As a young man, I believed in the power of technology to reshape society, to make the world a better place. Inventions like the telephone, the radio, and television added entirely new dimensions to human communication. I thought that these new technologies would accelerate our progress to a better tomorrow.
Some of these technologies have been with us for over a hundred years. Have they made the world a better place?
Radio and television were supposed to make the world smaller and bring people of this planet closer together. In a way they have. CNN and BBC are seen and heard by more people around the world than ever before. But how many Americans are even aware of Doordarshan or Zee TV? Mass media was always one way, from one to many; the content it disseminates globally is also a one-way street, from the West to the East, never two-way or reciprocal. The same five or six companies have overwhelming dominance of the market.
We once thought that fertilizers, hybrid crops, and new techniques in agriculture would bring about an end to world hunger. We are producing more food than ever before, yet people in some parts of the world still go hungry while pigs and cattle in other parts are fattened for slaughter. This high production has its costs. The pervasive use of fertilizers and pesticides has been poisoning our streams and rivers now for decades.
We once thought advances in medicine would eventually eliminate pain, disease, and suffering. But we’ve also found more efficient ways to maim, kill, and dismember other human beings with euphemistically named Peacekeeper missiles and smart bombs. We haven’t found a cure for cancer, and we’ve discovered AIDS and SARS along the way. Our hospitals are filled to overflowing, and universal health care seems an unattainable dream.
I no longer think that technology is the solution. Indeed, in the wrong hands, it can wreak unimaginable havoc. I am coming around to the view that what’s missing is beyond the material world. Maybe what the world needs is spiritual transformation. Everything else will follow. When each one of us is consumed by our little jealousies and hatreds, Hindu and Muslim, Jew and Arab, English and German, we can’t see how we are destroying the world in the process. But if we can learn to look beyond our egos, our religions, our countries, and act for the welfare of others, maybe world peace can become a reality. But that peace must begin with me.