mercredi 2 mars 2011

Technology as thought-booster

About thirty years ago I wrote in an essay that our technology is a kind of an amplifying system, a booster that transforms the biocurrents in our brain measured in milliwatts into much more powerful currents and processes: here we can speak about megawatts, gigawatts and terawatts. Technological progress means more amplification, but does not change the basic fact: everything we create, every process we unleash, begins in our brain. This means that our mistakes, our erroneous thoughts are boosted, made more powerful and more dangerous too. This is something that should be taken into account in our discussions and disputes on the use of nuclear energy, e.g. when we must decide whether to build a nuclear power plant in Estonia or not. Such a plant doesn't exist by itself, it too is a part in a complex man-technology system. It cannot but amplify processes, thoughts, images, emotions in our brains. Thus, to calculate the risks of any such project, any plant or mechanism, we must take into account these mental processes. It is not enough to know the tehnological components of the system. We must know ourselves, otherwise we don't know how risky a technological project can be. A simple way of assessing these risks is to look back at our recent history. If a nuclear plant is designed and built to be operational for several decades and its waste remains dangerous for millennia or even for tens of thousands of years, then such looking back may well serve as a warning. Can we be sure that during the next decades, not to speak of millennia, there will not be people determined to use our technology to fulfill their destructive impulses, and capable of finding ways to do it? We should not be afraid of the nuclear, we should be afraid of ourselves, of our destructive, aggressive instincts, our lust for power and simply our stupidity, our avidya. As there is probably no way for us to radically change our brains, our mind that the evolution has given us, we should at least be very careful in getting in our hands (and in the hands of our descendants for many generations) the powerful instruments we have invented and constructed. We cannot be sure how they will be exploited in future. And, of course, we should make a huge attempt to understand ourselves, to study our psychology, our brains, our emotions, to see more clearly what we want and what we need. If we want to survive we must find a way not to think dangerous. I don't know whether this is possible.

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