are few movies that tells us how much we were infatuated with the machine’s persona. Possessing high-end cars, computers, gadgets became our idea of being, the idea of Ubermenschims in us, and the rise of "alter egos" around us. By "alter ego", I here mean, anything especially automata (machines) which is not us but we assume it like us. For example, a mobile phone is not us but we think that it like us.

Humans' infatuation with machines grew bigger and larger, thus, more and more money pumped into scientific advancement.

The scientific positivism was, of course, fueled by the cold war caused by the illusionary race to prove the nation’s alter ego superiority compared to other nations. The sudden rush to conquer the moon’s surface, rush to create the first living animal clone, rush to make human fly in the sky were some of the events where indirectly automata (nation’s alter ego) was eventually winning the race.

By end of the 20th century, the idea of Darwin had become the idea of the dead where it only explained how we became who we are. He never explained how non-linear artificial experiences in the linear flow of time would affect our natural evolution. He possibly never imagined machines would become our alter ego which will be valued more than ourselves.

Fast forward in current times, we have created a world of dots and dashes, a world so disconnected, a world so nonlinear where automata (machines: alter ego) will be the only way connecting these dots and dashes, a world where artificial will be more appealing than natural, a world were we trust machines more than ourselves.

Animals especially dogs are no longer best companions of us but automation are which has become our new self, our alter ego. This "alter ego" manifested in form automation around has created a world of microaggressions within us. Bodies are in some kind of constant frictions inside and outside. These are fictions between ourselves and our alter egos. By bodies, I mean, we, state machineries and our alter egos. These internal frictions most of the time go unnoticed and slowly builds upon themselves that ravages us all the time. This phenomenon can be a better explanation of how microaggressions have become the dominant psychological disease of our time where we seek not to be liked but to satisfy our alter egos though more likes and followers, where we seek not to listen but to be heard by other alter egos where our voices fall on microphones rather than on ears, where we seek not to think but to code an alter ego who can think for us, where we seek not to revolt but to create trends, where we seek not life but constant death of our souls.

We have created a world where Nietzsche’s Ubermensch triumphed not in us, but, in our various alter egos surrounding us, in the form of self-driving cars, mobile phones, surveillance cameras, social sites, and much more. With the current temperament, I believe that we would see many more of ourselves commanding us what to do and how to do things. We would listen more to them and less to our minds, heart, and soul.

Whether it can take us beyond us, only time will tell. But one thing is for sure that we can not change this or reverse this.

About the Author:

Ratneshwar Jha (ORCID: 0000-0002-7753-8680) is a digital transformation professional with 12 years’ experience in ideating and designing complex collaborative data management solutions with regards to SaaS/On-Premise based products. 

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