Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Are Smart Phones Making Fools of Us All?


www.everherenow.com

In this age of smartphone technology, most people are distracted pretty much most of the time. Constant inattention can and will have serious implications for this and future generations.

Many people are not aware of the fact that they are almost constantly distracted. We tend to have an almost addictive need for some kind of emotional engagement and smartphones fill this need on a number of different levels, very effectively. In fact, they have been designed with just this 'need' in mind. 

Various kinds of social network messaging, digital games, news and or information feeds can keep us engaged for inordinate amounts of time and in one way we may feel more connected than ever before and yet, ironically, the levels of disconnection in our societies and among our young people are higher than ever before.

As artificial intelligence begins to penetrate our lives in various subtle and invasive ways we would do well to take into account what this can mean and how it can affect the way we live. 

There are not many of us who have not experienced the frustration of trying to sort out a problem on the phone and having to deal with a digital answering service.

Certainly, the changes now taking place are unprecedented in both the speed with which these technologies are being developed and the manner in which they will completely change our mode of living. 

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.



These words have been attributed to Albert Einstein but regardless of whether this is, in fact, true or not, they are relevant and sound out as a clarion call. May we wake up in time and shake ourselves out of our zombie-like infatuation. It appears that a whole, vast section of humanity is sleepwalking. Will we look up from our devices long enough to actually notice that we are distracted in the first place and from what we are distracted in the second? 

It is not that this is anything particularly unique to our current civilisation. As says the Biblical injunction; 'there is nothing new under the sun.' We may think we are on the cutting edge of technologies that have never before seen the light of day and yet countless civilisations have passed through this earthly realm and the remnants of their passing are a continuing cause of wonder and mystery to many in this current day and age. 

Whatever the mind is capable of dreaming up and even what has not yet been dreamed, all these things are possible and can and will become manifest in due course of time, if the will to manifest them arises. This is the innate power of the mind.

What has not changed, however, is our perpetual state of 'distraction' in one form or another. The fact is that these emerging technologies can capitalise on this apparent human weakness to target and harvest our attention on a massive scale never before witnessed. We should all be alert to the implications of this.

What we see happening now with the rise of modern technologies which have quickly become seemingly indispensable to the vast section of humanity in just the brief space of a few decades, is at base just more of the same old, same old... There may be a new look, a new flavour, a new brand, but strip that all away and our basic human instincts continue to propel us all in the same old direction.

We can dress up our confused emotions, we can varnish over the fundamental impulses which propel us through life, but century after century, decade after decade and day after day, they remain intact and they are the motivating force behind all that is manifest in this world. This is and remains the case as much now as it was a thousand years ago.

What is troubling now is the fact that this trend is being directed by a tiny minority. If we lose our 'attention,' we lose our power. If we are not aware of or have never considered what impact the current technologies are having on our human civilisations then it is certainly time to become aware now!

As long as we remain subject to the ebb and flow of our hopes and fears we cannot know our true inner freedom and at this time and in this age we are so vulnerable en-mass to being manipulated by a minority. 

The sheer scale of what is taking place, virtually unnoticed, is indeed a cause for concern. When a minority is capable of quietly manipulating whole populations for gain and profit can we call this anything other than a negative trend?

When a whole civilisation appears to be sleepwalking towards a precipice we do indeed face grave danger.

Is it not intrinsically against the whole idea of democracy to intentionally keep the mass of humanity distracted by what is unimportant? If we create devices that are geared to monopolise our attention and keep it focused on the trivial instead of the vital we can imagine what the outcome might be.

Don't we have a moral obligation to wake up and notice what is really happening here? It is up to each one of us.

And there is a tapping at the door of our awareness. The inmost core within each and every one of us is trying to get through, trying to jolt us out of our torpor.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is missing in your life?
You should trust that feeling because it is a true one. Something is missing in your life. It's called 'attention.'

If our attention is hijacked by a mobile phone or some other kind of smart device do we not then become the plaything of that device or thinking which has created it? Where is our cherished freedom if our ability to avoid the subtle manipulation, inherent in the designs of modern technological innovations, is woefully inadequate.

There is something infinitely more dangerous about an addiction which slips into our lives unnoticed. Modern technologies exploit people's impulses thereby robbing them of the ability to choose wisely. 

Leunig
Have you ever heard of the term, 'persuasive design'? Until very recently I hadn't either. I have, however, long suspected that our very modern deficiency of attention or perhaps we could term it; partial attention syndrome is a very insidious new-age kind of illness with momentous implications. Are we not distracted most of the time?

Persuasive design is a term that describes any kind of technology that has been created with the intention of grabbing people's attention and holding it. It involves the subtle art of subversively
capturing our interest, overpowering our attention and bringing it back repeatedly to that thing, whatever that may be.

If we are beginning to recognise this trend then it is none too soon. The problem is, that even upon recognising this very recent affliction we are nowhere near addressing and or managing it.

Learning to pay attention to our attention is a very crucial piece of advice. It points to something utterly fundamental about our existence.

Do we really notice what is going on around us if we are distracted? We lose our inherent freedom the moment our attention is compromised. Smartphones are not only very efficient in creating a 'vacuum' in our lives, but they are equally efficient in seeming to fill that vacuum as well.

The moment our concentration is directed towards something or other, then, at that moment, whatever it is that we are perceiving becomes our 'world.' 

This is what is meant by the spiritual dictum that we so often hear and yet fail to truly understand. Namely; nothing has an inherent existence in and of itself. Another way of saying this is; whatever our mind is drawn to, that is our reality at that moment.

If something or someone hijacks our attention we become little better than automatons, walking zombies moving past one another in the vast ocean of time and space, scarcely even aware of each other or of the fact that we exist at all.

We don't need any evidence that this is in fact already the case, we have proof of it in every direction that we may turn our gaze in our so-called modern and technological societies. These technologies have entered our lives and are completely and utterly changing the ways we live and think and behave.

We urgently need to become aware of just how pervasive and insidious these changes really are.

In our so-called 'money economy' it is regarded as perfectly acceptable to manipulate people's attention in order to capture that attention and direct it towards a 'product.' Isn't this the very basis of capitalism?

Therefore capitalism is geared towards exploiting human vulnerabilities for monetary gain. Smartphones have already become tools of mass manipulation on a scale, the likes of which we have not seen before. This is a deeply worrying trend and deserves our thoughtful attention.

Ultimately all of this leads to nothing but a profound and insidious d
isconnection from who and what we really are.

If we are not in control of our attention, then something or someone else is... We can be absolutely sure that if we feel that something is missing in our lives, it most assuredly is our attention.


In days to come, we will be forced to grapple with this problem head-on. Given how pervasive our distraction has already become, this will be a mammoth undertaking.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Albert Einstein

And herein lies our salvation if we can, in fact, rise to the challenge.  We will have to recognise what has always been nearest and dearest.

It has become an urgent necessity to expand our vision beyond the current distraction and preoccupation with smart devices of one kind or another, towards what is fundamental to our very existence.


*****

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Merits of Adversity


Iron Ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace
but when the blade of finest steel emerges, it knows better...
Lobsang Rampa


Phoenix Rising
If we could see our future, if we could know how things will turn out and if we could comprehend the greater and wider picture, we might move through this life very differently. Then again, we might not...

As we move through life we tend to cherish an arrogant assumption that everything we think and do is up to us and yet is this really true?

We like to believe that we are the master of our own little ship.
That we are standing at the helm, making all the decisions and that we are in control. The whole setup looks and feels so convincing. There we are on the bridge of our own self-made vessel clutching a self-made 'wheel.' All around us is the wide and open sea. We feel secure in our flimsy vessel, with a little bit of stick in our hands. Yet that sense of security is just a thought.

Despite the size and the ever-shifting seasons of this vast ocean space in which we live, move and breath out the course of our days, we feel that somehow and in some way, we are steering our own independent course.

Yet, is this really true?
And how can we know if it is or not?


Continue reading in Return to Forever

Friday, 4 August 2017

Reaching Out to Animals, and All Sentient, Conscious Life



www.everherenow.com

How would this change our world?
If everyone understood that all beings, whether animal, insect, bird, plant or even mineral, are sentient and therefore conscious, how would this change the way we interact with them?

If we understood and began to appreciate all living beings as 'sacred' and 'intelligent,' what impact would this have on us, and all the other living forms with whom we co-exist on this planet?

The mind boggles...

www.everherenow.com

I remember as a child that one day my mother asked me to go over to the neighbour's house to find out if they were at home. At that time we were living in Nelson, a small town in the north of the South Island of New Zealand.

Our neighbours were a husband and wife and their two children with whom we young ones often played of an evening. They had not long moved to Nelson and being so nearby, our family had instantly warmed to these new arrivals.

I ventured over the side fence and made my way up the staircase to the front door. Their tabby cat was sitting on the doorstep imbibing the warm noon sunshine. I was already acquainted with her and so gave her a nod as I climbed past to ring the doorbell. I pushed the button a few times but there was no response from within and so, without thinking, I sat down next to the venerable puss and asked her where the family had gone. She looked up at me, made a little feline squeak and we amicably bumped heads and then sat a while in companionable silence.

After some time I slowly got up and made my way back over the fence to tell my mother that the family were, at that minute, away somewhere. When I entered the house a chorus of giggling and squeals of laughter greeted me. Evidently, my mum and sisters had been watching my encounter with the neighbour's cat through the back bedroom window which directly overlooked the neighbour's staircase. They had overheard our conversation.

For some reason, they found it inexpressibly silly and funny that I should have been sitting there verbally interacting with a cat!
I found it equally silly and funny that they did not understand that one could.

I was sometimes reminded of that incident whenever family members would begin to recount stories and memories of our childhood days, yet, from then until now, i still do not see what they could possibly have found so strange or amusing.

All life that is sentient, is therefore conscious. 

It is incredibly important for us to take this statement seriously and give it the consideration that it deserves. Day after day we can witness around us acts of callousness and cruelty of which most people are not even aware. They are not aware because they simply do not acknowledge that other life forms are sentient and therefore feel and respond to energy, moods and pain, just as we do. This is an extremely crucial point to understand if we are ever to come into greater harmony with all other life forms with whom we share this world.

The various forms of sentient life may not speak our language but there is a place where understanding can occur naturally no matter what the outer form may be.

www.everherenow.com

Many who 'own' so-called 'pets' become conscious of this truth by necessity of close association and yet somehow they often continue to exclude other forms of life. If we can ever begin to question our assumptions and reactions towards all living beings we would quickly be forced to change many long-held beliefs. If we want to allow the extraordinary biodiversity of life on our planet to continue to, not only exist but thrive, then a shift must take place in our perception.

At the moment human beings predominantly have the supremely arrogant view that everything in nature, be it animal, plant or mineral, exists for their use and convenience alone.

How utterly arrogant and barbaric is this view?

Thankfully, this is beginning to change, there is something of an awakening in the consciousness of a growing number of people. It is not yet widespread, but there is a shift beginning to take place. Many of the so-called primitive societies understood and lived by the natural laws of respectful and sustainable co-existence. But in recent human history, most of these natural, intuitive qualities have been lost and forgotten.

Awareness does not discriminate between forms. It is the inherent nature of all sentient life, however, and where ever it may appear...

What we begin to see now, even though it is in a very nascent stage, is something of a quiet opening and awakening. At this time it is just a few people who are paving the way in 'interspecies communication,' but their work is sending out ripples, which in time will have a profound impact on the way we view the 'living world' around us.

However, each and every one of us can help to accelerate this process through our every day small deeds and by changing the way we think.

Then, like a shift in the tide, almost imperceptibly but slowly with a gathering momentum it can begin to catch on and start challenging old and previously unquestioned 'beliefs.'

There will come a time when we will look back on current accepted norms and behaviours and be amazed that we could live in such a barbaric and unaware world such as we have been living in for so long. It would seem that the more, so-called advanced today's societies think themselves to be, the more unaware and brutal they actually are. The effect that this mode of thinking is having upon our planet and the lives that we share with is self-evident.

When ingrained beliefs begin to undergo a metamorphosis when we begin to become aware of who and what we really are, we can not help but start to notice that this same 'being-ness' which is in us, also pervades everything else. Everything includes everything, animals, plants, insects, and the planet on which we live, move and have our being.

The inter-connectedness, which binds us all inseparably, due to the fact of our being aware and alive, is vaster and more thoroughly integrating than our mind can ever really comprehend or grasp, therefore we need to move beyond mind in order to begin to really get a sense of the underlying reality from which all of life emerges.

The implications of such a shift in awareness are truly immense.

An appreciation of the unity and sacredness of all life is integral to awakening to our own awareness.

Awakened Beings have long understood the inter-connectedness and inherent divinity in all sentient life forms. From the Buddha to Ramana Maharshi, and countless others besides, great sages have communicated with animals in such a natural way which is completely respectful of who and what really exists. For Them this truth is a living reality, not something to be questioned or doubted, Their experience which moves from the heart in an ever fresh exuberance of being, is a timeless and constant affirmation of unity in diversity.

Those who stayed near Ramana Maharshi and who were honoured to witness His many exchanges and relationships with animals, birds, and at times also the plant life, took it all quite for-granted. The animals simply became a part of the life of the ashram. The Maharshi treated them all as His own children, showing them the same care and respect that He bestowed upon all the people who were drawn to be near Him.

A Jnani can differentiate between the different forms of life, but to Him, all are inherently 'divine.'

All are sacred 'drops' from the same sacred ocean of life.

The changes which can be initiated by humans in their interaction and effect upon the different kingdoms of life, begin in our mind and in our thinking. When the energy of the heart is enabled to speak through the mind anything becomes possible. This is not mushy, sentimental talk, but truth based on a profound and inherent law in nature that always moves towards harmony and balance.

As in all things, we are inevitably drawn back to the one and central tenet, the inherent 'divinity' within all sentient life.

To find out who and what we really are is so vital in reclaiming our true inheritance and in recognising that all living beings have an equal claim in this same inexhaustible spring of life. However we, as human beings, hold a unique position and responsibility within the kingdoms of nature.

We have the capacity to know and recognise who and what we really are and to live and let live by this truth.

www.everherenow.com


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Talking To The Animals


How would this change our world?
If everyone understood that all beings, whether animal, insect, bird, plant or even mineral, are sentient and therefore conscious; how would this change the way we interact with them?

If we understood and began to appreciate all living beings as 'sacred' and 'intelligent,' what impact would this have on us, and all the other living forms with whom we co-exist on this planet?


The mind boggles...

Thankfully this, something is shifting in the consciousness of human beings. Many of the so-called primitive societies understood and lived by the natural laws of respectful and sustainable co-existence. But in recent human history, most of these intuitive qualities have been lost and forgotten.

Awareness does not discriminate between forms. It is the inherent nature of all sentient life, however, and where ever it may appear...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Negativity. We Can Dissolve it at the Core




In these days and times, it can sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by negativity. There is our own negativity; that which
other people convey and also the negativity that we see going on around us in the environment.

Yet, it is said that 'all of our moods and emotions arise from the mind,' which basically means that, to find any peace and happiness in this world, it is essential to understand what the true nature of the mind really is.

To embark upon this huge undertaking, however, requires a high degree of weariness with the trappings and ways of our usual habitual reactions to life and what we perceive to be happening to us and around us. Most people have not quite reached that stage in their dissatisfaction levels, as yet. To bring about the kind of focused enquiry needed for this sort of investigation, it can require nothing short of a massive crisis to rip apart our preconceptions.


Continue reading in Return to Forever

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Like the Rays of the Setting Sun



Our lives are running out like the rays of the setting sun,
Death is closing in like the lengthening shadows of evening.
Now what is left of this life will vanish as fast as the last rays of light.
There is no time to waste...

from Patrul Rinpoche's 
Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones


Recently, my nephew; the eldest son of my older sister, passed away.
No one had seen it coming. No one was prepared or forewarned.
It was shocking. He was only thirty-seven years old.

If we ever need to be reminded of our mortality, the untimely passing of someone close to us and young in years is perhaps the most poignant.

It raises all manner of questions and stirs the inner flame of fear and uncertainty, even if on a deep and unrecognised level, of what is awaiting us all.

Death is such a mystery, it is such a profound 'unknown.'
To move through life as though death will somehow never touch us is to float in the vast uncertainty in a tiny bubble of illusion.

Every breath that we draw is bringing us that much closer to the 'great leveller.'

Nickolas was the only other Buddhist in my family. He found enormous comfort in the teachings of the Buddha and most particularly in the teachings on compassion.

He never missed an opportunity to reach out and embrace those he loved and let them know it. His compassion had not yet matured into the 'great compassion' of the enlightened ones but he was on his way.

His mother, Jana was distraught in a manner that is unbearable to witness and in the manner of all mothers who lose a child seemingly before their time.

Naturally, she wanted his funeral to be just as he would want it to be. After all, this would be the last thing that she could do for him in this world. At the time of his passing, Nickolas had been living in a different town from his mother. As the body was kept for autopsy Jana made the journey there only once it was released and taken to the funeral home.

If she could have, she would have taken it to the Buddhist centre but the wishes of other family members had to be respected and so a compromise was reached. Nickolas's mother is not a Buddhist and knows very little of its ways and teachings and yet in her sincere desire and need to express her love for her eldest son she tapped into an intuitive spring in her being and let it flow.


Continue reading in Return to Forever

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Self Inquiry; Going Back the Way We Came



The practice of Self-Inquiry or Atma Vichara as it is known in the ancient Sanskrit texts of Advaita Vedanta stems from the time of the Rishis in India.

It was brought into the modern era principally by one of its greatest exponents; Sri Ramana Maharshi; the peerless Sage of Arunachala.


In answer to various people’s questions on Self-Inquiry, the Maharshi often would say; 'go back the way you came.' Some would take his words as being something of a brush off, but in actuality, he was giving a profound teaching and heart advice by way of these few simple words.



To go back the way we came means to turn the mind towards its 'source;' towards our true nature from which this world and everything in it has arisen. 


"I AM THAT I AM (Exodus) implies that the
proof of Existence is Existence itself."

Adapted from Ramana Maharshi's Truth Revealed


1. What is Self-Inquiry?

Self-Inquiry takes the energy of the mind, which is normally dispersed and attentive mostly to external happenings and drives it back towards the source from which it arises.


Continue reading in Return to Forever

Monday, 13 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 5 (How we are Affected Spiritually)


Leunig
 Does the digital revolution influence us in a spiritual sense?  It can influence us on every level powerfully but the real point here is that digital devices and all of the uses to which we put them are tools that we have created, they are the manifestations of our energy in action. As such, how they influence us is a direct reflection of how we influence them.

To unravel things a little we need to simplify them. No matter how complex a situation may appear on the surface, when we break it down we find a series of simple guiding posts. In this regard we can speak of two 'signposts;' relative reality and absolute reality.

From the latter perspective, we must remain just as we are. That is, as we really are; the changeless, ever-present self from which all of this 'display' arises.

From a relative perspective, things are a little different.

There are all kinds of positive things happening, just as the opposite is also true. Spiritual webinars, on-line guidance, eBooks on all manner of spiritual and religious topics, meditation music, free courses, seminars, consultations, all manner of blogs covering very diverse topics. A vast array of information and self-help tools exist for those who want to dive deeper into the world of spirit.

On-line spiritual communities are sprouting up around the globe and in these virtual environments, common interests link people together whether they are in Alaska or downtown New York. Your racial background, your gender, even your language are no longer a barrier. There are now so many ways for people to connect and interact.

The potential for reach and influence is enormous but at the end of the day does any of it bring us closer to finding out who and what we really are?

The world-wide-web has been very aptly named, these cyber fibres envelop the globe in one pulsating, vibrant buzz. But what does all of this 'buzz' actually amount to?

Continue Reading in: Are Smartphones Making Fools of Us All?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 4 (How we are Affected Psychologically)



Leunig cartoon
Edward R.Murrow

Personally, I think there are few things as gratifying in all of these techno capabilities as the freedom and accessibility of information. To be able to simply click into a page, type a few words in a search engine and instantly come up with a whole list of possible answers to our question or information requirement is truly something of a wonder and it was not there just a few short decades ago.

Instant information, instant access to libraries, archives, books, knowledge of every kind, videos, you name it, it is now all accessible through the technologies that so many of us are enjoying in the privacy and comfort of our own homes.

Anything at all can be 'Googled' or typed into whatever search engine we like to use and a list of responses immediately pop up on our computer screens. The information age has well and truly dawned and in many ways it is amazing and it is incredibly useful and potentially liberating. I have certainly put these technologies to good use in recent years as have lots and lots of other people.

We have created an engrossing cyber world, with many possibilities suddenly available to all and sundry and ordinary people are finding that they are spending more and more time in front of their screens. With the increase of information available on all fronts, how do we discern what is really helpful or not? Our ability to discriminate and make good and informed choices becomes crucial when there is so much information available.

Whoever it was that said 'information is power' certainly hit the nail on the head. Information is indeed power and on one level this can be incredibly liberating. But there is always a flip-side too.
So much information is so readily available to us instantaneously that we can quickly feel a bit overwhelmed. There is a sensory overload that can happen. Certainly, there is a point when too much information is, well, just too much.

When the mind is always preoccupied and busy,  it can bring on a sense of disconnection and disorientation. Unless we monitor our time on the net more closely and work in a structured, planned way with clear objectives and time deadlines, we risk being gobbled up by the sheer mass of information and 'interesting stuff' that is freely and easily available.

There are also other issues which are beginning to emerge as people start to spend more and more time on, for instance, their smartphones. In a very short time, these devices have become not only commonplace but indispensable to many, many people. We see a whole new form of addiction emerging. The addiction of needing to be constantly 'validated,' the addiction of needing to be constantly 'engaged,' constantly pre-occupied.

Have you ever noticed how many times you are reaching for your phone during the day, checking this, responding to that? The mind is almost feverishly searching out new stimulation almost all of the time and our smartphones can deliver it.

This incessant engagement can, and is, in turn leading to higher levels of anxiety. There is a compulsiveness in the way that many of us now use our smartphones. When we are separated from our devices, or if we find ourselves outside a wifi or connectivity area a whole different kind of anxiety kicks in. Separation anxiety.

It can also be noted that a new form of depression is arising from the overuse of certain digital technologies which are ushering in a whole new set of obsessions along with their concurrent psychological repercussions.

Continue Reading in: Are Smartphones Making Fools of Us All?


Friday, 17 February 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 3 (How we are Affected Emotionally)


Because the modern digital technologies that we use are potentially and in actuality so pervasive in their effects, it is easier to unravel some of the strings of implications for our, and future generations, by considering their effects upon the different levels of our being.

So far we have examined, in a very cursory way, how they affect us physically.

In terms of our emotions these effects may be more subtle, more difficult to label, but nevertheless, in their way, just as pervasive and profound. As time goes by we will be able to gauge much more accurately just how these technologies are changing our way of living for better and for worse.

In a general sense, our emotional responses take us into the realm of human moods, behaviours and reactions. These can be likened to the ever-shifting sands of hope and fear that push and pull us into endless cycles of fluctuation and change. How we place ourselves within the world as functioning human beings is often reflected by the way that we connect and interact with one another and the world wide web is all about 'connections' and 'inter-connected-ness.'

No one can deny that in one sense, this has bought us all much closer together. We can connect instantaneously, we can interact easily, almost effortlessly, cheaply and from just about anywhere on the planet. Never before has our Earth appeared to be such a small place. Suddenly we find ourselves inside the solar system and less intensely focused on the small family, tribal and communal groups that were always so pivotal to our sense of place and belonging within human societies of the past. These are still very much present but now put into a context and within a much bigger 'world view.'

If anything can reveal 'inter-connectedness' clearly, it would have to be the technologies and social media tools that are available today.

At the heart of this connectedness is the incessant tug of war between hope and fear.  These underlying forces drive most of our emotional interactions and are often bound to be magnified in the cyber 'realities' that we create on-line. Our emotions may be fleeting but they are nevertheless powerful and compelling. Are we not constantly driven by them in one form or another?

Think about it. Our need to belong, our need to excel, our need to be liked, our need to feel important, etcetera. Often at the very inception of an idea, before it is put into actuality it is motivated, consciously or otherwise, by some very visceral emotion. Facebook was virtually built out of one man's desire to impress a girl. We have played into this instinctive need. Facebook and other social media networks have flourished and spread around the world fuelled by our almost obsessive need to be 'connected' with one another. To make our little splash in the vast pond of existence. To reassert our existence as independent and yet interconnected beings and all of this on a much grander scale than ordinary people like you and I may ever have dreamed possible in the past.

Continue Reading in: Are Smartphones Making Fools of Us All?


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 2 (How we are Affected Physically)



What can be said about the physical impact of the digital age in which we live? Its effects are so far-reaching that there are very few areas of our lives, our homes and our workplaces which are not in some way affected.

Let's start with the good stuff, and there is plenty of it depending on one's point of view.  Naturally, we can't mention everything but in broad terms, we see things like, instant communications, easy access to information, and inter-connected-ness on a scale that is unprecedented. Ease of online services such as banking, travel bookings, online shopping etc far exceeds anything we ever had in recent history.

Computers and the digital technology that powers and automates so many of the functions which we now take quite for granted; in fact virtually the entire infrastructure of our modern world, especially in western economies, is based upon recent cyber technologies.

The potential for life-changing innovations continues to emerge at a dizzying pace and is undeniable. Automated cars are already on our roads. There is currently technology in development for a car/plane as a viable mode of personal transport. This would be a computerised car cum drone. Safer, swifter and more comfortable than anything we now have to get us from A to B and all automated of course! There are many, many other positive developments due to technological breakthroughs from health and transportation to education and instant information. The list could go on and on.

The bad stuff.  Physically the lives of those who spend a lot of time on personal computers or at gaming or who work from some form of web-based technology are far more sedentary than would have ever been possible in the past. These technologies have also become part of institutional education from primary through to college and onwards giving rise to all manner of health problems and psychological issues in our up and coming generations.

While we appear to be more easily contactable more and more people are actually alone with their devices than not. Take the ever-increasing instances of when family or friends are sitting together in a restaurant, or at home, ostensibly to share a meal together and yet all the while busily tapping out messages or fiddling with something on their smartphones and quite oblivious of one another.

We may be able to easily contact one another and be wired into a whole planetary network of information and instant 'news' and yet our 'personal space' is also routinely invaded 24/7 by mobile technologies along with their electromagnetic radiations.

There are surveillance issues that are genuinely worrying despite the fact that we are told that we are 'watched' for our own good.

IDs are quickly moving towards using biodata that imprints our iris configurations and encodes our fingerprints. One by one countries are beginning to phase out passports in favour of online biodata.

Here in India, of all places, I had my iris encoded along with fingerprints in an ID process that is currently taking place all over the country. These days in India, even a Sadhu living on the street has an Aadhaar Card with all his bio-metric details encoded into it.

Getting my own card sorted was a surreal experience. There I was sitting in this dusty office, the paint was peeling off the walls, the fans were outdated and whirring loudly above our heads. There was bookwork and papers all around the walls stacked in untidy piles from door to door. The electricity went out while I was there and we had to wait until the backup generator kicked in. The fellow taking my details was making dozens of spelling mistakes and there was a constant stream of village people coming and going. It was all thoroughly incongruous and more than a little disconcerting.

What are the privacy issues at stake here? It would appear that privacy is a thing of the past and simply not possible in this new age of digitisation.

Continue Reading in: Are Smartphones Making Fools of Us All?


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Digital Dilemmas Part 1





The Ways in which technology 
continues to improve communication

***

Those of us who have been around for more than twenty years know very well just how pervasively modern technology, particularly that of personal computing and mobile phones, gaming and electronics in general, have changed our lives. We have seen these technologies revolutionise the way we do just about everything and all of this has come about in a comparatively short amount of time.

I well remember the days when letters to my mother in New Zealand would take around two to three weeks to arrive from India and then the turn around was often the same if not longer. It would take weeks to exchange our news and by the time the letters arrived, the news was well and truly out of date.

Probably not too much has changed with postal timings except that we hardly ever send letters these days, preferring the instant messaging or email and WhatsApp. I even remember the wind-up telephone in my grandparent's house and the 'party line' that was shared with other Motueka residents. One would pick up the mouthpiece, turn the handle a few times and hear a voice saying; 'what number please?' Although mail is still very much in use other forms of communication are quickly falling into disuse and becoming the dinosaurs of recent technology.

From shopping and banking through to how we access information, how we read, how we interact, even how we work, these changes have infiltrated every level and facet of society. There are not many areas of our lives now that are not in some way touched by the innovations of the digital age.

We older folk were well acquainted with the good old days of snail mail and landlines and my generation are by no means 'old.' We knew all about waiting in queues at the library in order to borrow a certain book. The days of newspapers and telegrams and fax machines, of trudging to the bank and standing in the line waiting for a teller to transact our business, these were all very much a part of day-to-day reality. Now, there are so many ways in which computers and mobiles have changed our lives in these past few short years that it would take up too much space to mention all of them.