If you have been following this blog then you would know I dislike technology. You may be saying, “Well, if you dislike it so much then why are you using the internet?” A good question and one I will have to answer.
For me technology and science are not the same thing. You might be here thinking I am stating the obvious but I am not. Technology and science, of course, has a lot to do with each other. Many, if not all, of the great scientific discoveries have gone on to change our lives. But changing our lives can be done in many ways. A scientific discovery may help our understanding of our world. But there is a definite push, today, towards applying what we have learned and know to manipulate the world.
A while back I had read an excellent biography on Isaac Newton (of that title) by James Gleick. The feeling I get from this biography about the man (and the period) was that our concerns were – largely – about the knowledge and understanding of the nature of the world. While, of course, Newton was worried about credit due to him (he was a very secretive person) it was the knowledge that was important.
But this all seemed to have changed with the Industrial Revolution. Today in our concerns are on “how we can make the most everything”. Whether it is the money in our pockets, the time on our hands (or sometimes even the love that we receive). The word we use is efficiency. But our usage of it is misleading. We used to use the word to indicate little wastage. But before we can understand what we had meant by efficiency we will have to look at this word, waste, because this word also has metamorphosed over time.
It seems waste once had meant not using more than we need to. While we still use it in this sense we apply it to different values. The question is what? Not really that hard. I do not need to do an Z-score corpus analysis of the word to guess that “waste” these days collocates with “time”, “money” and “energy” (as in “a waste of time”). Otherwise it collocates with adjectives like “toxic”, disposal” and “radioactive” (as in “radioactive waste”). This second usage is interesting because it is now a product, a noun, and cannot be made into a verb. It no longer is an action but a thing.
I am just amused that no one actually has come out and say something like “All this waste is a waste”.
But coming back to efficiency. Waste and efficiency are not the same thing, though they are seen confusingly as such. Efficiency is about getting the most out of use. Waste (as a verb) is about using less of what is there. The philosophy is like the “half empty or half full” glass question. And the assumption with efficiency is that what is there is for us to use. And this way of thinking has rubbed off onto waste also. We can only see waste as mostly being about one’s time, money or energy.
No, the world around us is not there to be used indiscriminately by us. It may seem that way. But that is what the old fashioned capitalists, neo-liberalists and cultural imperialists want you to believe. Because it is about the money and the power to make the money.
I’ve strayed from the topic here a little.
If we use science to learn and understand the world we live in and how we should relate to it then we are on a safe and wise path. But we turn science into technology for profit and manipulation then we are losing our grip on the reality and respect for our home. The more I think about it the more that it is for money. The ability to manipulate the inanimate and animate world is for money.
Yes, with what I say, the livelihood of millions are at stake here. No, technology is not the answer. It is not even the real cause of all our woes (though it is the direct physical cause of the environmental problems). The origin is in the philosophy of technology which is manipulated by the philosophy of economics. This in turn has to do with our attitude. The story is complex and beyond a one thousand word post.
But let’s take a quick look at one recent article on technology and the environment. I found this in last week’s Daily Yomiuri – recordings of endangered species to use as cell phone ring tones to spread awareness. The creators of the ring tones, Center for Biological Diversity, believes that if people hear more of these sounds they will be inspired to do something about the environment.
But no, this isn’t the answer either. There are enough people out there, including me, who are getting people to notice. I wouldn’t say the message is falling on deaf ears. But rather we have dug ourselves so deep into this rely-on-technology hole that we cannot get out of it even if we want to.
That we have done without the mobile phones for a million years until now of human history, I think we can go without it for at least a day. And I certainly do not need a ring tone to know that the planet is in trouble.
So coming back to the internet. What am I doing online if I am so against it? Again, I am not against the internet as such but its indiscriminate use. I choose to use it not for entertainment but for learning and teaching (I can see the abuses coming in from this post now). Every person has a choice. I choose not to waste the tremendous energy required to run the internet for wasteful games, cheap laughs or loveless porn (no, there is no such thing as porn with love).
I choose to use it for the environment.