Science and society have a very uneasy relationship. Science is always in a hurry. It reveals uncomfortable truths, makes nasty things that can wipe us all out and, in general, acts as if it cares just as much about us as the evening call of eagle owl repeated twice.
Time and again science ends up disturbing the peace by inventing new technologies that conflict with the greater good perceived by the collective. Apple’s recent refusal to unlock a terrorist’s password-locked phone is harbinger of many such conflicts that are around the corner, making it necessary to understand the relationship between science and collective better.
The naked ape, throughout its evolution, has been a collective-dependent creature. We exist as a part of the collective and are tuned to accept and cherish it. Individuality is reigned in due to our dependence on the collective for survival. But, this is where science has started causing confusion.
Today we appear to be heading for an era of individualism. Humans are finding reduced need of the collective and are thus unhappy with collective-centric laws. Though it looks like another renaissance, I see a need to question it.
The reality is that this reduced need of collective is a perception, or rather an illusion caused by technology. As our survival appears less and less linked with immediate society around us, our brain is unable to sense the connect, making our individuality surface strongly.
But, while our brain fails to sense the need of the collective, in reality, the technology cocoon around us is completely collective-dependent. The technology edifice that protects us is existing purely because of the evolution and strength of the collective.
Interestingly, the same technology that has created an illusion of individual empowerment has, on the other hand, undermined human ability to survive as an individual. Humanity needs the collective more than ever, as, even a small disruption is capable of bringing down the complex infrastructure of technology that we need to survive.
I am not suggesting that entire humanity has become incapable of surviving without technology, but it is clear that demographics of individualism is closely linked with existence of technology cocoon.
It is not a tribal from Amazon rain-forest who is worried about collective’s intrusion in his privacy; it is the urban youth, who is incapable of surviving without WiFi, let alone running water or electricity, that is fighting for individual freedom. This is so because the tribal’s brain can sense the need of the collective for survival; but, for the urban youth, society is hidden behind a curtain of technology. His brain has stopped relating with what is behind that curtain. He assumes that the food arriving on his plate and the light that comes on by a flick of the switch is not provided by a society because his brain can’t feel the connect.
The much celebrated human brain is actually a simple stimulus-responding machine. Brain needs cues and when it can’t find them, it becomes blind. With technology cloaking traditional cues, for urban youth, society is out of sight and thus out of mind.
This is a big problem that we need to become aware of. We need to accept what technology is doing to human brain and human society, and aim at finding new ways of connecting humans with collective.
We like it or not, we are social animals. Our technology-dependence has forced the boat of individualism to leave the port.
Strangely, the need of the hour is plug out from the technology matrix and plug back into human society, if we wish to keep enjoying the benefits of the matrix.