- The practical application of science to commerce or industry
- The discipline dealing with the art or science of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems
To begin this topic, I would like to ask you what the you think the greatest invention was? It can be anything you like. For me, it could be a hundred things – anything from the knife and fork, to the discovery of fire, the wheel, or agriculture. You may be thinking of more modern inventions like the electric kettle, the television, the car, digital music, or satellite television. It doesn’t matter what you pick, we will all have our own favourites.
The point is, that over all other species on this planet, Man has been inventive ((used of persons or artifacts) marked by independence and creativity in thought or action).
The apes are the only other species who also have some degree of inventiveness. All other species, no matter how clever we think they are, are operating on some form of blueprint, a predetermined path, based on how successful it makes them as a species. So we are not talking about Man adapting to his environment to increase the survival chances of the species, we are talking about using the mind in such a way, as to invent items which are not directly related to survival.
So why have people invented things? The question is as broad as asking why does Man do anything. The simple answer is because he can! He has a mind which has developed sufficiently as to ask questions. Complex questions such as “what if?” and “why can’t we?” It is precisely questions such as these that lead to inventions, coupled with Man’s desire to make life easy for himself and his family.
We have all seen the animals and the birds out hunting for food or grazing every day, but did you know that even if they had the mental capacity to comprehend the concept of a day off, they couldn’t have one, as they need to keep looking for food! No two week holidays in the sun for them, no weekends off, just work, work, work. That’s exactly what it used to be like for us. Hunter gatherers. Hunting for animals to kill, and gathering berries etc. in the forest. Every day.
Thanks to inventions
I am human
I will surely die
Imagine, just imagine for a moment, that we were suddenly thrown back to those days. How would we cope? We, who are so used to going to the supermarket or pulling something out of the freezer and putting it in the microwave (for clarity, I am using a western example here, as I know in some countries you do not have access to this kind of technology). How would you cope? I know one thing, a lot of us would starve to death!
How many of us know anything about the food we eat? How many of us could identify fungi and berries in the forest? I know I can’t, and neither could my parents.
How many of us could catch a wild animal and kill it (without a gun), skin it, and identify the best parts for eating, before starting a fire without matches, and finally roasting it? Please think about this for a moment because it is very important. Can you see why we are talking about this?
It is precisely because of Man’s inventions that we have lost some very basic skills. It is all very well having technology, but what if one day, we don’t have it anymore? Remember, all of this technology requires earth resources to make, and use -so what if it runs out? Where will we be then?
Many people have said that they are not concerned for the future, because when the earth’s resources run out, Man will just come up with more inventions. But can’t you see that these inventions are the very things that are disconnecting us from the planet? These inventions have placed us so far away from nature that now we believe we are different from all other creatures on the planet. We cover ourselves in our inventions, surround ourselves with them, talk about them, fly in them, eat them, live them, breathe them.
Our whole life is based around technology; Man’s discoveries to make life more pleasant and bearable.
Except no other species seems to need them. You may argue that they don’t know what they’re missing, that they could have such a better life if only they had the brain capacity to invent! But really, what would they do with it? How would you improve a bird’s life? How could you better soaring in the sky, free from control, from suffering.
Birds and animals do not need to consider a better life, because they are already living it! They may or may not know they are living a good life, but they are part of the earth, working with the nature to ensure it is kept in balance, whereas we just want an easy life, and we invent technologies to help us with it.
Remember, alcohol was an invention, and look what that does to us. It keeps us as far away from nature as possible.
Everything we do for work and for pleasure is the result of human invention. Everything we see when we look around in our cities is the work of human invention, and yes, I am amazed by what humans have created in the last few thousand years (roads, water supplies, bridges, brick housing, aeroplanes, space ships), but all the while I look around me, I keep thinking to myself: “Imagine if we used this brain capacity for something else rather than to make our lives easier and more superficially pleasurable?”
When fridges and cars were invented early in the twentieth century these would have been considered as, and maybe more, exciting as mobile phones today, and they very quickly became essential items to the human animal.
Bolt-ons and more bolt-ons
Bolt-ons, as you may remember from other topics, are items which I consider non-essential to the well-being of the species. Artificial additions which have become as inseparable from us as our limbs!
I would like to create a list of ten items I feel I couldn’t be without now, and please write your own list at the same time. They don’t have to be in order of importance.
Laptop, and fast wireless broadband internet, please.
Banking (cashpoint and mastercard/visa for paying online etc.)
Many different sets of clothes.
Public transport and / or private car.
Electricity and running water.
Hot water showers.
Shower gel and toothpaste.
House with heating (in winter).
I consider myself to be one who has let go of most modern desires, but I see from my list I am still very much addicted to modern living. How does your list compare?
What do you think the list would contain if it had been completed by someone 150 years ago or 300 years ago? It would have looked very different, I can tell you (only because, apart from money, the things I have listed hadn’t been invented ).
I am trying to remember what I used to do before the cash machine was invented – it was only invented recently, but now I couldn’t live without it. The same goes for a debit card to pay for items without having cash. In fact what would I do if I didn’t have a bank? Where would I put my money? Under the bed probably!
It seems to me, that humans don’t miss something until they have had it, and then lose it. I’m sure everyone was quite happy without credit cards (invented around 1960) or cash machines. They just went to the bank, stood in line and took out their money, but if you removed them now, there would be an outcry! The same goes for mobile phones, which you will notice, I do not have on my list, only because last week, I decided to get rid of my phone.
I have had one since they became digital in 1995, and give or take a few months here and there, it has been on permanently, quietly receiving text messages of zero importance and loudly receiving phone calls, none of which (over ten years or so) could be considered important or a matter of life and death!
“What are you up to?” “Are you going out tonight?” “Did you see?” “I’ll be there in five minutes” Blah, blah, blah. I have wasted thousands of pounds talking absolute rubbish. I used it to pass the time in traffic jams, on trains, in airports, when in fact it was just wasting time, and keeping me separate from the now. Wherever I was, I was somewhere else.
Do you notice that these days? People will be out in company at a pub, restaurant, or even the cinema, in fact, anywhere, and they are engaged in a text conversation with someone else? Everywhere you look in the street, people are talking with someone who isn’t there! Anything to keep them distracted from what they are doing. No one can just sit and have a coffee at a cafe now, they have to be doing something else, like phoning a friend, or texting. They have to distract themselves from living in the present moment.
But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, it has only reached epidemic proportions in the last few years, when mobiles have become financially accessible to young people.
So what did people do before they could waste their time talking to people on the move? The same as they did before cars were invented, or the same as they did before fridges were invented – they got on with their lives. It seems very strange to me that we have such an addiction to technology. Maybe it’s because we are fascinated by it? I don’t know, but one thing I am sure of is that once we have it, it switches something on in the brain that can never let it go.
I’m sure you don’t know anyone without a mobile, do you? Everyone argues that they are an essential part of our accessory pack. Parents happily give their five year old children one, just in case they need to phone home. Husband and wives have them in case they need to let each other know that they will be thirty minutes late for dinner. Elderly people should have one in case their car breaks down. On the face of it, it seems like a good idea. Everyone being able to keep in contact with each other, just in case. But all I want say is, what did we do without them twenty five years ago? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago? One thousand years ago? Was life better or worse without them?
Another great invention is Sat-nav in the car which uses the global positioning system satellites and some nifty software to plot your route. It even tells you when to turn left and right! Once again, like the mobile phone, it’s a great invention, testament to Man’s ability to be inventive, and like all technology, it’s nice to have, but do you really need a computerised flight plan for your car journey down to the supermarket? What’s wrong with looking at the map?
The more we become reliant on technology, the less likely we are going to be able to cope without it. Whether that day comes or not, we must learn to rely on our own human skills, to use our brains, instead of allowing ourselves to become addicted to the lazy way – something humans are becoming more and more likely to do. Ask yourself what you would do without even one thing on your list. Even better, do as I did, pick one item and let it go. Like your mobile phone! Instead of feeling lost without it, I feel free. The addiction is broken.
So why do you think we felt a need to create all this technology? Is it built into the human to constantly improve, or were these the inventions of people who wanted to make money? Was electricity created so that people’s lives would improve, or was it an invention to make money? Was running water in the city invented to help people improve, or as a way to get water to the people in the city so they could work for the powerful men who ran the city?
Why was the mobile invented? For the people, or for the back pocket?
Cynical you may call me, but every modern invention has been created for profit. Try to think of one that wasn’t. I am not suggesting a return to the dark ages when we had no technology, just an awareness that the technology the marketers have addicted us to, is unnecessary to the happy existence of the human race.
It facilitates modern cramped city and town living. It allows people to work long hours so they can get rich or make someone else rich, without having to worry about going out to hunt food, fetch firewood, or tend crops. Technology allows for specialisation, and specialisation is where people get rich!
So is technology just another way for people to get richer than their fellow man or could it be philanthropic? Did the great inventors of our time come up with these ground breaking inventions purely for the benefit of other human beings, or did they do it for the fame and the money? I will leave that for you to decide, but know that nothing we have is necessary to our survival, we just think it is. It may take a while to get used to the idea of not having, but like all highly adaptable species. We would adapt.
The monastical experience
I have only spent a short time in what could be called a monastical existence. I was only there as a lay person and had (and have) no intention of becoming a monk, but something moved me in the time I spent there. What really struck me first was the lack of outward attachments. No fancy clothes, yet the clothing seemed perfectly adequate. No cd players or mp3 players, but the silence was in fact more captivating than any concert. No fancy food, but each meal was delicious. No talking at mealtimes, but the food tasted the better for it…
Most of you, and young people of western culture especially would say “Borrrrinnnngg!” which doesn’t surprise me. Anything that isn’t the newest and shiniest technology is considered boring. Forgetting the religious aspect to monasteries, these are places of contemplation and learning. They give the mind space to breathe, without all the modern gadgets we are addicted to.
They are simple in design, the living is simple, but the thoughts one can generate in the silence, can be incredible! The monks have lived almost the same way for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
Of course, this simple life may not appeal to you if you live in a city surrounded by constant traffic, noise, bars and nightclubs, fast food outlets, fashion and technology retailers, cinemas, art galleries, museums, fast moving companies, slow moving traffic, and enough neon lights to block out the stars at night, but can’t you see how artificial it all is? Nothing we have in the city is natural, it is all man-made. It is all born through invention.
Sure, we may build a few “natural” parks with lakes etc. to make the people believe they have something in common with nature. But there is nothing we have in common with nature anymore, technology has seen to that. That is why all of us, whether we are religious or not, could benefit from spending some time in a monastery, where the only technology employed, is the technology of the mind in action. Where you can start to develop a true awareness of yourself, where you can start to find out who you are, and begin to understand your place in the universe. Of course, you could just buy a meditation cd and listen to it on your mp3 player in the lounge!
To quieten the mind, to be as one with the universe, takes no effort, just silence! You don’t have to repeat mantras nor sit in funny cross legged positions, just be. And where better than to just be, than in a place specifically built for people who want to just be? You could just spend time alone in the mountains, or by a stream, but please don’t take your sat-nav or mobile phone with you!
Is technology a help or a hindrance?
Any technology that makes humans’ lives easier so they can work more is a help to employers, but is it furthering humanity? Are we just using more and more of the earth’s resources to enclose ourselves from it? It seems quite ironic! Some of you may say, that without modern technologies we would still have problems in the west from contaminated drinking water like they do in parts of asia and africa, but if society was not organised into such large social groups would we need to pipe it round the country?
If we didn’t all work miles from our homes we wouldn’t need all the technology to get us to and from the cities. If we lived in small enough communities, we wouldn’t need technology to stay in constant touch with our friends, we’d go round and see them.
There are so many reasons why technology is a hindrance, but then again you may see it differently. I believe that technology is the barrier between seeing reality and living in illusion. If you start to become aware of yourself, you will have done something that technology will never be able to do.
Leave technology behind you,
let space enter your mind.
Finally you will be free,
to discover what’s truly inside.
by alan macmillan orr
“The natural mind – waking up’