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This issue has been on many people's minds for a while now, sometimes in the form of science fiction content, but also as a real-life consideration that has gained traction as our technologies continue to develop by leaps and bounds.
Artificial intelligence is a concerning thing to contemplate, and it behooves us to consider the track we are on, and the type of thoughts and activities that would lead us towards an increasingly automated and virtual way of being in the world.
A good starting question would be, "Does technology make me happy?" This question is meant to parse out the difference between stimulation and pleasure, and true joy and inner happiness.
If we have a subconscious belief that technology makes us happy and fulfilled, we will invest increasing levels of mental and emotional energy into our digital lives.
All of these energies going into a virtual world are actually the initial seeds of artificial intelligence. Just as a few sparks can create a fire, enough energy invested in technology and digital realms can lead to the eventual advent of AI.
I would make the case that long before AI develops to a disastrous point as depicted in films like Terminator and The Matrix there are a lot of preliminary stages in our consciousness that would put us on a track towards such a future.
The common sight of young children glued to smartphones is a red flag indicating the fertile breeding ground towards technological dependency. If kids turn to a digital device for emotional reasons that previous generations provided through human contact, it isn't hard to imagine the progression from there.
As of writing, this I am 30 years old, and had a few short years before I was inundated with technology. By the time I was 6 years old, my favorite thing became my Nintendo system, and as a young teenager, I spent every spare moment in front of my computer screen.
I recall the soothing feeling that would come over me after a hard day at school as I sat before the soft glow of the monitor. I felt so powerful online. I could say anything, know anything, and pretend to be anyone I wanted.
Video games, social media, and other interactive digital platforms allow for virtual identities to become increasingly important in our lives. Our workplaces are increasingly dominated by computer programs and automated machinery. These points are not news to anyone; the aspect I want to highlight strikes at the core of the human experience and challenges us in ways that technology never could.
What would it like to go a day without interacting with any kind of screen? Would it be possible to take even 24 hours off from technology? Even as I consider it myself, the answer seems pretty obvious.
Perhaps a better question would be, "What would we do if we had no choice but to take a break from technology?" The sobering fact is that many of us, myself included, cannot tear ourselves away from a screen for too long, even when it is not work-related. The only way we can voluntarily limit our intake of technology is by discovering something more fulfilling to us.
Having practiced meditation for the better part of 20 years, I have found that the answer to technological dependency lies within our heart and soul, the very core of what it means to be human.
Technology, as we know it today, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Generations past fell in love, raised children, grew food, sang and danced, and lived full lives long before the first screens began hypnotizing us.
I have also been involved in organic food and community gardens over the past 10 years. It always fills me with wonder that half a day can go by where I have done nothing but work with the earth and talk to people face to face.
After a day like this, sitting in front of my computer can feel very foreign indeed; the natural energy of working with the earth feels so much more inviting.
I raise these points not to demonize technology, but to suggest that we would do well to balance it with the more fundamental or core aspects of what it means to be human.
All it takes is a bad thunderstorm in an area for technology to be rendered inoperable for what often seems like an eternity to those involved. Problems involved in being overly dependent on technology are easily subverted by returning to nature and the deep conscious connection we have to Earth and with each other.
Artificial intelligence is like a mind without a heart. As human intelligence evolves to increasingly include the heart and soul, technology will take a backseat to be enjoyed and employed in moderation.