Role of technology - expansion of our imagination
Added on 13 May 2017
Watched 3,331 times

Like the Copernican Revolution, which was in certain crucial ways empowered by technology with the telescope... also actually the printing press, without the printing press no scientific revolution, and of course the telescope with Galileo helped ratify, actualise the Copernican Revolution that Copernicus and Keppler had achieved, conceptually and intuitively, mathematically. So technology played a huge role from the beginning and of course really from the beginning of homo sapiens. Technology is the first tool, the first bone that was used to turn into like a knife, or a weapon. Or the control of fire. Prometheus is the great symbol. The myth of Prometheus who steals the fire from the heavens and gives it to humanity just to be able to liberate humanity from the old gods' power. And we see an image of the power of the Promethean impulse, that includes technological empowerment. We see a great image in a famous movie made in 1968 by Kubrick called '2001: A Space Odyssey'. And at the beginning of that film you have a primate, a kind of protohuman primate, has discovered a tool for the first time, using a bone as a weapon in a life or death struggle. And in the ecstasy of the discovery he's hitting the bone down hard and then he throws it up into the heavens, into the sky, with a kind of ecstatic sense of triumph. And the bone moves in slow motion and metamorphoses into a space station in the year 2001, nuclear, most up to date. And in that one image you have the alpha and the omega as it were of the Promethean technological project that homo sapiens is almost defined by.
So technology has always played a huge role in empowering us, making us a very effective species that can survive in all sorts of circumstances. And now in our own time of course we can see what technology has done in terms of something like the internet, the computer. Spectacular, what would have seemed like magic to any other era. And how now we can connect to every source of knowledge, every person in the world, the mobile phone, the computer internet connection. We're each like a node in a global brain. A tremendous transformation of human experience through technology. But again, there has been that shadow side. All these people working with their computers and not relating to each other in person, not experiencing the birds that are singing beautifully and the sky, the air, the water, or swimming in it and running through the ancient redwood forest. I mean, it's just... that there can be a kind of separation that this technology that has connected us to each other, it has connected us to the whole world, but it can also make us into hyper... All we're doing is e-mails day after day, or not even talking to the person next to us because we're on our cell phone here. So in all those respects there's this alienating, isolating potential with our contemporary technology. And yet those computers are also helping us understand exactly how human beings are disturbing the equilibrium of the earth. And giving us ways of better understanding our actions' consequences so that we can act more intelligently, more strategically. And also the internet... we get information much more quickly. And also it tremendously empowers people. I mean, the Arab Spring, the revolutions across the Middle East, totally were implicated, intertwined with social networks and the empowerment of individuals outside of the government to be able to connect, to rally, to demonstrate, to give voice to people who did not have voices before. So in all those ways technology, like the whole human project, has a light and shadow side. A potentially life-enhancing dimension and a potentially alienating and destructive connection. And that's why in the end what is needed is not only technological advance and intellectual sophistication, greater scientific and rational advance and not only greater and greater information and data. Those are important, but by themselves we see the result can be even more destructive than when all we had was a spear. And, you know, nuclear power and nuclear weapons and what the automobile, that's liberated us all to drive where we want, when we want and yet had such a polluting and problematic consequence.
So those things by themselves are not going to save our world. There has to be a change of consciousness that goes to one's heart, you know. It has to be a change in our capacity to experience each other and life that involves an opening of our heart, an expansion of our imagination. In many ways the existence of evil is connected to a narrowing of the imagination, of the empathic imagination to connect with 'Okay, what would it be like to be on the other side of my action? Oh, that might not feel so good.' That takes an act of the imagination, to be inside another tribe, another species, another person that we're in combat with. And so there has to be a kind of opening of the heart and the imagination, and really a kind of opening of our senses in our intuitive capacity to really take in the reality of the whole rather than listening to that little voice in our rational minds that's kind of like a... what's called the monkey mind in Asian mystical religion. And try to turn that off and listen to the larger whole. So I think technology simultaneously can serve... technology and rational knowledge certainly are... We're never going to throw them out, we're never going to... It's essential to who we are. But we cannot... we have to overcome that narrow identification with technological man and recognise that if that's in control by itself we create Frankenstein monsters. And our need is to come into what Martin Buber called an I-Thou relationship with each other and with the world rather than an I-It relationship where my I as a rational subject use others and other beings in the world as simply objects of my self-enhancement. But instead we open to the fact that we are a community, to use Teilhard de Chardin's term and Thomas Berry, we are a communion of subjects, a community of subjects, not just an isolated human subject in a world of objects, okay? That's a big paradigm shift and all the factors that I've been describing here I think are pushing us towards a greater likelihood that our human community and very powerful individuals, corporations, etcetera, governments, could wake up, partly through crisis, to a different way of engaging life in a more strategic way.

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