It is only over the last thirty years that the World Wide Web of the Internet has developed. The interconnected digitised web of the Internet is an abstract and disembodied symbolic world. It has created an enormously attractive set of human possibilities that are extraordinarily compelling and attention-grabbing to the human psyche. Perhaps it has even become so entrancing and so spellbinding, that we may easily fail to ask the very important and simple question addressed next:
What exactly is it that is missing in this much-vaunted digitised version of human heaven?
After all, it promises fulfilment of every possible desire. It has an endless capacity to pander to almost every conceivable human creature-comfort. It has as well, a mind-boggling potential to solve abstract problems. It can engineer, fulfil and deliver a promise of a world of convenience, instant communication, continuous comfort, with easy and instant access to information and communication. It promulgates a mouse clicking, button pressing, easy, convenient, time and labour saving efficiency in a way never ever before conceived possible in the history of mankind.
In Part One the implications of a failure to establish Right Priority in the digital creation that is now called the Internet were considered. In many ways we have projected an image of our Selves onto the Internet and it has the wrong priority. It places second considerations into first priority.
How does what might be missing “out- there” relate to the inevitable consequences of establishing a wrong priority?
The Internet as a projection of the human ego
As a human creation the Internet can be seen as a projection of how we have recently come to see our Selves. I want to consider in some depth, the possibility that the Internet has become a worldwide projection of the human ego. As such it is likely to operate by putting second things first in a self-interested and self-sustaining way. It is not entirely without a capacity for genuine beneficence. While at the same time demonstrating occasional shafts of genuine unselfishness, it fundamentally operates in a selfish ego-driven way. It is capable of giving but mostly it concerns itself with accumulating, grasping and taking. Manipulation and control are used in much the same way as they operate within the individual ego. It will tend to use its capacity and power for manipulation and control quite cynically, both to legally exploit and sometimes to fraudulently and criminally extort money. It is most self-satisfied when it effectively provides the stability and comfort and familiarity of the known and the habitual. It will find great difficulty with the discomfort of challenging habits and traditions. In this way it is inherently conservative. It will be more likely to be preoccupied with servicing habits than with changing them. The more efficiently it uses technology to cater for individual wants, needs and lusts, the less tolerant it will be of discomfort. It will tend to regard discomfort as something that technology should dispense with by clever means of distraction and diversion. It uses an amazing Digital technology to create endless attractive ways to divert attention away from discomfort of any kind, but most especially the discomfort of moving beyond the boundaries of known and familiar habits and tradition.
Suffering: Going within in order to do without
For most of human history and human evolution a capacity to bear discomfort has been a key theme. In their different ways various cultures have created ingenious narrative structures to help to bear the suffering and discomfort inherent in any human life. These usually take the form of religious and superstitious beliefs: The jealous God of the Old Testament Bible who challenges the individual by actually causing them to suffer and then forcing them to overcome that suffering. Sometimes, as in the New Testament Bible, there is a more soothing, gentle and more compassionate God – there to help humanity assuage the suffering. In Buddhist psychology for example, there are techniques to avoid samsara: to break a human individual free from the endless cycle of suffering as one enters into the next reincarnation. This bearing of suffering or even sometimes the sanctification of suffering often includes attractive notions of an afterlife, a heaven free of human suffering.
These narrative structures vary in much the same way as human cultures vary. However all of these venerable approaches to suffering can be distilled down to a basic formula: they are techniques designed to guide the individual to go within, in order to do without. Huge swathes of human suffering concern being without: e.g. adequate food, warmth and shelter. Whether taking the form of incantation, mantras, spells, prayers and meditations, all of these techniques approach the attendant suffering by going within the inner self in order to bear discomforts and suffering. While these ancient techniques promote a resilient self-reliance, the world of the Internet is dedicated to the opposite of self-reliance: neediness. The realisable promises of digital technology on the Internet: to engineer solutions to what caused our ancestors such privation and suffering, seem so successful as to obviate the ancient need to go within. They may go even as far as to claim that we have now created a world that is so technologically efficient and effective that there is no longer need for innerness. We can instantly be diverted from even the mildest discomfort. But the Internet is capable of going much further in its capacity to cater for every individual self-centred whim and wish. A warm coat to keep out the winter cold would have been such a cause of joy and great gratitude for our ancestors. In the digital word of the Internet the coat now becomes a complex matter of the high expectations of individualised self-expression: the coat must now have the individuals’ preferred branding, colour, styling and designer-label current fashion statements. It remains to be seen whether a world without innerness becomes a completely selfish, a narcissistic world without a heart. It does seem that higher levels of expectation and entitlement are inversely related to joy and gratitude!
The Internet as a Genie in the Lamp
I want here to consider the modern Internet in the light of another ancient magical narrative tale that of The Genie in the Lamp. In this fabulous tale when a magic lamp was rubbed three times a Genie would appear before its owner, bow low and say:
“Your every wish is my command”.
The marvelous developments of information engineering and digital technology have made many aspects of this ancient magical tale an incredible present-day reality. The Internet supports the possibility that every whim, wish and need could be almost instantly gratified. A rubbing of the lamp and “Your every wish is my command” changes only slightly to become in today’s terms: “You are only a mouse click away”.
It is as if, for the first time in human history, it is now possible to establish whether such a Genie in the Lamp will truly bring about human satisfaction happiness and contentment. In the days before digital technology made it a real possibility, it may well be that an argument suggesting that such a Genie would not put an end to human suffering once and for all, might be met with derision. On a global scale we could perhaps now see the Internet as a huge-scale global human experiment to verify whether the great Sages of the past such as the Buddha and Epicurus were right when they firmly maintained that human happiness and fulfilment can never come from the development of a capacity to feed the beast of ego-desire. In an important sense this World Wide Web of the Internet is a global experiment working out an answer to this crucial issue. In this instance the answer that is being worked out is truly “out there”. An ultimate conclusive answer is currently being worked out in the lives every human being participating for the last 30 years in the World Wide Web of the Internet. The Internet seen as a fabulous Genie-in-the-Lamp, may establish to a globally inter-connected humanity, the crucial importance of the Right Priority that establishes inner matters of the Heart as a first-place priority.
Only Re-connect: Human evolutionary psychology and the Internet
In what follows I want to examine the contemporary arena of evolutionary psychology. I want to explore how the implications and insights from evolutionary psychology relate to the current workings of the Internet. A central theme is that as long as we remain radically disconnected from our evolutionary origins we will inevitably be subject to manipulation and control by the Attention Engineers who build, engineer and control the Internet and who frequently use these insights in order to influence our social inter-actions and our buying behaviour. The theme of re-connection establishes the Right Priority. If through such a re-connection we thoroughly come to know ourselves and our evolutionary origins then we would cease to be subject to such control and manipulation. We begin to see through the trope!
In a curious way the process of re-connecting to our evolutionary origins becomes a contemporary, urgent expression of the ancient Delphic oracle: “Know thyself”. Perhaps it is only by knowing ourselves in the sense of knowing where we have come from, our origins, that we may come to an understanding that neither Genie or a machine could ever answer inner heartfelt human questions: No matter how clever technology becomes in its Genie-in-the -Lamp capacity to fulfill every wish and desire, the Genie could never answer such an inner question as: “What is love”. Asking such a question of a machine chases the right squirrel up the wrong tree! There is a beckoning possibility that by a process of radical reconnection to our origins, the Internet might at some stage actually become less a way to slavishly serve the human ego and more become a vital tool for transcending the human suffering that comes along with a human ego.
The self-expressive Me generation becomes the Selfie generation
The ultimate expression of an unbridled, unrestrained human ego and its individual self-expression has been allowed and indeed, encouraged to flourish in this world of superabundance and choice. There is no need anymore within this world of superabundance, to engage in any collective action in order to create positive social change. Such a possibility is now indeed considered irrelevant and outmoded. Indeed there is no need to even go outside of the door in order to interact in touching distance, shoulder-to shoulder with other individuals. In this Digital creation the ego-driven world of “Me” at the turn of the century has blossomed today into a new “Selfie” generation who are seduced even deeper into a distracted world of hollow and needy narcissism. This is the ultimate self-involved ego-driven world of endless diversion and leisure opportunity. It promotes a sense that human happiness and satisfaction will eventually be achievable possibility by chasing after and realising every lust, desire and whim. This has now moved us about as far as possible away from any sense of true human collective action. Only a few generations ago it was believed that it was possible to transcend the limited desires of an individual ego and to give up oneself to a bigger cause in order to achieve positive cooperative change in the world. The digital world no longer considers it possible for human happiness and fulfilment to be found in such cooperation and transcendence. Furthermore it does not offer the possibility or the vision of any such transcendence in the future.
Certainly the spellbinding power to enthrall makes it perhaps understandably difficult to stop, to pull back and to question:
- What is not “out-there” in cyberspace?
- What human qualities cannot be digitised?
- Does it matter if a digitised world is created without these missing human qualities?
What is not out-there? The absence of touch and smell
We have already considered how the analog human heart cannot be digitised. By extension it also becomes obvious that the life that beats in the heart cannot be digitised and therefore can never exist in cyberspace. Also there are two basic human sense modalities besides sight and sound that are conspicuous by their absence in the Cyberspace of the Internet: Touch and Smell. We need to consider next, to what extent the loss of these qualities matters. We are entranced by the larger than life, often supra-liminal stimuli of digitised sight and sound, the spellbinding images, the enhanced acoustics. Given that we can now realise the Genie-in-the-Lamp promise of endless diversion and the fulfilment of desire, does it then matter so much that we are drawn into an odourless and touch-free World. We have put onto the big horizon of the Internet and Cyberspace a somewhat arrogant and rather flattering image of ourselves in much the same way that Egos tend to do: that we have achieved the proud status of Masters of the Universe: a manipulative control of the material world with an extraordinary abstract capacity to solve technological problems. Might we arrogantly come to consider that this mastery and control and the attendant seemingly endless self-indulgence, is perhaps a Grand Prize that human species has won for evolving such symbolic, abstract cleverness? On the other hand, it could represent a massive abnegation of evolutionary responsibility: a cul-de-sac in which we have become self-indulgently lost in a dead-end diversion of our evolution. In this way we could turn our back on the compassionate potential at the heart of our human evolution.
Evolutionary psychology: the cynical manipulation of on-line buying
The brain that is encased in the skull of a human being is beyond doubt the most adaptable organ on the planet. However this does not mean that the brain of a modern human being has not been powerfully shaped by evolution in the way that it functions. The hammer and anvil of human evolution has beaten out our human genes in the context of early, small hunter/gatherer groups. The context in which we currently operate is very different from the one that has shaped the way that we acted, felt, thought, related and survived back in the hunter/gather time of our early evolution. In a way the furthest that we have moved away from our origins is now manifested in the form of the Internet. The Internet has in many ways become an expression of the radical disconnection from our evolutionary origins. This has now created a unique situation in the history of mankind: what might once have helped us to thrive and survive in our early evolution is today in many instances, ceasing to be adaptive or even remotely conducive to human fulfilment and happiness. In what follows we will explore how the insights of contemporary evolutionary psychology are often engineered into the workings of the Internet . They often are employed to grab and manipulate human attention. They can be used to powerfully and highly effectively control the way that we socialise and in particular, manipulate human buying behaviour in the marketplace of the Internet. This represents a wrong priority!
Engineering solutions to the movement and manipulation of information
The digital workings of the Internet represent an engineering solution to moving around and manipulating colossal amounts of data. The processing power generated by networking together interconnected computers is powerfully effective in engineering solutions to worldly technological problems and in creating a marketplace to service our human wants, needs and lusts. The language of engineering suffuses the terminology of digital technology. One only has to think of a now familiar term: “Internet Search Engine”. Used to solve information engineering issues and problems it is a massively powerful tool. As with other engineering projects, for example, building a dam or a bridge, it is designed to hold up under stresses and strains, to not fall down. It’s awesome and spellbinding success in becoming stable, self-supporting and self-correcting, and the extraordinarily effective ways to engineer solutions to worldly problems is astounding. Nonetheless it is important to perhaps stand back to ensure that this does not become a distraction from the simple fact that computer-driven solutions to engineering issues, no matter how spectacular in scale, cannot generate the vision for a more humane and compassionate human future.
In what follows I particularly want to explore how insights into the workings of the extraordinary bio-computer inside the skull of a human being are being cynically and very effectively used to shape and control our behaviour in cyberspace for pecuniary ends.
The two major thrusts of evolution: Breeding and Thrift
In the context of the early shaping forces of our evolution there are two main thrusts to consider: Breeding potential and Thrift. Breeding potential favours anything that successfully takes the genes of the present generation and puts them into the next one. Thrift is predominantly concerned with the complex energy-balancing associated with effectively managing scarcity. There are other forces besides these two but these are the principle shaping influences.
NOTE: Taking a break after writing the above paragraph, I picked up at today’s edition of the ‘i’ Newspaper for Thursday 1st February 2018. The main headline feature tells of growing health concerns regarding obesity and lack of exercise in a world of superabundance. It bullet-points a series of concerns about the urgent necessity, particularly for younger adults, who are at a growing risk of stroke related problems: They crucially need to change their lifestyles.
Also there on the same front page alongside these headlines, is a captioned photograph of a broadly smiling celebrity desperate “to hide his online sex shame.” In a weird contemporary world a great place to hide your sex shame it would seem, is on the front page of a national newspaper! The sordid details of an online Skype sexual encounter are not important. A mutually touchless and odourless sexual “liaison” however is very pertinent to the thrust of evolution. Taken to its bio-logical conclusion, without a test-tube-baby-style ‘engineered solutions’, online sex could clearly bring about the end of the entire human species. Shame!
Scarcity-based Thrift systems in disuse in an era of superabundance
Thrift is particularly significant and important to consider here because our contemporary world now faces issues that for most of us that are completely the opposite of thrift: superabundance. If as seems most probable, evolution has shaped systems within our brains to deal efficiently with scarcity then we might well be ill-prepared for a world of superabundance. Given the struggles that we faced back in evolutionary time, it would indeed seem highly unlikely that there was ever any selection pressure to deal effectively with superabundance! Over vast tracts of evolutionary time our ancestors placed what were eventually to become our genes, into the next generation. These were the ones most successful in dealing with scarcity. Out of this came many ingenious and energy-efficient thrift driven systems to manage scarcity that are now in our modern human brains. We are the inheritors of the legacy of these scarcity genes as we face the challenges posed by a contemporary world of superabundance and convenience created by a super-efficient digital technology.
Perhaps in the contemporary era, we have now moved so far away from the imminent threat of death by starvation that it makes it a particular challenge for all us to “Know Ourselves” and to embrace our early origins in scarcity. We may consider it as largely unimportant and irrelevant. Perhaps it becomes all the more urgent that we do now reconnect to our origins because of the wholly new threats that superabundance brings to our ability to thrive and survive. It seems likely that our successful ancestors operated in a context that in many ways was quite the opposite to the one that most of the human species today has to cope with. However they truly remain our ancestors, the ones whose genes are still to this day within us and still shape the way that our clever brains work. The adaptations that we need to make to deal with such new challenges are going to be most effective if we know what we are working with and exactly where it came from. Perhaps we need to move to the next level of adaptability.
In our hunter-gatherer days of early evolution, food was extremely scarce. We could think of that food potential as a very small pile indeed. In order to get this food into our bellies, to survive and along the way and of course, to better get our genes into the next generation, we evolved a mountainous pile of resourceful movement potential. Engaging with this rich movement potential enabled us to move with great efficiency in our foraging in order to get the very limited food that was available. There are two aspects to the energy/economy equation here: how the energy necessary to hunt and gather the food balances against the energy that is gained when food is consumed after being hunted and gathered. The former part of this equation is hugely important in shaping the way that huge swathes of modern human brains still work. The ‘red-in-tooth-and-claw’ aspects of evolution are uncompromising in their nature. Working to a very fine honed degree, the capacity of our brains to figure out ways of moving that maybe save a mere teaspoon full of energy would improve our efficiency and steadily improve the odds of survival. This would ensure a continual steady improvement in our hunter-gather prowess. Clearly economy of effort would make a vital difference when it came to survival in the inevitable lean times of possible starvation. The seemingly natural grace in the way those natural living peoples move is in no way a happenstance. It comes out of the crucial thrift aspect of economy of effort in movement. It is sheer survival in action!
How once constructive survival mechanisms may become destructive
Fully developed within us are highly sophisticated and refined thrift-driven systems. Consider how they can now “play” in a highly counter-productive way, in the contemporary world of superabundance. As this unfolds it becomes clear how vital systems that once helped our evolutionary ancestors to survive, have today become a source of the very opposite: in many instances these survival mechanisms are destructive and are killing us in droves. They could even spell the end of our existence as a species!
Superabundance has certainly created a 360° turnaround such that it is now crucially very often going against how our evolved human nature was once facilitated to thrive and survive. The contemporary situation has swapped around the ancient evolutionary scenario of a huge pile of movement potential alongside a tiny pile of food. We now face the opposite problem: there is now a huge mountain of food before us and alongside it a rapidly dwindling tiny pile of movement potential. This is almost inevitable in our “Blender-Smoothies” world of convenience fast-food. In this weirdest of turnarounds we have now become neurotically anxious about the excess of food consumed and then, we buy into often very expensive and usually tedious exercise systems to burn off the excess calories. This endless cycle of consumer-driven neediness is clearly a complete turnaround from our early evolution! It no longer crucially matters that we move with great economy and efficiency to get scarce food. In fact we don’t often even have to move at all! Press this button on your smart phone for fast instant access to a pizza delivery! There is a double killer “whammy” here because our survival also ensured there we evolved systems that encouraged us to ‘binge’ on food sources in times of plenty. Over vast periods of evolutionary time we evolved clever physiological solutions for storing-up energy in the form of fat in order to survive the future impending possibility of starvation.
Contemporary difficulties are even further confounded by the way that important aspects of these highly evolved thrift systems also make us a naturally quite lazy creature: we are prone to follow the lines of least resistance. It simply conserves energy that way! At one time it would have been crucially important to not squander energy unnecessarily and to rest-up whenever circumstances would allow. Clearly it would be important to save that energy so that it can be later more efficiently employed to hunt and gather the slender resource of food-energy available. In a world of mouse clicking and button pressing convenience, the lines of laziness and least resistance no longer enhance but may seriously threaten our potential to thrive and survive.
Atomization of the individual ego in an odourless and contactless world
During the formative phases of our evolution that shaped the way that our modern brains still work, we were at all times in close touching and smelling distance of one another in a small community of other human beings. In a touch-rich world of physically close proximity to other people, a touching distance is also a blow-striking distance. This alone would act as a tempering restraint to vindictive expressions of aggression. It is quite possible in the touch-rich world of our ancestors that while there would almost certainly often be circumstances when an individual feels malevolent and vindictive, they would wisely temper its open expression – in fear of the fist that is only striking distance away might react by bashing your face! It would seem that unrestrained expressions of vehemence, malevolence and aggression have increased exponentially when permitted free expression in a contactless and touch-free online world. This seems to be so even in the generally more polite liberal minded world of the Guardian’s newspaper online chat forums. Across-the-board, levels of crude and malicious verbal aggression have massively increased in Internet culture.
Alliances made in touching and smelling distance
In the smell-rich and touch-rich world of our early evolution we would continually be involved in forming and reforming alliances with others. This would naturally be modulated in a world of physically close proximity. Once again at the top of the list of priorities would be those alliances that best upped your mating opportunities in order to enable your genes to enter into the next generation. The other end of a driven need to be liked and to be accepted is an overarching and very real fear of rejection and abandonment. In a naturally living small group to be cast out and abandoned by the community is tantamount to a certain death sentence. Even if it was possible to survive, it is obviously highly unlikely in that circumstance, that you pass your genes onto the next generation. The unsociable and rejected individuals are unlikely to be your ancestors! The scenario that this reveals suggests that there are highly evolved and powerful systems in modern human brains that still carefully create and monitor successful alliances. We are still motivated by an intense fear of rejection. This helps to up the odds of getting your genes into the next generation. If contactless online sex is really the shape of the future then that indeed might put an end to sociability passing through the generations – or come to think about it, anything else for that matter, passing through human generations.
If the social parts of our brains have indeed been shaped in this way then we may consider some of the implications for how we operate in an odourless and contactless, touch free Internet world. In this cyber-world incidentally, there is no longer any authentic reality of rejection or abandonment – of the sort that results in near certain death. However, we are very likely to behave as if it did! Bear in mind that while operating in this smell-free, touch-free world we are devoid of the rich and largely subconscious inputs associated with close face-to-face human proximity. In a world that has no authentic, beating living human heart, it comes as no surprise the ease with which we become manipulated to become neurotically and obsessively anxious for example, to increase the number of Facebook ‘friends’. We become crazy to distraction: preoccupied with counting digital ‘likes’ and thumbs up emoticons. The time and preoccupation spent isolated and alone with social media is time not spent in the close touching and communing distance of another living, warm human being. Perhaps the unconscious heartfelt loss drives a human being to desperately try to make-up in digital quantity what has been lost in analogue quality! This ego- driven neediness is ruthlessly manipulated on the modern day Internet.
There is something so resonant of our early evolution in the very word “contact”. The word “contact “means ‘with’ (“con”) ‘touch’ (“tact” as in tactile). How strange that in a world that so easily passes around huge amounts of information and communication, there is no real human con-tact: it is a touch free world. The heartedness of loving, authentic communion between human beings has gone. Its leaves an unacknowledged and aching loss such that the sound that most echoes and reverberates around Cyberspace is a plaintive human cry: “What is Love?”
Recently an archaeological forensic pathologist studying skulls of our very early ancestors suggested that the brain of our ancestor seemed to have a much greater developed olfactory area than might be found in a modern brain and skull. This could suggest that perhaps our primitive human ancestor had a highly refined smell-sense. Perhaps it enabled them to smell fear, to scent the trust and love in a fellow human being. Certainly it is a now well known fact repeatedly verified by modern science that this most ancient and instinctive of senses, smell is far and away the best and unerring way to select the mate that best matches your healthiest genetic profile. What then does this suggest about the effectiveness of online dating? It is certainly easy to imagine that such instinct-led olfactory ways of reading the motives of another human being would also form a quite important dimension of the effectiveness of our alliance making. In our everyday language we often refer to the deeply instinctive nature of smell as the gateway to intuition: “I somehow smelt a rat”. Perhaps it is quite appropriate if we consider that there might be “something fishy” about a digitally created odourless and contactless world. Without this ancient instinctive sense to guide us we become perhaps, that little bit more gullible, cut adrift from our instincts in Cyberspace, on the Internet that has become such a modern breeding ground for criminally suspicious and sinister crooks, fraudsters and conmen.
Prurience and Plenty inside the Genie-in-the-Lamp
It seems reasonable to consider that we have evolved systems that have enabled us to survive in a world of scarcity. It also seems to make sense that we never needed to develop and evolve systems to deal with abundance. How we are likely to deal with abundance is by gorging, by bingeing on more of it! However it seems that the more we feed the beast of desire the more voraciously hungry for more, more, more, it becomes. It simply does not have a stop rule.
In the world of superabundance we have a problem: an itch that the more we scratch the itchier it becomes. There is a word that in its origin has just this meaning of an itch that when scratched becomes even itchier. This key word is “prurience”. In modern usage it has taken on particular reference to lascivious and lustful sexual interest. It is an apt use of the word especially with regard to the prevalence of pornography on the Internet. The individuals who operate and make money from pornographic sites cynically use prurience to draw hapless people into buying more and more explicit material. Once again: the beast of desire is only briefly satisfied before it wants more and more. It will always require the proliferation of more and yet more- just to achieve the same waning levels of sexual satisfaction.
An itch that when scratched becomes ever itchier!
The word “prurience” could perhaps usefully and insightfully be widened out from its narrow focus on sexual behaviour. In doing so if could also reclaim its original Latin meaning of the process of an insatiable itch. In this way we could see just how much the creators of the Internet use prurience to get people to become less self-reliant and more and more needy: to buy more, to need more and more in an endless cycle of consumption. This works so effectively because in a world of superabundance we work on the unchallenged prurient principal that more will somehow make us better and eventually more satisfied. It doesn’t! In fact our ego-desires are quite insatiable. A consumer driven world knows this and sets out highly effectively, to manipulate us to need more and more. It is simply a highly efficient way of making money and it works along much the same lines as the murkier moneymaking prurient business of pornography.
Stopping the downward vortex of proliferation and prurience
Unless we are able to reconnect to where we have come from in the world of scarcity, then we are inevitably drawn precipitously further into a prurient downward spiral. The vortex works something like this: the more we are drawn into the world of convenience: along the lines of lazy least resistance, the more entranced we are by the easy and convenient possibility that: “you’re only a mouse click away…” and the… less we move. The downward vortex increases now because the less we move the less likely we are to come face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder into a ‘live’ contact or encounter with another human being. The more this happens the more convinced we become that actually we no longer have any need for such interactions anyway. Predominantly all that matters is that we can service our self-indulgent ego-needs and lusts. While this digital world of the Internet purports to connect people together, in fact it often creates quite the opposite: an atomised world composed of isolated individuals lost in own individual echo-chambers of self-involved self-expressiveness. In this hollow digital world of the individual there is no need of the Collective or of any cooperative action in a real world of genuine con-tact. Yes there is communication aplenty – but without contact. In this digital space there is no touching distance between human beings. This is a loss that unconsciously drives us deeper into the cycle of more has to be the solution. A self-indulgent prurience drives the vortex further downward into a madness of distraction that might eventually spell our ultimate destruction. Perhaps subconsciously we are driven by a deep sub-conscious sense of loss of the sensory richness and sociability of our evolutionary origins. Perhaps this loss drives us even more to think that more must be the solution – but this can never be the solution because it has now become the problem. Feeding the beast of the desire is never going to satisfy. It will only make the beast more voracious because it has no stop-rules – it never had to evolve any! However, now it does! To be able to see the true human potential in the Internet and cyberspace, we need to urgently develop the Right-Priority to reconnect and reclaim a lost innerness and innocence.
Until we stop the downward spin of this dangerous downward vortex, until we pullback and reconnect to where we have evolved from, then we can only become further deeply lost in the downward vortex of proliferation and the attendant cycle of discontent and dissatisfaction. We are caught-up in an exceptionally neurotic cycle of suffering and anxiety in which we endeavour to make up in digital quantity what it is that we have lost in analog quality. There is no way out of this Matrix. For the first time in human history we have come close to realising the fabulous tale of the Genie-in-the-lamp. It seems sure that the genie will get progressively more and more clever in coming up with more ingenious ways to fulfil:” Your wish is my instant command”. However technologically clever the Genie becomes it will never be able to answer the inner question: “What is love”? To appreciate the futility here requires that the Right Priority to be established. A powerful telescope becomes a transformative instrument when placed to the Seeing Inner Eye.
Transcendence: The Love and Courage to change
There is a Right Priority possibility of transcendence which, if realised might enable us to look back in the future on the Internet Period of our human development as a crucial epoch that proved to humankind once and for all, that there is no human happiness and fulfilment to be found in feeding the voracious beast of ego-desire. Only by our creating a real Genie in the Lamp, does it become possible to prove that happiness and contentment are not to be found in fulfilling ego-desires. The endpoint of prurience is to be driven closer to the edge of the abyss, driven to distraction by the madness of the Itch! The optimistic hope and a seed of potential transformation are present within us all. It has evolved from our hunter-gatherer origins in the form of a profoundly human capacity to hold back, not to scratch. Perhaps our salvation lies in a scarcity-led capacity hammered into our genes to bear discomfort.
In one major transformational moment in our evolution instead of running away in fear from fire, we turned in great curiosity towards the flames. This must have taken one huge-hearted act of Courage. By conquering the fear of fire we were uniquely able to tame its great power. There is a second universally recognised great quality of the heart: Love. How resonant it is that the Internet rings with a deeply human question about its nature. Perhaps the next profound transformational phase for humanity will occur when we first turn towards and then tame the fiery dragon of ego-driven desire. Might we then fully realise the potential and power of Right Priority. Perhaps we then may together answer the Number One question to which the Internet cannot ‘engineer’ an answer: What is Love?