Technovidya: Zombie Apocalypse or Symbiosis? (Part 1)
We hear it frequently: technology is invading our lives and isolating us from each other. The increasingly ubiquitous sight of human masses staring down into their pocket-sized screens, ironically absorbed in social media platforms. Answering the phone at dinner was once considered rude. Now it is commonplace. Not to mention texting and driving. We dread a zombie apocalypse. But is it upon us?
A myopic analysis of the status quo would suggest so. And yet, a bird's eye view may reveal much more. The Kosmos (the Greek denotation for all of existence, including but not limited to the observable physical cosmos) is made up of perspectives, and it is important to acknowledge the point blank situation as well as the broader strokes. Technology is part of a larger evolution of consciousness on Earth, co-evolving with its human users. Technology is inert without human minds behind it. How and to what end technology is used is dependent on the human sentience behind it. The degree of consciousness of the individual and collective minds behind both individual and wide-scale tools will determine their output. The first step is that we must realize we are in control of ourselves and how we use our technology. Then we must ask, which part of us is in control? The lower aspects of mind or the higher and more virtuous reaches of mind?
I use technology as a way to contemplate the nature of mind and how we interact with the world around us. One of the most fascinating things I have observed in my studies of the brain and consciousness is the fractal nature of the Kosmos. That is, the patterns of a close-up view are similar in nature to those of a zoomed out view. A close up of a broccoli floret is similar to the larger bundle of broccoli. Zooming in on a brain reveals an intricate structure of nerve connections. A bird's eye view of a metropolitan city shows how the intersections of highways and the vehicles in them look much like the electrical signals in the nerves of the brain (and in fact have been demonstrated to bear mathematical resemblance). Similarly, views of the universe and the internet show such patterns. These are all signs of the intelligent organization of consciousness as form, whether they occur with or without human hands. This organic self-assembling movement of technology has been termed by Kevin Kelly as the technium. Technology is much like an organism that co-evolves with humans. The fact that we can learn to recognize new tools and adapt to them so quickly speaks to the depth of symbiosis we share with them.
Assuming a larger view of organic intelligence in the Kosmos allows me to blur the boundaries between myself and the tools I use. I allow myself to be a conscious willful participant in the movement and evolution of the technium. The evolution of the internet is looking much like the organization of the brain, with dedicated centers for specific tasks and functions. Our brains and bodies are extensions of nature, and technology is an extension of our brains. All of these material manifestations are nature, and nature is in us—that is, the unlimited core of I/us: unified consciousness. Our brains have helped our consciousness organize itself in the world around us through technology. In a deeper sense, technology is an extension of us. This is a very empowering stance, rather than adopting the view of us vs. them. That view will perpetuate the struggle, the sense of otherness and alienation. I have chosen to adopt the view that our techie tools are extensions of our nervous system, lengthening and broadening the reach of our senses. As a yogi, it is a powerful practice to see these extensions as part of the "I", the Self. In fact, it doesn't even start or end with me in this body. It starts non-locally, everywhere and nowhere, weaving a tapestry of interconnection. It is as if consciousness has spilled itself over the world of form and objects, lighting everything up in the fire of transformation. There is a Sanksrit word for this: skanda, which means "to spill". Is there a limit to which I can allow my awareness to spill through the tools I use, or is the beauty to be found in the ever increasing complexity of our interconnection? Recognizing that we are in a deep evolutionary symbiosis with the technium is the first step to waking up from the separateness we experience from our tools and gadgets. Changing one's own perspective is the most transformative action that can be taken, and it must be the first step, as it is the only one what promises life-changing benefits as we loosen the grip of our limiting beliefs.
Nonetheless, there are other dimensions to the evolution of technology around us that together form an integral picture: there is the subjective consciousness domain (discussed above), the physical material domain, infrastructural domain, and the domain of intersubjective technology in culture. As we work with the various dimensions of the development of the technium, it is important to remember that we are in a birthing process in terms of the way we manage our relationship with it and we will experience growing pains on many levels due to unsustainable patterns and behaviors (such as unhinged security and privacy violations)—all part of the process and also signs that change is necessary. If technology appears to separate rather than unite, it is a matter of mismanagement, whether of one's own use or perspective, or of a combination of inefficiencies that are to be ironed out in due course.
The consciousness of the user determines how a tool is used. A hammer can be used to harm or to fix a loose nail. And it is therefore key to develop our own awareness through right living and healthy relationships. Technology can connect us harmoniously, fostering cooperation and community presence on local, global, and eventually galactic levels, or we can use it to perpetuate separatism, fulfilling the prophecy of the zombie apocalypse. The choice is (y)ours.
I have termed this piece "Technovidya" as a compound of the Greek tekhne 'art, craft' and the Sanskrit vidya 'knowledge, learning'—the study of technology or knowledge through the technosphere. this includes technology as we know it (gadgetry and how we develop and use it in healthy ways individually and collectively), and the subtle aspects of how humans are bio-energetically driven agents of Nature's creative acts of art and craft. It is a subject, relevant to myriad applications and an integral analysis. In the future, I will cover:
1) Tips, exercises, mediations, and contemplations that help to view and use technology as an extension of the Self.
2) Meta-perspectives on how to improve the shaping of our technology to better foster a natural and comfortable state of being with our tools.
3) Creative applications of various forms of technology that further blur the boundaries between us humans and our tools, from interactive multimedia to music and design.
4) More to come…