I watched a video the other day by Jay Shetty in which he talked about paradoxical thinking in our modern society. What exactly did he mean by the statement that we are using paradoxical thinking in our society, well, let me explain.
In non-linear growth, it is believed that “to achieve growth one must take two steps forward and then one step back”. This means that you design for the future but you understand that to properly use that technology you must first learn how it works and understand how to control it. For example, flying cars. We have the technology to develop a flying car. In fact car manufacturers, will tell you that when they are working on a new car design they look twenty to thirty years into the future and then scale it back to our current desires. And the flying car, well if you look at society today we can’t even go from point A to point B without crashing. That problem has further been exasperated with the introduction of smartphones into our daily routine now known as distracted driving. If, as a society, we can not even go from point A to point B on the ground without checking our texts how can we be trusted to fly between two points. Our society simply is not yet ready for this step, and that’s ok, that’s the point of non-linear growth and how it is a positive.
They seemed to do things the right way so many years ago when the focus was on expanding ones mind and not ones wallet. It wasn’t really until the end of the Second World War that things started to change when the ‘Baby Boomer’ Generation came into power demanding more homes, more appliances, more cars, more. That’s not to say they are to blame, certainly not. My generation “X” that came to power in the 80s and 90s holds the greatest level of materialistic demand. We needed faster, better, cheaper, me me me, and look where it got us.
It seems today, every day, we are creating more and more electronic devices to make our lives easier to increase communications and to theoretically advance our civilization. The problem is, the paradox, that as our society moves another “step forward it moves three steps backwards” (a quote from Mr. Shetty). We are growing closer together as a global community with the communication of our thoughts and ideas but we struggle to start a normal conversation with a person across the room or on a train. Our shift toward technology is not wrong however we must use technology as our tool not as our teacher.
So, what does that mean for our future? Well at our current rate it’s not good. Think of a time when you used your brain to do something. You struggled with it until you figured it out. After achieving the results, you wanted you felt a sense of accomplishment and new found knowledge on how the task must be completed next time.
Now, you develop a machine and tell the machine “complete this task” and it does. Great. But then the machine breaks and is no longer able to complete the task. You’d like to fix the machine but you don’t know how. The people who developed the machine used a method whereby they decided how the machine would work and then designed the machine to work in that fashion. Unfortunately, all those people are now dead and gone along with their knowledge. So how do you fix the machine? Now what?
This is an example of taking one step forward and three steps back. Now you must try to re-learn the skills that were practised before the machine was developed to know how to fix the machine. A task that could take years if not generations to achieve.
Now think of people as that machine. We grow so quickly to no longer feel that we need human teachers. We decide that we no longer need human interaction to achieve our goals. We eliminate our teachers and we distance ourselves from each other with wireless communication and virtual walls. Then suddenly, one day, the lights go out. Would society survive? Would someone be around to “fix” us?
I recall the book by H.G. Wells called “The Time Machine”. Without boring you with the details a man travels far into the future to discover a primitive society that has struggled to survive. The society, as it turns out, is ours. It was once a great advanced society but through war and disaster it lost its ability to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next. The great libraries and sources of information had fallen to ruin and the people became slaves of a mechanically advanced society that lived underground. In the end the people were freed from tyranny and the man was given the option to return to his time. He did return, grabbed three books from his library, and went back to the future to “teach” them the basics again. They never tell you what three books he took back with him. In a later modern version there is a virtual library attendant that contains the wealth of knowledge and he fixes it to teach the people. This story serves as a constant reminder to me to embrace our somewhat primitive learning techniques and to never become wholly dependent on machines for my personal growth and development.
So, what is the solution? We must, as a society, understand that technology is a “tool” and not our “masters”. We must embrace technology but only to enhance our humanity. It is possible but only if we learn how to, as Mr. Shetty said, hit the pause button, reset and start over again. The focus on our civilization must not be who can build the better tool but rather how we use that tool to better ourselves.
Now, all that being understood I wonder? Have I allowed machines to creep into my life and disrupt the balance between tool and technology? I think this question can be answered in my next blog on the recent decluttering in my life.
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