The Role of Technology in Spiritual Evolution
By Robert Brumet
The following was written in response to an inquiry from Rev Dr Vern Barnet, columnist for the KC Star.
What effect will developing technology have on spirituality in the future? I put this question to the Rev. Robert Brumet, whose latest book, "Birthing a Great Reality," was published last year. He teaches at the Unity Institute and Seminary.
I asked him, "Many reports suggest that the 'Arab spring,' a term for the demand for democracy in several Arab nations, was made possible by new electronic communication devices, such as cell phones. Laboratory rats with brain implants can have their memories recorded on a computer chip, and when they forget, the chip can 'play back' and restore their memories. Human brain studies show that we make decisions before we are aware of making decisions. We are able to understand the genetic code in plants and animals and increasingly have the ability to modify the code. Your book describes how people can participate in the spiritual evolution of humanity. What role might technology play?"
From the perspective of the evolution of human consciousness, technology can be seen as both an effect and a change agent. It is an effect in that it requires a certain sophistication of human thought to develop a particular technology. This sophistication of thought is derived from, and builds upon, previous levels of thought. It depends upon the preceding levels of technological development and it is driven by current conditions in the world. All of these elements parallel factors which drive biological evolution.
Two examples of technology that are change agents of human consciousness are television and the internet. These are technologies that were created by human thinking and have in turn deeply influenced the way humans think. Each of these technologies has changed our lives by making far more information available than ever before and by bringing the world into our own homes in ways that were unthinkable in the pre-twentieth century world.
These technologies have not only affected the quantity and quality of information we receive but may also have affected the very way in which we think. The medium has become more than the message- it has impacted the way our minds function.
For centuries humans have communicated through the medium of story-telling. This evoked the use of human imagination in an important way. Even with the advent of radio, human imagination was needed to participate in the experience of receiving information. With the appearance of television our imagination has become much more passive. Now we simply receive, rather than co-create, the stories that we are given.
With the internet the democratization of mass media has emerged. There is no censor, no editor, and no credentialing body to validate the information we receive from the internet. All opinions are equally available for everyone –from the profound wisdom of the ages to the most insane ranting imaginable.
Much of what was once considered the private domains of human life is now visible for all to see. Private parts of individual minds –as well as bodies- are now visible for most anyone to see and to hear.
And most anything on the internet can be replicated or modified almost instantly. The term virus no longer refers solely to a biological organism. We have become vulnerable in ways never before imagined. Secrecy and safety are threatened in ways never before imagined.
And yet, democratic movements- such as the so-called Arab Spring- are made possible by these same technologies. For better or worse time and space are rapidly shrinking and we are discovering that we are not as separate and insulated as we once believed.
The Paleontologist and Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin developed an elaborate theory of the evolution of consciousness which included a hypothesized invisible sphere of human thought energy surrounding the earth- analogous to the biosphere and hydrosphere. Although he did not connect this with any specific form of technology, it would seem that he almost prophesized what we now call cyberspace. This is invisible sphere of information is as almost as real to humanity as the hydrosphere and biosphere. This noosphere could not develop as it has without our current level of technology. Indeed, technology and evolution are intrinsically woven together- and most likely will be for a long time to come.
Robert Brumet (July 2011)