What’s Your Tech Diet?
Here’s a post that can also be found at Nineteen Months, where I write occasionally:
“…all the present arts and sciences, inventions and discoveries man has brought forth were once mysteries which nature had decreed should remain hidden and latent, but man has taken them out of the plane of the invisible and brought them into the plane of the visible.”
“…technology is the programming of nature. It is a capturing of phenomena and a harnessing of these to human purposes.”
- W. Brian Author
Smart Phones. Hybrid Cars. Genetically Modified Foods. Social Networking. Blogging. Stem Cell Research. Cloning. Teleportation… why not? As I type away on my iPad and check the weather outside on my Android phone, all while putting some thoughts together on a post on technology, makes me feel like I’m in some sort of “Inception” storyline where I am entirely unsure where the rabbit-hole leads.
I was an old-school hold-out on having a cell phone in the earliest years of this century but faced the unshakeable reality that I needed to engage with the new technologies that emerged to gain an understanding of their usefulness (or lack thereof) and potential application. My questions then were: “What’s the point of texting?” “What is best conveyed in an email or chat and what warrants a phone or face-to-face conversation?” Fast forward a decade, and I find that massive numbers of gadgets, machines and even systems have emerged with the recurring crowd commentary on whether the pervasive influences of said advances are helping or hurting us.
The approach that I take in understanding reality informs me that the technology’s impact on us is far from simple. Linked to this ongoing discourse on technology is a deeper discussion: means and ends, reflections on technological choice and a thoughtful delving into how technology can be used to enhance the individual and community’s ability to generate and apply knowledge. Discussion on these topics will likely inform a larger discussion on technology, its merits and impacts.
I recently was made aware of two types of knowledge referred to by Bahá’u'lláh: “‘ilm”, which refers to knowledge gained by the use of reason, investigation and sensory perception; and “irfán”, which refers to spiritual insight, awareness and inner knowledge. The question I ask myself is: Are the choices involved with the construction of my technological diet informed by both types of knowledge? Have I ignored any evaluative tools at my disposal?
I know that I have to peel myself away from video games and Internet browsing, often times in order to do things that I know are valuable — like eating and interacting with other human beings. I know that I’m not remotely skilled enough to produce any of the gadgets that have become fixtures in my home environment. I have sat in the same room with my friends and played cards with them on our respective devices, hardly ever speaking to each other. So how does one start?
One tool that I’ve become intimately familiar with lately is “reflection”. As I reflect on where this rabbit-hole leads, I discover that it leads in directions that I’ve not even considered: How much of what I consume is of my choosing? Am I eating food that disenfranchises farmers around the globe through practices that make them dependent on corporate seeds? Can I fix my iPad when it fails? Have I been forced to adapt to technology or was I actively involved with the chosen applications that exist? To what extent has my personal life been enriched or diminished by the Internet? How can I more readily use the two types of knowledge above to assess my technological diet?