An Introduction to Technology and Media of Our New Village
(Originally published as the introduction to the Technology section in Reinhabiting the Village)
“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”
– Albert Camus
To write an introduction to Technology for the purposes of re-entering our communal village is to write a history of society from our humble roots. No other animal has tapped into the sacred knowledge of its surroundings to create such an exponential impact on its environment. Wildly creative and devastatingly destructive, the long march of progress is our genetic and manufactured legacy. But if we are, as Camus claims, the singular creature who refuses to remain true to our nature, then is that not the very essence of Man?
Before we jump into the meal, let’s set the table with an attempt at defining Technology. I propose the following: Technology is any means of invention harnessed to express that which was previously unable to be expressed.
That is, it is any creation along the timeline of existence that has helped us to accomplish something that we were otherwise unable to accomplish. This includes smartphones and the code which drives its software. It includes pens and the symbols we draw with them to communicate with one another. In fact, it includes the very intonation of sound beyond the most animalistic of grunts and songs, what we call language.
Technology is everything that separates us from our most primitive nature; it is the vehicle by which we refuse to be what we are.
The Technomythology of Man (Prometheus Absolved)
First, there was a body. With it, legs and limitations, opposable thumbs and an instinct for survival. The corporeal experience was a deep inner knowledge of foraging and fighting. Displays of dominance intermingled with the discovery of cooperation.
The uneasy balance of consequence and community elevated our bodies from a vessel of cells into an expression of a complex system of movement and sound, dance and song.
We learned to communicate our needs, and fulfill them in ourselves and those in our nearest surroundings. In time, those needs became wants and desires. These luxuries became staples of the human experience: shelter, warmth, and companionship.
Touch and noise were not enough for our genetic ancestors, they sought understanding. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, takes this one step further, saying that “love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
Out of body language came symbols. Out of noises came expressions. We carved our identity into our surroundings, painting in caves, drawing in sand. We sought connection and a shorthand way to express knowledge. Our time was short and our legacies were always in danger. We utilized the technologies of primitive tools and language to make our lives easier. Convenience was a survival tactic.
How complex thought evolved from language is, at this moment, a chicken and egg conundrum for cognitive historians. When man began to name the animals, the trees and their children, they began utilizing a nodal, pattern-based cognition in a way that few creatures can claim.
I should state that I am not a linguistic anthropologist. But as the question of how language originated remains one of the most confounding evolutionary questions remaining, I think it is safe to posit the following: it seems likely that through language, we evolved into consciousness and self awareness. Sounds turned to symbols, or perhaps they turned into words, or perhaps symbols turned into sounds and back into symbols.
In the Biblical creation myth, Man names the animals and only much later does he feast on the fruit of knowledge, able to determine good from bad. But the fruit must be a superfluous symbol at this point; we had already begun our need to understand.
By identifying the relationships between us and not-us, the vastness of the Universe began its true unfolding. All technological progress has been an unwinding of the sacred truths in the mysteries of the physical world. We have always found the next level of technology in the discovery of new traits in the natural world: fire, wheel, paper… All invention is inherently organic, coming from the complex fabric of the chemical, electrical and energetic intricacies of our surroundings.
But the mythological components of invention — the aspects of discovery that linked man to the spirit — have been replaced by a faith in the ingenuity of human cleverness. Because our technological advances are shrouded in complexity, in biotech or microprocessors or satellite systems, we have lost the appreciation for the grand mystery of it all.
Since the Age of Reason, we have absolved Prometheus of his sin — delivering fire to humans from the hands of Zeus — and unnecessarily stripped the sacrament from science.
If there’s one tangible synergy that the Village can bring to Technology, it is to rekindle the flame of coexistence between the unnecessary bifurcation between spirit and science. The answers we seek must bridge the gap between the holy paradox of knowing and not-knowing.
All of these technological advances have been mired by the sheer force of distance. Across vast continents, we developed an inability to speak the same language. We built systems too complex, too full of proprietary nuance for one person to understand and we became inextricably interdependent on each other’s specializations.
And we too became more complex, more proprietary and more nuanced. We said, “I cannot understand myself, let alone my brother,” and we sought a creator mysterious and vast enough to know us.
We have accomplished so much of what we could imagine: space flight, telepathy in the form of smartphones, solar power. Exponential growth in science and technology are closing the gaps between reality and our wildest dreams.
Freud conceptualizes the distance between Man and his gods as the distance between what he could do and what was unattainable. “Now he has himself approached very near to realizing this ideal, he has nearly become a god himself,” he writes. “Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man’s likeness to a god still more.”
Every step of the way, our collective intelligence has been the method of discovery. This is what I’m referring to as synchromysticism: the ability of our shared experiences to lead to the “Eureka” moments that make inventors famous. How could there ever be a Thomas Edison without the universe from which he came? How many people may have simultaneously discovered fire or the wheel or a toothbrush but had no way to share it with the world? What are the core truths hidden amongst all of the world’s religions?
Many of these systems — trademark, copyright, Digital Rights Management — will come to a close within time. It is so rare to truly “discover” anything in this world without borrowing: from another culture, era or field. All technology is a remix of what came before it.
How often have you thought of a brilliant idea, only to think, “someone must have already thought of that”? Before the internet age, you may have still executed that idea, done it differently, or at least experienced the act of simultaneous creation. Now, though you may be put off to doing something that’s already been done, you are also able to connect with those who share in the same line of thinking. Great minds think alike, as they say.
For centuries, the means of transmitting information had become increasingly proprietary.
Revealed truths became codified and canonized in secret tongues, held by kings and mystics. Mythology became a seasonal experience, called upon for harvest, for rain, for teaching children their obligations and initiate them into adulthood, to move the soul from the physical realm to the one after life.
Was it necessary for the mystic, the shaman, the priest(ess) to separate themselves from the general population? Or for religion to hide knowledge in the catacombs of bureaucracy? In the New Village, we see a need for universal training in mystical thinking: infusing healing, prayer, and medicine into every corner of life. We desire open source spirituality, and an interface for sharing sacred knowledge, plugging in variables from our own experience and connecting to a larger database of generational understanding.
Technology as Universal Language
In getting back to the history of our humble little planet… Just when Nationalism had scarred our surfaces… Just when World War had hardened our hearts… Just when nihilism seemed to explain it all… We built a computer.
In this neutral instrument of war, we saw a glimmer of ourselves in its mainframe. Its electrical pulses and analytical thought showed us what was unique in the human condition. The analytical components of computation shined a light on our states of both Calculator and Being.
The millennia of ambiguous metaphor was sliced apart, and a cross section of humanity exposed itself of its true nature. We began to analyze The Code. Data. DNA. Algorithmic regularity. In a long stream of 1’s and 0’s, reality revealed itself like a chess game with basic rules but a playbook of infinite possibilities.
We began to read the code and we took the new language and wrote it into pictures and phones and medicine. We played and warred and danced to it. And we turned our consciousness back into itself, discovering the possibilities and limitations in encapsulating an entire human being into a digital language.
Wind through your hair. Boredom. Orgasm. The taste of water. Any and all experience have an underlying electrical/chemical reaction. We simultaneously became both infinitesimally small and quantumly expansive. As we become more bionic, we begin to better understand and appreciate the sensory experiences this world has to offer.
Living Life by the Scientific Method
Perhaps the greatest joy in incorporating all of these advances into our new village is finding the synergy between what has always worked in communal experiences and what is new and exciting to the senses. By infusing the scientific method into the sacred art of living, we are capable of building systems that address the needs of our time in the most tangible and accessible way possible.
In the 20th century, many villages were conceived and created based on back-to-nature principles that excluded themselves from the modern conveniences of the era. As previously mentioned, technology and convenience are a means of survival. They make repetitive tasks easier, allowing us to focus on what the next opportunities could be in our evolutionary growth.
In the 21st century and beyond, if we can embrace modernity and re-imagine the tools of mass culture for the purposes of building connection as opposed to ego-driven self-interests, we can synthesize the need for living as a village and enjoying the fruits of our technological advances. By utilizing the scientific method, we create experiments in living that do not limit the parameters of success to whether an idea does or does not work. Instead, we can play out our ideas and learn from the real-life examples as a means of growth and deeper understanding. By sharing our experiences, through words, videos and travel, we accept our role in the outcomes of our own generation. We feel gratitude towards the progress which brought us to this point. We humbly embrace the challenge to leave the world better for future generations.