is technology good or bad?
The computer age and the information revolution have given all of us enormous power and the ability to reach virtually anyone at any time. Yes, technology allows us to live more comfortably and work more efficiently, but can we understand how it makes our lives more meaningful?
On its own, science is neutral; it attempts to give us an objective view of our physical universe and its natural forces, but it does not draw a conclusion as to how we should use these forces. It does not deal with good and evil or with questions of morality. At its best, science acknowledges its own boundaries, recognizing that it is neither the basis nor the code for moral doctrine.
Technology, as with all forces in our lives, can be used either constructively or destructively. Developments such as television, computers, and lasers, and discoveries in nuclear energy, medicine, and biology — these are all instances of G-dly forces that are manifested in nature. The man has been charged with tapping those resources to refine and civilize the world, to transform our material surroundings into a proper home for spirituality and G-dliness.
We can choose to acknowledge the “hand inside the glove,” understanding where the power truly comes from, and use these forces as tools to lead a more meaningful life. Or we can choose to be distracted by the glove, to see technology only as a means unto itself, using it for indulgent, selfish, perhaps even destructive purposes.
Why is it important to understand technology?
The sweeping technological changes that have taken place during the past several generations are in keeping with the prediction some two thousand years ago in the Zohar, a classical text of mysticism, stating that in the year 1840, there would be an outburst of “lower wisdom,” or advancements in the physical universe, and an increase in “sublime wisdom,” or spirituality, would begin to usher true unity into the world, leading toward the final redemption.
The increase in both types of wisdom — the wisdom of the mind and wisdom of the soul — has surely come to pass; where we have fallen short is in integrating these spheres of knowledge. Only by balancing the scientific with the spiritual can we transform the dream of an ideal future into a functional blueprint for society, for true communication can begin only when human minds and souls interact. With communication comes understanding; with understanding comes compassion; and with compassion comes a natural movement toward universalism.
So the current technological revolution is, in fact, the hand of G-d at work; it is meant to help us make G-d a reality in our lives. And as time goes on, science will show itself more and more to parallel the truths of G-d, thereby revealing the intrinsic unity in the entire universe.
The divine purpose of the present information revolution, for instance, which gives an individual unprecedented power and opportunity, is to allow us to share knowledge — spiritual knowledge with each other, empowering and unifying individuals everywhere. We need to utilize today’s interactive technology not just for business or leisure but to interlink as people — to create a welcome environment for the interaction of our souls, our hearts, our visions.
There is much to learn from the technological revolution, as long as we understand its role in our lives and see it as a final step in our dramatic search for unity throughout the universe. After all, developments in science and technology have taught us to be more sensitive to the intangible and the sublime: the forces behind computers, telephones, television, and so on are all invisible, and yet we fully recognize their power and reach. Similarly, we must come to accept that the driving force behind the entire universe is intangible and sublime, and we must come to experience the transcendent and G-dly in every single thing — beginning, of course with ourselves.
With all our human capacity for technological advancement, we must never forget our higher objective. We must strive to enhance our scientific search for truth by constantly expanding our spiritual search for the divine.
Understanding technology as divine tools for our personal and spiritual growth is critical for our well-being. It is well and good to learn to program a computer, but unless a student also acquires a sense of discipline and integrity, he or she might just as easily use that skill to wreak technological havoc as to obtain a job.