All Thumbs

All Thumbs


It is said that in nature there are no right-angles. Which is probably why when humans could start making right-angles with their opposable digits (“she stood there looking dumb, with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an ‘L’ on her forehead”…), things started to go all wrong. Then we started picking up things. And hitting things with things. And hitting each other with things. And we started making things with right-angles, and developed intricate ways of explaining how to make things with right-angles, etc., etc.

Might we say, then (not being the first, of course!), that opposable digits are the cause of our technological advancement — of the evolution of humanity? (NB Are these the same thing? And should we throw “progress” into the mix as well?) And is technology, or simply “tools,” then what separates us, literally, from the rest of God’s Creation? And, by extension, is technology at the heart of our estrangement from our roots, from the planet, from our fellow creatures, from what is organically “us”?

Viviane Reding says ICT is the solution to the environmental crisis. I’m questioning here whether technology — and our obsession with it (where does that come from anyway?!) — is in fact _not_ the key to achieving so-called “sustainable development,” but actually the largest single contributor to creating the sustainability problem we now face. Or maybe it is both.

Think of the graphic metaphors from the writings of JRR Tolkien:  It seems much (most?) of our misery arises from this obsession with technology-driven consumption — expending natural resources to churn things out of the earth that we consume to make our human lives “better”… Or is this a simple case of materialism/consumerism driven by the “financial industrial complex”?

In the case of “technology,” or ICT at least, one may argue that there are no particular actors (except ALL of us, as it’s “just dna”) behind the evolution to today….  The finance industry, certainly has players and “vested interests,” however, whose position has only strengthened through the cycles of boom and bust over the past one hundred years. And it is certainly in the interest of these players that humans continue to borrow money, buy things, consume them, borrow more money, buy more things, etc.

I am still not certain.

Nonetheless, the dilemma remains.  On the one hand: Technology may be the key to a sustainable future for Mother Earth and all her Inhabitants. (=Thumbs Up.) On the other hand: Technology, and its increasing encroachment upon our lives in the tiniest level of detail, may be a self-perpetuating leviathan of destruction that has brought us to disastrous disharmony with our surroundings and will inevitably force us over The Edge. (=Thumbs Down.)

It is this, the “Sustainability/Technology Paradox,” that I would like to explore on this blog. I will post information about what the different parties to this discussion in Brussels — policy-makers, consumers, NGOs, industry — have to say. I’ll try to make my own observations on the course of the discourse. And of course (!), I welcome feedback from anyone out there wishing to contribute to the dialogue. I, personally, am only a new-comer to the table — and like all Americans at an elegant, European dinner — I risk being “all thumbs.”