The more I research the more I realise how much more there is to research. Through the books and papers I have been reading I have been getting more familiar with which parts of the brain are pertinent to the subject of meditation and EEG Mirrors. Recently another extremely interesting avenue of investigation has come to my attention.
Up to this point I have been focusing on the benefits of meditation, it’s ability to make us more creative, more focused and less anxious. Recently I have been reading more about the things that can, if we are not careful, make us less creative, less focused and more anxious. A word as ancient as it is pertinent, our technology.
Early in the fourth century BC a relatively new technology was all the rage, writing. Not everyone was totally convinced this was a good thing, Plato recorded his thoughts into the form of a story when he wrote Phaedrus. In it Socrates tells a story of ancient Egypt, where the God Theuth and the King Thamus debate the value of Egyptians learning to write, Thamus worried that its positives did not out weigh the negatives, reasoning that writing will:
“implant forgetfulness in their souls: they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks”
I wonder what King Thamus would make of our current external memory system, the alluring, useful, beautiful and ubiquitous internet.
In a book I recently read ‘The Shallows’ by Nicholas Carr I came across a wealth of interesting information and thinking. It is an, at time alarming, assessment of the effects of our constant interaction and consumption of Multi Media (MM) though our phones, computers, watches etc. Many of us are getting very good at flitting between multiple windows and screens, I may find myself watching a documentary as a work on something with my hands, my phone signals me, I’ll pick it up to I message a friend and end up posting a picture to Instagram.
“The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both our conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively.”
Exactly the same plasticity of the brain that I have been learning about as a positive aspect, when it comes to training the brain to be able to switch into a calm, mediative state, can cause negative, or undesirably strong pathways to form. When we are constantly distracted and targeted by MM we may lose out capacity “to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end”.
I’m not proposing for a minute I want to do away with my devices, I value their strengths, I am grateful for their bounty, for the way they strengthen and extend me. I am certain that without my computer, and its numerous tools, I would not be a designer. I use many complex circles and curves which would be too time consuming for me to calculate, maths was never my strong point! So there is no way I could create my work with out the inbuilt geometry of a 3D program. The complex development of design software in inseparable from other forms of programming software, I am a privileged beneficiary of the technology, economy production loop.
However a powerful tool can be a dangerous thing, I am seeing a clear connection between the potential benefits meditation can bring, and the potential danger senseless and pathological multi media technology consumption can cause.
Mindfulness is key! We can bring balance and control to our technology use, if we apply to same bold and creative thinking that created it. Knowing the dangers and designing new technologies to meet them.
Technology may be the problem, well then, let it be the answer as well.