Thursday, July 11, 2013

Technology is Not Enough - A Parable


Every day, I see hundreds of cars moving.  Why do the cars move?

A simple question like unlocks a series of esoteric thoughts to a physicist like me.  Generations of scientific discoveries help us understand and explain the car’s movement.  You have the laws of motion, Thermodynamics, energy conversion and conservation, friction, electromagnetism and electricity, quantum mechanics that allow us to design chips at nanoscale, and gravity and general relativity whose understanding is essential for accurate operation of the GPS.  Nearly all of our scientific knowledge of physical worlds is neatly encased in the movement of the car.


My neighbor, a biochemist, amplifies that explanation by including the presence of human into the process.  The car moves not only because the fuel provides energy to move the wheels, but also because there is a human being who renders his thoughts, logic and habit into the movements of his eyes, hands and feet.  The human body itself is a beautiful machine, more complex and elegant than anything we have built thus far.  Though we don’t understand all, but we know enough to write a tome on how our memories and perceptions, brain and other organs, body cells and muscles, blood vessels and nerves etc. orchestrate an intricate dance to make driving possible.

So, we can provide a comprehensive and scholarly explanation for why the car moves, right?


How about his alternate explanation?  The cars move because their drivers decided to be somewhere else.  The primary cause is not physics, chemistry, biology or associated technologies, but consciousness.


All the preceding scientific and technological explanations answer how the car moves, not why.  This distinction is often lost on us.  Why does life exist?  Why am I here?  Why am I (un)happy, or (un)healthy, (un)wise, (in)secure, or (un)fulfilled?  Too often, we explain the hows and believe we have answered the whys. 


But as an owner of my body and the driver of my life, I ought to know the difference.

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