What is the highest purpose of technology? Is it merely to enhance the efficiency, productivity and prosperity of the material life or is there a higher purpose?
The Three Perspectives
There are many perspectives on the aims and values of technology. The vision of hard-core techie doesn’t go beyond efficiency, productivity and innovation. The humanist will argue that technology must serve higher values like liberty, equality, fraternity and well being. The environmentalist asserts that technology must serve ecology and sustainability. The integral view, which we are presenting here, accepts in principle the validity of these viewpoints but will add a higher spiritual-evolutionary perspective. Efficiency, productivity and other utilitarian goal are undoubtedly the core values of technology. But they are not the purpose of technology. Technology has to serve human values, but these values have to be understood in a broader perspective, as part of the evolutionary aims of humanity and the process of human development. Technology has to sub-serve sustainability but it has to be something higher than physical or ecological sustainability. In our spiritual perspective, sustainability means not merely ecological sustainability but evolutionary sustainability, which means to progress safely, without any relapse, towards our highest spiritual destiny.
The Integral View
In our integral synthesis, technology has to serve the evolutionary destiny of humanity and our planet earth. The destiny of humanity is an integral development of the human potential from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual dimensions of the human consciousness. The path towards this destiny lies in a progressive inner evolution of consciousness in the vital, mental, moral, aesthetic, psychological and spiritual realms of our being but with a predominant emphasis on awakening the spiritual centre in us, which is beyond our body and mind. For, the integral view believes that the spiritual self in us is the foundation of our being, source of all our higher aspirations and the key to our highest fulfillment. However we should not remain satisfied with this inner evolution or perfection, remaining content or blissful in some inner heavens. It has to manifest and express itself in the outer material, social and cultural life of man, or in other words a progressive inner perfection expressing itself in the outer life leading to a progressive outer perfection is the evolutionary destiny of our planet earth.
To achieve this integral progress and perfection we have to create an outer environment favourable to the inner evolution of humanity. We must also create suitable institutions and instruments which can express, manifest or embody this inner progress in the material, economic, social, political and cultural life of our planet. The purpose of technology is to create efficient, effective and powerful instruments for manifesting the inner psychological and spiritual progress and perfection in and through Matter and in the material life of our planet. When the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram was asked what is the purpose of technology in the higher evolution of humanity, she replied, “Its use is to make the material basis stronger, completer and effective for the manifestation of the spirit”. This is the higher purpose of Technology.
Towards a Synergy of Technologies
However, an integral vision of life should have a correspondingly broader and integral vision of technology. We may define technology as any tool, instrument or system which leads to or maximizes the efficient and productive utilization of resources and energies, not only physical resources and energies, but also economic, human, social, psychological resources and energies. In this broader sense modern management is a social technology for the efficient and productive utilization of human, economic, social and knowledge resources. Similarly, there are or can be educational, communicational or cultural technologies for imparting, communicating or implanting ideas, ideals and values in the consciousness of people with minimum of wasteful noise and maximum of impact. And again, there can be a psychological technology for efficient and productive harnessing of our mental, vital and emotional resources and energies. Many of the practices of Indian yoga, like for example concentration can be called as psychological technologies or technology of consciousness.
So for integral well being and progress of humanity we have to use these various categories of technologies in a mutually complementing synergy with an enlightened attunement with the laws of integral ecology of universal Nature.
The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.