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Hallelujah! It is time for technology that serves us. I have been quite blown away by my friends, colleagues and teachers in the last few weeks in their efforts to offer their work outside of their usual environments and support their communities, reaching out to people they may never meet and without knowing that they will ever earn a humble living from it again or handle the stress of trying to use technology that simply is not ready to support so much activity online. We have been and are still in great danger of our lives being manipulated by technology that does us great harm, that distracts us and separates us, dulling our senses and our thinking, and yet while we are pulled even further apart from each other, we are also being brought closer together and we are being given opportunities for creativity and autonomy perhaps more than ever. This is a hopeful time, if we wish it to be so.
There is a growing concern about the damage that technology is inflicting on us now, but I haven’t always been so worried. The first time I saw the Internet and I started working as an Internet programmer in the 1990s, I was entranced by the possibilities. I dreamed of increased understanding across borders. I didn’t foresee social media aggression, competitiveness, illusion and narcissism, I didn’t imagine that technology that connected people would be used to abuse and humiliate, to control our opinions. But despite the terrible ways the Internet has been used, it is still up to us how are use it. For the last year I’ve been involved in ethics for artificial intelligence, and there is so much work to be done to defend people from technology that has gone wrong - so much has gone wrong. But programmers will not know how to make good technology unless we use it to enhance our lives rather than diminish us. This is a new world that requires courage, curiosity and awareness. We must treat technology with the same skills and meditation that we use in a yoga posture or a mindful walk or sitting practice.
I hope this is the time to develop practices that will serve us after this uncertain time, that increase our authenticity with each other and our ability to ask for what we need from people around us and to give openly without needing to receive something in return. I hope it is a time when we can enjoy our homes and our gardens and our local communities and for myself, it’s a chance to share practices that are very important to me like barefoot techniques that I haven’t had the chance to do until now.
While we are separated by physical distance, we are also brought spiritually, energetically and emotionally closer to each other, from clapping for the NHS, coming out onto our doorsteps, trains and cars sounding their horns, people shout hello to each other as we exercise outside, and we reap the advantages of slowness, of having fewer places to go and spending more time with the people physically close to us.
The world has been turned upside down and is shaking us about, this at least we can be sure of. Let’s connect into the calm and the sustenance of the present moment and the physical presence of those around us, placing boundaries where they need to be, offering our help and allowing ourselves to receive others’ help where others can help us.