Last night, as many other nights before it, a thought was lingering in mind that I thought might be “posting” material, but it was the type of thought I usually don’t remember by the time I get around to a computer. It has to do with the usual shutting off a computer and lights before my "sleepy-go-by"; because every time I do that and am exposed to a dark room, I come to the quick realization of how artificial the whole experience was. Everything I was involved with in the computer is just some artificial light coming from a thin screen. Yet the computer is not the only piece of technology I notice, I notice a housefull of technology; from the refrigerater that’s still working to the lights that were just on, to the bed to the house itself etc. etc.
I notice these things partially because I’m so “involved in history” (no, it’s not what you’re thinking; I don’t have a time machine and go back in time to change history); I constantely learn about past events or have some aspects of past history in my mind, which makes me very aware of the novelty of every aspect of technology I come in contact with.
Which got me to thinking: Is all this technology really representative of us being more “advanced” than our predacessors. Even though we’re surrounded by technology, we ourselves are still the same animals, we just do things in a more sophisticated way; we eat off a plate and with utencils, but it's essentially the same act of eating that one of our forebearers might have done off a freshly killed carcass. Obviously the fact that we exrete into small, mobile bodies of water doesn’t change the nature of exretion, and even though we sleep on a bed it’s the same sleep (it goes without saying that our sexual interactions, not considering certain partner preferences are no different than they once were). So essentially we’re cavemen living out our earthy lives in these hi-tech-filled edifices we call homes.
Which brings us to consider the nature of civilization in general; what does it mean to be “civilized”? Obviously much has been said about this by the philosophers of the past millennia or two, but I wish to reconsider it. For starters, it has always been my opinion that people even a century ago were far more “civilized” than we are. Today, to some extent, the only sign of our civilization is the technology we use, not the philosophies we harbor. And what, my friends, is the end goal of technology, what is its purpose? It seemed to me, on my bed last night (while trying to balance my thoughts between this and a mélange of senseless thoughts a man is bound to have before the currents of sleep overtake him) that the only purpose of these technologies is, to a large extent, improving people’s physical existence. So while a reasonable amount of it seems to be beneficial, it’s end seems pointless. In America, for example, it has created a nation of people who eat in a hi-tech way, sleep in a hi-tech way, go to the bathroom in a hi-tech way and have sex in a hi-tech way. But for what? To aggrandize the animal within us?
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik's book I mentioned not long ago on this platform, “Lonely Man of Faith”, is based on the idea that he felt that his place among the rabbi's and philosophers was a lonely and relatively pointless one considering that the majority of people are engeged in actions that are productive in reality and help make the world a better and thriving place. I personally am not really sure how he had this problem; all the physical and technological accomplishments people make only serve to improve people's physical life--i.e. making them better and more efficient animals! The real "innovators" are the men (...and women) of spirit and thought, of religion and philosophy, for they give the entire process meaning, and lends significance and purpose to the toil of men (....and women). (and Larry).
This actually seems to be a recurring theme in my philosophy; I think I've written about this here before...