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Why is wisdom so far from today’s tech-savvy being?

By Barrack Muluka | February 6th 2021

We live in the most technologically advanced age in the history of humankind. Nearly everywhere, people walk around with the world in their pocket. There has never been a time like this in the history of knowledge. Nor in the knowledge of history.

A little computer chip in your smartphone has revolutionised the world. We are linked with everyone who cares, everywhere, through a worldwide web (www) of computers. Even Marshall McLuhan would find it a little confounding that his wild dream of a global computer network in the 1960s is a sterling lived reality in the 2020s.

All the great works of Literature, Theology, Philosophy, Science and Technology are within our grasp, through the simple touch of a button. We are the foremost beneficiaries of the genius of humankind, across the ages.  You can read Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and the entire works of Shakespeare online.

Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum is waiting for you online, as are Einstein’s laws of physics. We have grown technology apace, and continue to do so by daily instalments. It is mind-boggling to fathom where the world will be fifty years from now. 

Yet the Age of Information and Communication Technology is also one of the most primitive in the entire history of primitivity and primitivity of history. While history sits only a button away, our interest in it, and knowledge of it, remain rudimentary in the extreme. Hence the insurrections and atrocities of gone ages are never too far. 

Annihilation of the global civilisation itself is only a button away. We are told that there exist authorised individuals with formulas that only require a touch on a couple of buttons to freeze the sun. They can throw the world into the final winter that will end all life forever. 

That is how complex world civilisation has become. The paradox is we have developed our technological environment while developing very little of ourselves. To paraphrase Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the technological means by which we live have outstripped the humanity for which we should live. 

At the core, the human essence remains crude. It is easily rankled and ruled by wild instincts. It is ready to engage the gears of violence at the slightest provocation. What is the use of all our knowledge, if it fails to refine us, as human beings? Where is the refined beneficiary of science and technology?

How can human beings steadily advance their technology but fail to develop themselves? We have fabricated machines that can zoom us into outer space. We have dwarfed the distance between the planets. But we have failed to equally dwarf the distance between human minds and hearts.  For all our education, we still don’t know how to increase kindness and happiness in the world.  Hence even the richest man in the world goes through daily moments of extreme anger and unhappiness. The most powerful man in the universe spends each waking hour with the alarm bells of fear at the back of his mind.  

The most potent energy that rules the world is fear of the unknown. Merchants of fear know that fear is a most powerful feeling. Dictators and terrorists alike thrive on planting fear into populations. They turn the will of the people howsoever they wish. Hence Parliaments in nations all over the world are in the main useless rubber stamps for ruling classes. But the rulers are themselves afraid, too. You just need to look at the security cordons around them to know that these people live in mortal fear. It is fear of their rivals, known and unknown, and fear of the people they rule. 

From primitive skirmishes at burials in rural places, involving people called honourables, to insurrections in legislative places in the Americas, the alphabet is the same. It is the alphabet of the underdeveloped human being. Irrational instincts dominate the rational faculty. In the circumstances, our technology only gives us false confidence against our adversaries. Throughout the history of fear, the most technologically advanced age is also the most afraid generation. 

We are afraid of strangers and family members alike. Even people believed to be in love are afraid of those they say they love. They turn murderous weapons against them in sudden storms of passion. We wake up daily to shocking narratives of murder in families and in romantic circles. Elsewhere, we wake up to slayings and slaughters of people, in the name of God. Daily statistical news of human beings killed in cocktails of mass murders don’t rattle us anymore, everywhere in the world. They are just that – statistics. 

Leading global thinkers of our day, like Farid Zakaria, have made the case for liberal education. The need to civilise the human being was never more urgent than it is today. It is illogical to develop infrastructure without developing the human being. The greatest gap in global development today is the gap between scientific development and human development. 

The world degenerates steadily towards a society of angry ignoramuses with fingers on nuclear arsenal. The need for a refined liberal education is obvious. As Zakaria says, “We are drowning in information, while starving in wisdom.” The global community needs to reboot liberal education. 

-The writer is a strategic public communications adviser

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