“Human” Technology: The Technology of Life Itself

Throughout its history, humanity has participated in the creation, development, implementation, and use of many technologies. Each of these advances has taken its place — to prolong life, speed its pace, or even to destroy it. Most technologies were developed for the purpose of enhancing social well-being, born under a broad mission to “improve the standard of living.” And some of these have yet to reveal their full implications.

When computers first became available, I thought they were complicated and irrelevant. Today, it is hard to imagine my life without them. Technology that was once isolated in laboratories or monopolized by specialists now flows to all of us, a routine part of our daily lives. I am constantly amazed at the speed with which technology has altered our world, and I feel a humble gratitude for the extraordinary convenience it has provided us.

Still, I frequently return to the matter that has always been first and foremost in my heart: How to promote healthier living. Technology can speed the achievement of our intentions, but such acceleration is neutral with respect to the substance of those intentions. If we are vulnerable to harmful information, is it valuable for us to accelerate our exposure to negative ideas or images?

Technology is derived from the Greek word tekhnologia, meaning “study of skills.” Printing presses, steam engines, radio, and television, all these advents changed the course of our past. Today, biotechnology and information technology are shaping the course of our future. But note that these technologies impact human experience through the filter of systems or specialists. However well-intentioned they may be, they are no substitute for individual judgment and responsibility.

What is needed are simple skills to upgrade life experience, which the individual herself can use responsibly without recourse to machines or institutions. We can call these skills “human” technology — a toolkit for self-reliant management of the core issues of human life. I would argue that the core issues are health, love, and life purpose. I contend that the skills of human technology are the most important technologies of all. They are the technologies of life itself. They lead to greater self-mastery and authentic living.

What saddens me most about our current pill- and doctor-dependent society is that it represents a disconnection from our body and its wisdom. It is disrespectful of our magnificent, innate technology for self-regulation and healing. Accepting dependency signals a numbness to the true pulse of life itself.

When we are sensitive and responsive to the signs and rhythms of our body, we are more deeply connected to the rich, wonderful texture of all of life’s experiences. Signals from the body — a butterfly in the stomach, a tingling in the toes, or even pains or discomforts — can take on meaning related to creative urges or even spiritual growth. These sensations may even alert us to the state of our relationship with the earth itself. This kind of meaningfulness of our bodily sensations is difficult or impossible if our sensory abilities are dulled by apathy or medication-dependence.

In retrospect, I consider all the methods and principles I have been teaching over the past 20 years as technologies.

Unlike conventional “high” technology, what I call “human” technology is not intended to give us more time, to allow us to work faster, or to permit us to “stay connected” at every moment (although these benefits are also quite likely!). Instead, human technology skills can be readily understood and applied, focusing on prevention and wellness rather than cures or symptoms.

This article was first published in Brain World Magazine.

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