Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Vedic interpretation of the Bliss and Curse of physical Technology

Not many people will disagree, if you state that modern technology has brought many benefits. We live longer, have eradicated many diseases, we can do everything faster: commute, communicate, conduct a business, we can generate more food in a shorter period, we can keep our food fresh for a longer time, we have more choice in amusement, we can spend more of our time for leisure activities, it has generated wealth and globally reduced poverty.
But has it increased our happiness? Has it improved the depth of our social interactions? Have we become more responsible, more involved and more caring towards each other? Has it paved the way for us to open ourselves to self-realisation?
Or are we are drowning in an excess of choice, an excess of ennui? Are we drowning in pollution of air, water and land? Are we suffering from noise, electromagnetic and visual pollution? Are we suffering from the massive scale of everything? Have we entered the proverbial multiplicity of Hell?
Think of it. The air has become polluted with exhaust gases from vehicles and manufacturing plants, the content of CO2  has also risen due to these factors, plus due to the gases produced by humans and animals, in particular by industrial farming. In cities as Beijing and New Delhi, the air is frequently unbreathable due to the smog. The resulting climate change will have dramatic effects changing ecosystems, flooding and provoking extreme weather conditions. 
Water and soil have become massively polluted due to plastics and metal littering and dumping. Especially the single use non-degradable plastics are responsible for this. Chemical waste, pesticides, fertilizers, oil spills, heavy metals, toxins and nuclear waste already render the conditions for life more precarious than ever before. Deforestation, loss of biodiversity and poisoning the food chain do not promise an auspicious future for our posterity.
We may have eradicated certain diseases; with our current lifestyle we're introducing many new ones. Microorganisms becoming resistant to antibiotics, cancer on the rise due to the dumping of toxic waste on the farmlands (.e.g. by the Mafia in Italy; due to solar cell! production in China) or due to the accumulation of toxic heavy metals in the food chain, especially in fish.
Bon appetit!
We can travel faster to any place of the world... at the cost of causing air and noise pollution on a massive scale. We can spend less time on cleaning our house or preparing our meals. To have more time for our self-development? No. In general people just spend more time being numbed down looking at a screen.
Children suffer from attention deficit disorders on a large scale due to computer gaming or other activities on their computers, tablets or mobile phones. Family members do not connect on a deep emotional level anymore; there's hardly any communication left. All family members autistically absorbed on their own computer device, chatting with unknown people they have never met, seen, touched or smelt. People are flooded with information and drown due to the overflow of choice. 
The world doesn't become a safer place either. Drugs and criminality flourish, like bacteria on a rich broth.
Has technology brought happiness? Perhaps initially in the 20th century, yes. But it seems it has gone over the top. We've entered the phase of diminishing returns. What we add doesn't become better. At present it only seems to worsen the state of life on Earth.
Is it intrinsic to technology that it brings all these devastating side effects? Or is this a consequence of the corrupted short term profit based thinking without regard for our posterity that has put us in this predicament?
Let's test our technologies in the light of the moral prescriptions from the yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Yamas or "Don'ts".
Ahimsa means non-violence. Certainly our industrial farming technology is purely based on violence and cruelty. There are many more ways to rear livestock and to carry out the slaughtering in a more respectful way than the brutal approach of the farming industry. But if you ask people why they still buy the industrially farmed kilo package deal at the supermarket instead of the organic product at the specialist shop, they will tell you they can't afford it; that it's up to the government to take care of this.
Well, you can also simply leave it. You won't die from becoming a vegetarian.
Our plastic and metal waste pollution is not only an aggressive act towards our posterity, it is also directly in the here and now an act of violence against all the animals that get stuck in this waste or become poisoned by it. The same can be said about our short term benefit attitude towards the climate; but we're already ourselves undergoing the damaging effects thereof.
Yet there are alternatives possible. Technology has progressed so far that biodegradable plastics have become available. Moreover, we can responsibly refuse to buy any item which contains single use plastic. It is here that the manufacturers have a huge responsibility. The number of unnecessarily products packaged in plastic is appalling. Say no to these plastics!
Indifference is the mental disease of this generation populating the Earth; the attitude of "after me the deluge". It is not cool to be indifferent. You may become a victim of your inactivity one day. It is time to take responsibility and become like caring parents to our planet. This is the Amrit or nectar of Karma yoga.
The second of the Yamas is Satya; the guideline of truthful intent. If the preservation of life and consciousness is the truth, than it does not take much intelligence to realise that our corrupted technologies are a big metaphorical lie towards life. Our ways are a lie towards later generations and towards plant and animal life.
The third of the Yamas is Asteya: the Guideline of not appropriating what isn't yours a.k.a. refraining from stealing. Our corrupted ways stela from the future generations by exhausting the planet. What will be left of Earth's resources in five more decades if we continue to produce at this pace?
The fourth of the Yamas is Brahmaccharya. If you see the concept of "energy containment" in a broader sense than only sexually (as is usually the interpretation), you will see, we are not respectfully dealing with the energy management of our planet.
Still here again there are plenty of renewable energy resources that could solve our dependency on fossil fuels. Clean technology does exist. Geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, and tidal energy sources are just some examples. Our technology has advanced far enough to become completely independent of fossil fuels. What lacks is the political and economic willingness to do so. Our short term objectives outweighing the long term sustainability.
Finally there is Aparigraha, or refraining from greed. What else then our greed is the source of our predicament? Our striving for short term pleasure, wealth, possessions, money, a reputation?

Has Gautama Buddha not taught us that true happiness is not to be found in feverishly striving after our pleasures but rather in equanimity? Has he not taught us that this peace of mind, which the Greek called Ataraxia, can only be achieved by living a simple life? Is not Seva, service to others a hallmark of Hinduism? Why then this hunger for more material possessions and success? Is it going to bring us any nearer to the purpose of life, which is Self-Realisation?
When Arjuna had to choose between Krishna and his armies, he decisively chose the first. Krishna stands for Oneness, Consciousness and Quality. The armies stand for plurality, matter and quantity. The world of material phenomena is just a temporal appearance, only Consciousness is eternal. Similarly in the Western tradition, Spirit stand for Oneness, Unity and peace; the Hell is represented by the many. Excess in everything, excess in choice, we are flooded by the effects of the corrupted ways we have implemented our technology. More is not always better. Certainly not here. 

Technology, to be of benefit to us, must be high quality, recyclable or biodegradable. Technology must be true, kind and necessary.
Until we change our corrupted ways, we must try to minimise our dependence on technology that does not fulfil these criteria. 
This is the teaching of Technovedanta.

You can find my books on Amazon in paperback or ebook format (in India only 50Rs.)
Transcendental Metaphysics
Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology  (https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07D7JX4RS)

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