Isaac Asimov is a celebrated Science Fiction writer whose books are very popular even with school children. The quote “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” expresses his delusions with the erosion in human values. Progress of science has always been looked upon with skepticism by many, giving rise to such debates as, whether science is a boon or bane. It is not science and technology that need to be blamed but the vices in human nature, of greed and of the urge to dominate over others. With the deterioration in human values the world over, while the world becoming a global village, a serious introspection is the need of the hour. Without true wisdom, in our quest for reaching for the planets we shall be losing our souls.
The Icarus Agenda
There is a Greek mythological story about Icarus who devised a means to fly by making artificial wings made out of bird feathers and wax. When he flew over the oceans, he was so overtaken by the joy and sense of power of flying that he flew higher and closer to the sun. The wings stuck together by was melted due to the heat and he fell on the ocean to his death. This story shows the ambitious and self-centered nature of human beings and their inability to put self-gratification under check.
The story of King Midas, though not based on science or technology, has a similar message to convey. The question is, are we wise and selfless enough to use the boon of science for the good of humanity as whole? The answer so far always point to selfish and self-serving use of science. Having wisdom can tell us what is good for us in the long-run.
The Idea of Patents and Intellectual Property
The whole idea of patents and rights are based on monopolistic exploitation of science. Agreed that scientific discoveries costs a lot of resources, but then sheer commercialization for the gain of few is again an anathema to the pursuit of knowledge.
Think of the companies that genetically modify food crops and then sell these terminator seeds. These seeds can only produce crops once and cannot be used for propagating or sowing again. What if the world is depleted of the original food crops? The coming generation cannot raise rice or wheat or other crops unless they buy seeds from these companies. The drug companies which discover new drug molecules sell their patented formulations at exorbitant prices, even if millions of poor die each year due to their inabilities to buy these costly medicines. Where is the wisdom in having such restricted alternatives?
Now the issue is coming down to drinking water. Very soon people will not be able to access drinking water unless they buy it. The water available for the human race has in fact, been made unfit for human consumption by these very industries which came up with the development of science and technology.
What the World has come to Now
Today we have mobiles and video calling, but hardly any time to talk with our near and dear ones. We have luxurious houses and bedrooms but we lack peaceful sleep. We stay in wonderful beautiful neighborhoods but we do not know the names of our neighbors. We feel sad that our children are drifting away, yet we never had any time for our parents. We order expensive foods from fine restaurants which are unable to eat and a few blocks away some homeless destitute may be sleeping on an empty stomach.
The irony of our time is that science has made the world shrink to a global village, but the distance between human beings is increasing at a faster rate. Even members of a family are now becoming strangers. Only true wisdom can liberate humanity from such self-destructive end.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah