Sunday, 13 October 2013

Thoughts on technology and the evolution of political, cultural, social and religious forms (Part 4)

Part 3

Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities notes that the great religions (Buddhism, Christianity, etc.) began their decline in influence at exactly the same time that nationalism and the modern scientific paradigm began to gain influence. He also notes that books led to the standardization of knowledge and the creation of a world of the imagination in which people could live by themselves. These developments led to the formation of nation states, the concept of citizenship and equal rights, and the modern educational system.

William Bernstein in Masters of the World speculates about the interaction between new technologies and the interpretation of spiritual experience:
…the temporal and geographic connection between the alphabet and monotheism in Egypt-Palestine during the middle of the second millennium [before the Common Era] may be more than coincidence. What might tie them together? The notion of a disembodied, formless, all-seeing, and ever-present supreme being requires a far more abstract frame of mind than that needed for the older plethora of anthropomorphized beings who oversaw the heavenly bodies, the crops, fertility, and the seas. Alphabetic writing requires the same high degree of abstraction and may have provided a literate priestly caste with the intellectual tools necessary to imagine a belief system overseen by a single disembodied deity. Whatever the reason, Judaism and the West acquired their God and their Book.
Along these lines, it is possible to consider a relationship between the use of zero as a place holder in Indian mathematics and the emptiness of all experience as formulated in Mahayana Buddhism.

Such speculation raises the question of what political, cultural and social structures and religious forms might evolve from the ubiquitous, ever-present yet disembodied connections and simulations that have arisen from digital technologies.

To be continued.....