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We live in age that has fetishised technology. Cars, computers, phones, gadgets, appliances, TV, media players...
People invest an enormous amount of time an effort seeking, purchasing and using their technology. But at what cost?
The human body
Technology is re-shaping the human body:
- necks craning forward
- bent backs
- repetitive strain injuries
- teenagers with the poise and posture of the elderly
- obese bodies from sitting all day.
- appalling muscle tone
The future will no doubt see a massive increase in arthritis from using a computer mouse, mobile phone or a videogame controller.
strong, boy. Flesh
What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?
Look at the strength of your body, the desire in your heart.
(Conan the Barbarian)
The notion that technology will aid human brain capacity is a myth akin to 'the paperless office'. It is not the reality. Do some research on-line.
See what the exam expectations were for qualifications 50+ years ago. Education is being dumbed-down. Expectations are lower. Intelligence is falling.
The problem with technology is that it acts like a crutch. Instead of learning how to write beautifully, you pick a font and the computer produces a flawless document.
Great, but you still cannot write neatly, can you?
A crutch is something used by a person who has a physical disability. It is an aid to help them function.
Technology does the reverse: it takes perfectly healthy, capable people and creates a dependency, a convenience.
Using technology is easier than using your own brain. But is this a good thing? Is technology making you disabled?
Technology shapes consciousness. Sometimes for the better but often adversely. Reliance on technology can reduce awareness, impede brain function and diminish attention span.
Children may be capable of playing a psychologically addictive video game for hours but cannot converse coherently with a grown adult.
Junk is the ultimate merchandise.
The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the
consumer to the product.
He does not improve and simplify his merchandise, he degrades and simplifies the client.
(William S. Burroughs)
Television is the worst culprit of all. It promotes thoughtlessness, gossip, superficiality, horrific posture, emotional instability, eye strain and slow brain death.
Many programs actively stimulate the viewer and create anxiety. People fret about imaginary problems or issues that they cannot possibly have any control over.
This causes depression and stress.
The TV thinks for you
Why bother to use your brain and think things through when the TV will provide an opinion instead?
A false sense of knowledge and understanding is fostered. It is founded on a superficial grasp of the subject and seldom accounts for all aspects of a given topic/issue.
Live life through the TV
Instead of living, you can watch. You can passively observe just about anything you like. No commitment, no hardship, no expense, no direct personal experience is required.
The mobile phone has become an intrusive third party in many relationships.
People sit in the company of real life humans whilst texting absent people, scanning the web, posting or chatting with friends.
Something significant is lost.
A toy for grown ups
Most of the activities performed on mobile phones have no bearing on the original purpose of the phone: game playing, 'tweeting', taking 'selfies'...
Are these activities more meaningful than genuine face-to-face human interaction?
I possess a device in my pocket,
that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man.
I use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers.
Interacting with people in real life is quite different to listening to a disembodied voice on the phone.
You have a vast array of additional information to work with:
• Tone of voice
• Facial expressions - use of facial musculature
• Eyes - sincerity, tension, attention level
• Poise/posture/body language
• Emotional state
• Non-verbal clues that can confirm veracity
There is nothing intimate or personal about a phone call. Interpersonal skills are an art that cannot be fully rendered by voice alone.
The laptop is used for legitimate business purposes by many users. Sadly, the ergonomics are not so great.
Look at any information on-line concerning the ideal placement/use of the human body when operating a computer. You cannot do any of it with a laptop.
The tablet is like a laptop, only worse. As a functional tool it is worthless. At best it is an expensive toy with limited professional value/application.
Despite the educational potential
of computers, the reality is that their use for education is miniscule
compared to their use for pure entertainment.
Instead of closing the achievement gap, they're widening the time-wasting
People spend tens of thousands of pounds on a car. The car is devalued as soon as you drive it off the forecourt.
Mobile phones are designed to become obsolete within a year or so. Technology fashion encourages a continual refreshing of the product, as old styles and features become redundant and uncool.
Has the original function changed?
Media players are continually being developed.
TV screens get larger and larger with an increased degree of hypnotic clarity and a quality of sound that only the most understanding neighbour will be happy about.
Technology is not cheap
So much money is spent on technology. How much time, money and effort will people invest in their own body? Their mind? Their spiritual/personal development?
In our technologically-dependent era people tend to equate the ownership of high-tech toys with intelligence. As if owning a phone means they are smart. 'Smart phone' refers to the device, not the owner.
Did you design, build or program your mobile phone? Do you even understand how the device works? Could you construct your own?
Not quite so smart, eh?
We are checking our smartphones on
average 221 times a day. Recent research found that 80 percent of
millennials look at their phones upon waking; this addiction is a strong
one. As a result, our cognitive processing has become shallower and we have
become so distracted that we play directly into the hands of the autopilot.
Digital devices are the modern day equivalent of tranquillisers. They instil
a trance-like state almost immediately as they are anchors for our
subconscious to take over.
Your body is the most sophisticated, advanced piece of technology you possess. How well can you use it? Do you have an advanced understanding of human biomechanics?
Can you use your body skilfully? Does your body perform whatever you demand of it?
If you read the books written by Ancient gurus millennia ago it becomes glaring obvious that most people these days are stupid.
Hey, don't be insulted. We are all pretty stupid. Try reading Marcus Aurelius, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Krishnamurti.
How well do you understand what these people are saying? Really understand? The good news is that you can do something about it. You can unplug. You can switch off. You can learn.
Try switching the TV off. Suddenly the day is yours to do with as you see fit. Switch off the PC. The phone.
Go around the house and unplug every electronic device you are not using. Wow; no more background hum. Your electric meter is no longer spinning fast.
When you commit to reclaiming your body and mind, you are beginning to live a deliberate life. You may be tempted to hammer your body at the gym, run the streets or do something rash... Don't.
There is no rush. Take some time. Reflect. Think deeply. Make choices that arise from a long-term perspective.
Confronted by limitations of effectiveness, the martial arts of the West responded with a continuous crafting of superior equipment. Confronted with similar limitations, the Asian warrior responded by fashioning a better self. The Asian warrior turned not to technology in making his sword a better tool for fighting. Influenced by contemplative aspects of Taoism and Buddhism and by the self-discipline of Confucianism, he turned inward. He fine-tuned his body and mind in order to better manipulate his sword.
Calculate how much time each week you spend on activities: Watching TV? Using the PC for leisure? Playing videogames? Playing on your phone/texting/talking?
If your TV time exceeds 7 hours a week, ask yourself why. Watching an excessive amount of TV prevents you from doing everything else.
It is quite difficult for modern people to go 'cold turkey'. They are so accustomed to watching other people doing things with their lives that they have completely forgotten about living their own.
Try watching one movie/TV episode a week? Leave the TV off for the rest of the week. Now try to curtail PC usage, mobile phones and any other technologies you are investing your time (and life) in.
You will find yourself with a lot of free time. Start living instead of watching/browsing/commentating/updating.
Tools, of course, can be the
subtlest of traps.
1 August 1999
Last updated 20 November 2018