Technology

1 May 2535

Technology

I would like to digress a little at this point and say something about technology. The question may be asked as to what our understanding of technology is. In Buddhism, or particularly in Buddhist economics, technology is defined as the means to extend the range of human faculties. We possess eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, a body, and a mind—these are our sense faculties, and they are limited in use. If we want to drive in a nail and we use our fist it will be very painful. If we have to walk wherever we want to go it will be very time-consuming. So what can we do? We invent a hammer. A hammer extends the range of our sense faculties, increases the amount of work we can do with our hands. We have extended distances our feet can take us by building vehicles, and then airplanes. Our eyes are unable to see very small objects, so we have invented microscopes to see microorganisms. They cannot see the stars that lie at great distances from the earth, and so we have built telescopes. These days we can even build a computer to extend the capability of the brain. So technology extends the range of sense faculties.

In the modern period our use of material means to effect the extension of the range of sense faculties has led to industrial advances, but the current form of technology is not the only one.

Historically, there have been cultures whose people have been seriously concerned with matters of the mind. They also found ways to extend the range of human faculties, but they used non-physical means. It is said that certain monks and yogis developed psychic powers such as the ability to fly through the air and to read others’ minds. So we may distinguish two kinds of technology: the physical and the psychical. People make use of technology in their relationship with society and nature, and so it becomes a new kind of environmental factor, one that is man-made. Sometimes this man-made factor conflicts with the well-being of society and nature, causing various problems. Technological development may cause an imbalance in the quality of human life, nature, and society; it may hinder the harmonious, supportive relationship between these three factors, causing them to decline. And technology may be used in a way that harms self and others. These problems may be remedied by developing technologies that are conducive to harmony and mutual support between these three elements of human existence, and by using technology to promote the true welfare of self and others.

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