Manufacturing and controlling fire was one of the earliest technologies invented by the Sapiens and propelled them to supremacy among the Homo orders of primates. With this supremacy came the responsibility of handling this power with utmost sincerity. Agni the “God of Fire” became the centrepiece of Aryan culture. With blessings of “Lord Agni” a large part of uninhabitable lands were brought under the habitation of Sapiens’, whereby civilization could thrive and flourish, propelling forward the onset of trade and agrarian economy. While the lord of Fire continued to hold its importance, it was Indra the God who controlled rain and weather, who catapulted to Supremacy as humanity’s needs evolved with ages. While we do not know if there was a technology that could control weather; it is definite that social customs and practices were established using Indra’s worship, to propel the prosperity of agrarian civilization. While Indra and Agni were supreme lords, we had Gods and goddesses that cured us from diseases, provided us safe navigation paths and enabled our success in wars and conquests. That’s why we designated the gods as Yantras, in the spiritual philosophy of Tantra- MantraYantra.
Yantras were instruments and they were never to be used callously but rather through the invocation of Mantras conceived through theorems of Tantra. This discipline assured a regulated framework for usage of several technologies. Vedic rishis were conscious of technology’s evils and the Vedas had strict doctrines for invoking fire and conducting Yagnas, so as not to promulgate its misuse which may lead to accidental consequences to the utter peril of humanity. Not only macro rituals of fire but even personal rituals such as using weapons and learning a new lesson on any subject needed invocation of Mantra which would put sense of purpose and responsibility into the mind of anyone learning and using the technology.
We have come a long way from the Vedic age and with time the science around most of the Vedic techniques have been forgotten and what remained were the rituals, eventually dogmatising them into strict customs dictated through blind faith and superstitions. The scientific revolution in the post-renaissance period has empowered us with technologies so powerful that it prompted one of the most talented minds of the 19th century to declare that “God is dead and he remains dead”. Nietzsche’s statement was not to diminish the significance of God but it rather had a tone of despair as he wondered what would be the new moral compass of humanity in the wake of technologies that are killing our traditional Gods. With the scale of industrialization in 19th century coupled with the modern concepts of gravity, evolution and psychoanalysis, God was but redundant in dictating the course of modern civilization. This was largely a western conjecture as western societies were disrupted the most by industrialization. Across the world, In the two millennia’s post Christ, morality’s grip over religion strengthened so firmly that the associated technologies were relegated into the realms of miracle and fantasies, unlike the Vedic age where new verses were added in sync with societies modernization through human endeavour and cognition.
Today technology is omnipresent and tools to deploy technology are all-pervasive and available at our fingertips. It is ridiculous to think of invoking mantras while hailing a cab or ordering our food, however, it would be too presumptuous to dismiss the constant insecurity that mankind faces with technology. It is not uncommon to see driver’s praying at the steering wheel before starting to drive and passenger’s thanking god after the safe landing of a flight. Despite the tremendous progress that medical science has made, most modern hospitals have a prayer room. God is remembered the most during events where outcomes are uncertain and consequences are grave. While God’s role in directing modern technology is inconsequential, new ideologies have replaced old religions in determining the methods for technology’s usage. Ideologies of liberalism, free-trade, efficient markets, are in essence religions erected for effective deployment of innovation and chartering the course of scientific progress. Today, national constitutions are the new scriptures and Government regulations are the new festivals of atonement. In 18th century gun laws were liberalized in the West citing freedom of the individual, however, the consequences of what it would mean if private enterprises start building nuclear weapons are hard to fathom and thus the government has a set of regulation to direct nuclear technology. In the coming decades, space technology will largely move out of government’s sphere and will be dealt at wholesale level in the industry, fortunately space and medical technologies are strictly scrutinized and any innovation has to pass through a stringent approval process. In contrary innovation in financial and Hi-Tech sector have largely been less regulated. Time and time again champion of free markets have quoted Hayek, Freidman and Ayn Rand to reason why regulations would kill efficiency and innovation. This is highly counter-intuitive as innovations across domains (including internet, space, medicine and renewable energy) are largely enabled by public money, and yet it is the free market which should be led to decide the outcome of these technologies. This is a paradox that needs to be resolved immediately before systemic risks catapults a series of unfortunate events in the guise of technological progress. Be it cryptocurrencies, social media or mobile apps both creators and users should be bound by a faith of benevolent conduct. Imposing such conducts are out of bounds for state regulations, neither can they be infused through any religion or messiahs. This is where technology of today needs a new spiritual order that interweaves its usage with human consciousness. Scientific progress has been a big blessing and has helped the modern civilization to dispel many myths around the Universe and Nature. Let us hope that a new techno spiritual order synthesizes harmony between human well-being and innovation. God isn’t dead, not quite yet. A purpose is needed to be socially responsible and the resurrection is imminent.
Dwaipayan Chakraborty is a business consultant with EYGlobal and an alumnus of IIM Shillong