Faster, easier, bigger, better, or smaller? Our lifestyles are constantly aiming for simplification, for improvement. For convenience. All inventions in our society, from the wheel to the toilet to electricity to mobiles, all developments are dreamed up and invented to ease the load, to speed up our life and all involved processes, to strive for better ways and to make us healthier. Right?
I mean, if we can squeeze another minute out of our day, cut another corner on our road to the ultimate comfort, and change those damned, defect DNA strands we will. I am talking about life hacks.
Where our society might be at and why
Hacking is the new standard term for growth and change. At least to cheat our habits and irritations – anything from the past seems worthy hacking. Cooking hacks, household and fixing hacks, computer hacks, car hacks, even social hacks. And true, some are really ingenious, like using a clip coat hanger as recipe holder or a clothes peg to hold a nail while hammering. I get it. We can recycle, think outside the box and help ourselves a little in our complex world. But does everything need a hack? Is anything up for grabs, too slow, dirty or immature now? Do we always have to aim for growth no matter what? And ultimately, has life really gotten better for us since using tablets?
Maybe it’s not just me who feels that things didn’t get any simpler. How is it possible that our lives seem to be just as complicated, stressful and busy, or even more? I mean, how are you? How are we really doing? With all our gadgets, social media and potential shortcuts in the house, car and at work? Do we live healthier, more balanced, more connected, more advanced? Are we more at peace, happier and know our purpose? Or do we face the same human challenges as before? Like finding our inner happy place, true love, and real freedom? How is it possible that our technological advances have not helped us regarding being human?
Well, to answer that briefly: the inventions we nowadays use are not developed on those levels, the levels to generate peace or happiness. It’s that simple. We would need to hack consciousness itself (and believe me, they are trying) to meet those human needs and motivations, to hack the issue of inner peace.
In our age of technology, the amount of information and possibilities are exponentially growing. On a daily base, we seem to be offered more and them ten times more options, choices, knowledge and gadgets to use, to buy; software to download or upgrade. Our head is filled with more facts, more stuff, more info.
Always more; and more in less time.
Phew, how overwhelming is that? At least for me. Because my brain capacity has not grown exponentially with all these new conveniences and developments. I can’t process and contain all the information. Plus, my heart is still feeling hurt from a friend’s betrayal, or a strange thing my dad said. My search for peace and a quiet mind is distracted by Facebook and diluted by Twitter. The internet, always waiting for me, is so tempting to divert me, from myself…
So, I personally understand technology can’t make us happier, but the effort of hacking life continuous anyway. Its outcome of less balance doesn’t seem to matter, or the gain of ‘more’ is simply more valued.
Two disconcerting trends
Two particular hacks and trends in our time I find especially disconcerting hacks on life itself. A. the creation of artificial intelligence (AI) and b. the editing of our DNA. Those are real brain teasers and keep me up at night (talking about peace, eh?). I mean, has no one seen Terminator?
Scientist developing AI say they will develop control safes and safety measures, but from a certain point on the field is actually not and can’t be sure how they would contain the self-aware quantum computers. They will know, calculate and control, well, everything. Full stop. Then we have what science calls the state of singularity. A state where machines and computers are in control grown beyond our human capacity to follow. And the prognosis to reach this point in time in the 2040’s. Then we won’t be able to follow the processes of computers anymore, ever – and life as we know it has ultimately been hacked.
The other issue is DNA editing, and maybe that’s even worse. The changing and controlling of our fundamental code, fixing defect parts and improving us on a sub-cellular level, has different implications and still hacks life, and its coding, at its very source. I won’t go into more details, but I believe that humanity is on a course it might not easily recover from. And it will go there anyway.
So only the future will show if Artificial Intelligence and singularity will let us ‘go there’, reinventing our biological genome, or annihilates us indeed as a threat to ourselves. Talking about terminators… That’s us by the way, not the quantum computer, or the machines. We do it all on our own.
Our new hobby: Self-destruction
Sure, to a degree I understand that humans need to ‘go there’ because they can. No matter the cost, or if they actually should. It was an issue during all human history: restraint, morality, awareness. Self-destruction was always collateral when curiosity got the better of us. I get that. I don’t like it, but I comprehend. What I don’t get is that we still think we can do it. Outsmart ourselves and still win health, peace and happiness. It is beyond me. We are mental babies and don’t develop our spirit but our weapons?
So maybe the hack on life needs a hack. Maybe we need to boycott all hacks and go for less, for slow, for the more sensible thing.
I know we can’t slow down the trends, but maybe giving ourselves a break to look into options on how to develop the other parts of ourselves seems like a good idea. Our humanity, kind of left behind, needs some pampering. And a different speed allows us to face the challenges of AI or DNA Hacks with hopefully a new set of morals and a higher, new found ground.
And what have these life hacks and their implications to do with us right now? Not much just yet, but when drones fly over the area, microchipping newborns and adults are promoted as a great way to control vaccinations and to not lose our wallet, and self-driving cars drive on the roads, then it begins to alarm me. If not for my life, then for the life of my kid and her children.
Sure, all these technological and biological advances can be used for health and social improvement and maybe in 100 years they will be (if we aren’t only a smoking burnt planet that is). Yes, the creations are all results of hard work, have earned their scientific place and are potentially amazing, life-saving measures with an enormous aptitude for the human race.
But since we’re not moving and working on that higher moral ground just yet and aren’t a very conscious, humanitarian, peaceful society (those hacks are simply not funded enough), all these technological and scientific findings will be foremost used by the military and corporations (and already are). Before anything helpful is made affordable and accessible for old ladies, poor families or sick babies, history has shown us that power is more interested in gaining more power. At least they got their priorities straight, right?
And I am afraid, ‘Health’ is simply the hook for us small minded humans, the sheep, to buy into the promotion and acceptance of the new hacks. Health is not our immediate broad social gain from DNA edits, stem cell procedures and micro-chipping. Still, as with all discoveries, most scientists press on and research and develop, and I might say with good intentions, but the contraption, the breakthrough, the hack, usually gets corrupted and abused. And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself who funded most scientists in the first place?
Happy Conclusions of a Simpleton
So, where to go from here? I know I am a rather simple person, but I do understand a few things. It was computers in the 80’s, the internet and mobiles in the 90’s, smartphones, flat screens and tablets in the naughties, and now AI and DNA editing in the tens. It seems to be the next logical step and not too far fetched anymore, right? We got groomed, my friends. With the hooks and lures of better health, a freedom yet to be seen and tempting lifestyle improvements. However, inner peace can’t be styled or digitally programmed.
Joy and peace need to be sought, discovered, met and integrated. And those take time and focus. No fast lane here, no short cut, and certainly no hack. Happiness doesn’t necessarily derive from making all bothering things easier, from owning the next, faster, thinner gadget, or finally owning faster internet (although it has its advances when dial up is all you knew). Happiness, I believe, comes from understanding how to accept obstacles or make friends with them. How to meet the challenges, and accept the up and down curve of life. How to meet the ‘slow’ and to not fight it, along with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Freedom comes from understanding that the only place where humans are free lives in our mind. The rest of our improvements are entertainment, and a bonus (like NBN). Sure, the developments change things, but not always for the better. Especially not if we’ll hand over our mind and our thinking to a computer. A really smart one. That doesn’t care. Unless we programmed it to care, but then we don’t know if it will re-program itself to who-knows-what…
The ultimate hack for me is the journey to happiness and away from ‘the Terminator’. It is a slow journey inwards. As slow as ever. And all our improvements are great bonuses if the heart and the universal mind have had time to catch up. As of now, our technological growth seems to run forward like a mad dog and leaves common sense and the inner processes behind. Necessary human traits like cultivating heartfelt compassion and being authentic; caring for ourselves and others; connecting and truly listening to our own wisdom and the needs of others. Globally. These traits will be harder to reconcile with a superfast society that asks for robots, which feel and think like us. For us.
How possibly to Hack the Hacks?
Me personally, I love the slowness of cooking over a fire, of growing vegetables and herbs in the garden (goodness, those capsicums take their time). I adore the quality of life where I don’t drive anywhere for many days, don’t buy anything for months, because we do have all we need, and spend real time with friends. Reading my books, researching, writing are my follies, because those are my true passions. Other than that I love to listen to music, sit in nature, and dance. Last, but not least I play, craft and hang out with my kid, because that’s my other true passion. Parenting. Because no one shows us ‘life’ and how to happily hack it better than our kids.
To say it in German: ‘I let the feet of my soul dangle’ and ignore ‘bigger, better, faster’, I am actively going against the trend of consuming and of mindless growth. I know that’s the life of the Neanderthal, it’s backwards. Well, I beg to differ. I am happier than ever, feel rather peaceful in my soul and have hope for myself and my child to develop human skills that are necessary to face a hacked future.
What if going deliberately slow indeed could somehow hack the hack?