Love people, not things (#6)

I've been writing a small series about Heartcore's foundational principles. You can find links to the previous posts below.

The sixth principle is another quote, this one by Spencer Kimball, a prominent leader of the Mormon church:

"Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”

It sounds like another trite internet cliché, something you'd read on some celebrity's Instagram or on an inspirational Facebook page. But I'd contend that it is deeper than it seems.

Perhaps most importantly: it is a direct repudiation of the materialism of which much of the technology industry stands accused. 

In that sense it is "back to the roots": technology at its most basic as the creation and use of tools, the intent of such tools being the fulfillment of needs and desire of people. For the advancement, if you will, of humankind.

At first glance technology is amoral; only the usage of the tool implicates it in morality. But of course inherent potential has directedness: guns don't kill people, but guns certainly kill people more than teddy bears do. 

Which is not to say that the teddy as surrogate pet or friend is necessarily harmless: tools conquer their masters all the time - guns are an especially good case study for that. Temptation is such that the trigger wants to be pulled.  

Which brings us to networked software and the internet, more generally. With greater inherent potentiality also comes greater potential for misuse. 

Every time you put the sudo, or superuser, command into a Unix terminal, you get a variant of an old warning:

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.

#2) Think before you type.

#3) With great power comes great responsibility.

Wise words. One wishes everyone working on networked software would heed them. And perhaps especially the folks at Google and Facebook. 

Within us there is an ancient impulse, "Promethean" perhaps. I find it particularly strong with the internet. Something within us is causing us to build this giant network connecting humanity. Scott Adam speculates we are "reassembling God" and as someone living at the intersection of AMDG and H+ I think that's an interesting thought experiment. I'd really like an evolutionary psychology evaluation of this so I can integrate it with my rational being. 

There seems to me an oscillation at the moment in online culture between integrating into a larger global awareness and the tribalist identity politics that are taking hold locally. The internet is enabling both, which is very interesting and slightly terrifying.

Love people, not things. The call for brotherly love is perennial philosophy, the closest I can come to seeing a social consensus of metaphysical morality. It stands in direct contrast to materialism and the love of worldly things, which includes the worship of tools as idols. 

Incidentally Apple is a master at this - the promise of creativity as the differentiating factor in its early marketing.

The second part of this quote seems superfluous. But there's a beauty in the juxtapositions of opposites. The materialist "usage" of people be it through manipulation or coercion or by making them "human resources" violates the core tenet of civilization: that of the inviolability of the individual. 

A few decades ago one might have said "sanctity" of the individual and I think we'll probably get back there, but whatever. In the irreducibility of the individual (soul?) lies our dignity. 

The German constitutional law starts with "the dignity of the individual is inviolable", which is kind of a request of readmission to the human race because if the Germans showed anything in the last 100 years it is that the dignity of the individual is - in the materialist sense - very violable indeed.

And so "love people, not things" contains another, more subtle idea. On the one hand people are clearly different from things, separated by an observed but more importantly communicated difference (you may call this "soul" but expect to be laughed at). On the other, people seem to exist - unlike anything else - simultaneously on both the material (things) and spiritual (ideas) plane, and acting on both.

It is no accident that human history has become less violent as this idea of individual sanctity and integration of spiritual and material has spread. Modern culture seems ever more eager (yoga, meditation) to transcend the mind-body duality heresy.

You could argue that the soul-within-body is an idea, perhaps the idea, of civilization. 

And so "love people, not things; use things, not people" admonishes us to wield the power of technology with the responsibility conferred on us as individuals of more or less free will. It is a call for morality above all - to fight the urges of temptation (pleasure, greed, expediency) with the fortitude of our consciousness of the values that got us here in the first place.

I sincerely hope this makes sense to you (I seem to get sidetracked with interesting stuff as I write these).