The power humans cultivate as scientific investigation yields deeper insight into the physical world is itself a neutral force. It’s neither beneficial nor destructive; whether technology is of any use to humanity, or else a terrible bane, depends on the motivation of the user.
The Dalai Lama points this out frequently, because it’s something that deserves repeated reflection. We’re all involved in the use and development of technology, even if personally we’re not researchers, designers, or engineers. My motivation in using technology also determines the benefit that will come of it.
When Einstein suggested in a letter to President Roosevelt that with the new research on uranium it would be possible to create a bomb, I doubt that he fully considered what might come of his words. During the war, Einstein sent another letter warning of the devastating consequences that would follow from using the bomb – it lay unopened on FDR’s desk when he died just days later.
Einstein carried guilt throughout his life after the war, even though he didn’t develop the bomb himself. He understood what comes when people wield such power lacking a non-violent, altruistic motivation.
Most people don’t see opportunities to use technology in a way that will directly influence so many people. But this doesn’t mean that what I do won’t have any effect whatsoever.
One’s motivation in using technology is at the center of the gun control debate. Use of technology with an impure motivation is what led to a 15-year-old girl to kill herself (http://youtu.be/vOHXGNx-E7E).
Therefore, today, I will think about my use of technology and the way in which my using it contributes to either helping or harming myself and others. Before I engage in a digital relationship, I’ll consciously cultivate an intention of compassion. As I use watch lectures on my computer or heat food in the microwave, I’ll bring attention to my actions.
I will not let my reliance on the automatic features that I cherish in our devices to turn me into an automatic program, thoughtlessly following impulses and expecting the world to effortlessly fulfill my desires. This type of life hardly qualifies me to call myself a human being. I’m sick of it.
I know I won’t be perfect. Right now I can’t maintain constant mindfulness, and where will I go where I won’t be using technology?
I’ll start with small things. I’ll turn off lights that I see on in unoccupied rooms. I’ll exert self-discipline in my internet use, not clicking every link that intrigues me, but instead determining before I open the browser exactly what I will do and then setting about to do just those things.
Today continues a life-long exploration of how to make friends with myself and bring kindness to a world that increasingly relies on science. Seeing that everyone wants peace, in their hearts and surroundings, I’ll foster loving-kindness and compassion.
With mindful awareness, I will not destroy peace, but do my best to create it.