Our species is experiencing a growing anxiety mostly of unknown origin. The fear is deep-seated because most of us are not conscious of its genesis. When and where did we begin our slide down the slippery slope we find ourselves on today? And more importantly, can we do anything about it.
Before you dismiss this essay as the hype of a “positive-thinking” naïf remember that you are on a site containing the insights of the most gifted thinkers both East and West going back 5000 years. However, it is best to take one problem at a time although they all have a common origin whether it is global warming, pandemics, nuclear winter, loss of autonomy, dystopian demagogues, etc. Let’s begin with data collection and social media which many of us are coming to realize, albeit belatedly, has a dark side.
We begin with a description by A. G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, explaining why we were initially seduced by IT. “It’s clear that the rapid increase in data collection has resulted in many worthy contributions: creating a more interconnected world, saving users untold amounts of time and money, driving business and innovation and enabling important advances, from identifying public health threats to foiling terrorist attacks.” (1)
A digression! When Thoreau asked what all the excitement was about in the village of Concord he was told about the telegraph connection between Washington and San Francisco. Thoreau replied, “That’s all well and good assuming that Washington has anything worthwhile to say to San Francisco?”
So our point is: Should our intellect and the resultant technology be focused on making money and saving time before we assess the value of money and time. Perhaps we should have looked a little harder at the implications of committing to the thrill of a steep and slippery slope. “[It’s] also increasingly clear those benefits come with costs and trade-offs that society has not really reckoned with.” (1)
It’s natural at this point to look for the other, for a scapegoat and we can choose the old familiar victim, the nerd on the playground. “The very particular culture they’ve created infuses everything they produce for the rest of us. Because deeply introverted people were drawn to coding, they did not prioritize positive human interactions. A community that indulges thoughts of anarchy was wary of adding any guardrails to the programs and products it delivers.” (2)
Before we continue indulging our propensity for projecting any further let’s entertain the possibility that maybe we are all culpable. Many experts on the subject have identified what they have come to label the “privacy paradox.” Basically, it says that if we didn’t want to lose our privacy, then why did we sign the privacy agreements, the internet “fine print”? “There’s a frightening automaticity to them. (I accept. Click.) It’s as if we’re the robots.” (3) It’s funny that journalist Jennifer Senior should put it like that given that in Simple Reality we often use robots as metaphors for human behavior.
Any solutions to the problems on our planet will have to involve a paradigm (worldview) shift bringing about a change in our identity. How would Jennifer Senior express something similar? “It would require an entirely new set of instincts [responses rather than reactions], a radically different cognitive framework [beliefs, attitudes and values], from the one we now possess.” (3)
This is radically profound stuff! Let’s pursue it further if you think your brain fuse can handle it. Ha! Ha! Click on the link below.
Insight # 103: True mental poise is not letting the mind react to stimuli. To endure all kinds of afflictions without rebellion, complaint or lament. (4)
- Scientific Materialism on this blog and in print in The ABC’s of Simple Reality: The Encyclopedia of Self-Transformation, Vol II (2018), pages 193-195, by Roy Charles Henry.
- Sulzberger, A.G. “Ideas.” The New York Times Sunday. April 14, 2019, page 2.
- Bowles, Nellie. “Mind Meld.” The New York Times Book Review. April 7, 2019, page 10.
- Senior, Jennifer. “Our Neurotic ‘Privacy Paradox.’” The New York Times Sunday Review. May 19, 2019, page 5.
- Johnson, Clive [ed.], An Anthology of Hindu Scripture, Commentary, and Poetry. New York: Bantam, 1971, page 126.