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January 22, 2012

Question: Does technology diminish or enhance your humanity?

 To the extent that we are already “human,” in the best sense, does technology either enhance or diminish our humanity. It is clear that modern technology, which has developed largely from the practical applications of science to facilitate everyday living, is a marvellous set of tools and skills that may be used, as in medical science, to enhance and prolong life, to produce labour-saving devices, and to augment human comfort and well-being.

But it is only too obvious that not all technology has been used for peaceful purposes. The destructive power of conventional and nuclear weapons, poisonous gas and the possibility of horrific germ warfare are spectres that continue to menace the present and future of humanity. The well-organized 1994 Rwandan genocide of an estimated 800,000 people was executed mainly with older technology — machetes. The Internet can connect long-lost relatives, facilitate research, or incite jihadists, or feed the perverse appetites of pedophiles and erotica addicts.

The technological developments that occurred in the 20th century, including the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the television, the Internet and the cellphone have contributed largely to the globalization of our planet. McLuhan’s “global village” has by now shrunk to a neighbourhood. Communication technologies have largely favoured the development of a global consciousness which allows individuals, peoples and nations in all parts of the globe to interact. “We are all connected.”

The question becomes, then, how can we enhance our humanity to ensure that technology serves higher purposes? We should never be fooled into thinking, no matter how much we may justly admire the marvels of ever-unfolding technology, that it holds the key to the solution of all humanity’s problems. To do so, would be to create just another idol with feet of clay.

Faith and religion have decided roles to play in the enhancing of humanity. In this regard, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) has revealed: “In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world …. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine” (Tablets, p. 125).
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen January 22, 2012
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