Looking at news headlines it’s easy to get dispirited over how we are treating our planet. Our use of modern technology has resulted in dire warnings on climate change, the dead garbage of plastic, pollution, and so on. And isn’t it ironic that for increasing numbers of us this news is brought to our attention by means of this very same technology. So is modern technology really the bad guy?
“If modern technology is creating an ecological crisis on the earth, disturbing the balance of nature, then it is a very simplistic solution to drop modern technology and go back.
“But you have to understand that in Gautam Buddha’s time, just twenty-five centuries ago, this country only had twenty million people. The earth was enough to support them. Today, this country alone has nine hundred million people. If you want to go back to the days of Gautam Buddha, you will have to kill or allow to die such a large part of the population. And when only twenty million people are saved, and the remainder of the nine hundred million people are lying dead all around you — do you think those twenty million will be able to live either?
“And the population goes on increasing…. By the end of this century, the population of India may have increased by half again. That means it would be one billion, three-hundred million people — from nearly nine-hundred to thirteen-hundred million people.
“That is why I have been disagreeing with Mahatma Gandhi on every point. He talks about nonviolence — but this is not nonviolence; nothing can be more violent a step than this. No war has destroyed so many people as will be destroyed without any war. And it is impossible to live amongst dead bodies piled all around you. There will be nobody to take them to the funeral or to take them to the graveyard. So many people dying at such a rate is going to kill the remaining twenty million people too; their rotting bodies will create thousands of diseases, infections.
“Mahatma Gandhi used to think that we should stop technology at the point where the spinning wheel was invented. The spinning wheel was invented somewhere around ten thousand years ago or even earlier. The people were so few and the earth was so big… the earth was giving so much that those people could not even absorb it all; most of it was going to waste.
“So this is one solution, which came to Mahatma Gandhi from Leo Tolstoy — he was also against modern technology. But I cannot support it, because it means no railway trains, no hospitals, no surgery, no medicine, no post offices, no telegraphs, no telegrams, no telexes, no electricity; and all these have become part of your life. You cannot conceive of yourself without electricity!
“There was just one failure of electricity in America. For three days people were in such a panic, because the elevators were not working and to go by the stairs in a high-rise building — perhaps one hundred stories, one hundred and twenty stories — just coming down and going up was enough to finish anybody. People became aware for the first time, in those three days in New York, that now there is no possibility of dropping technology.
“I have another alternative. It is not the fault of modern technology; the fault is that we have not been very clear what we want from modern technology and what we don’t want. The scientist has been discovering almost in a blind way, and whatever he discovers we start using — without thinking of the aftereffects.
“Going back is impossible and idiotic, the only way is forward. We need a better technology — better than modern technology, which can avoid plastic garbage and disturbance in the ecology. The scientist has to be very alert that whatever he is doing should become an intrinsic part of the organic whole; technology should not go against the whole. And it is possible, because technology does not lead you somewhere in particular; it is you who go on discovering things in a blind way.
“Now that it is clear that whatever we have discovered up to now, much of it is a disturbance in the harmony — is finally going to destroy life on the earth — still, scientists go on piling up nuclear weapons. They don’t have the guts to say to the politicians, ‘It is enough. We are not slaves. We cannot create anything that is going to destroy life.’
“All the scientists of the world have to come to a consensus: they have to make a world academy of sciences, which decides what should be discovered and what should not be discovered. If something wrong is discovered, it should be undiscovered immediately.
“We need a superior technology, a more enlightened technology. There, I part from Mahatma Gandhi, who goes backwards — where there is nothing but death. I go forwards. Technology is in our hands; we are not in the hands of technology. We can drop all those parts which are dangerous, poisonous, and we can discover substitutes which enhance the ecology, which enhance the life of man, which enhance his outer and inner richness and bring a balance into the world.
“But I don’t see anybody in the whole world preaching for a more sophisticated, more enlightened technology. Sometimes I wonder: millions of people, thousands of great scientists — are they all blind? Can’t they see what they are doing is cutting their own roots?
“And if technology can manage to do miracles — it has managed on the path of destructiveness, it can also manage miracles on the path of creativeness. All that has been discovered, if it is a disturbance to nature, should be dropped. But I don’t see that electricity is a danger to nature; I don’t see that railway lines or airplanes are disturbing the ecology; I don’t see that innocent telegrams, post offices, have to be destroyed. That will be moving to the other extreme.
“That is how the human mind works: it works like the pendulum of a clock, from one end to the other end. It never stops in the middle. I want human consciousness to stop exactly in the middle, so that it can see both sides. Certainly, destructiveness cannot be supported; and the energy that goes into creating destructive things has to be converted into creativity.[…]
“I am all for technology — but a better technology, a more human technology.”
Abridged from Osho, The Rebellious Spirit, Talk #8