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When we live in an artificial world, we ourselves become artificial. Is convenience worth it?

We are surrounding ourselves more and more with artificial lighting, artificial transportation, artificial activity, artificial appearance etc. It seems as though we are trying to completely disconnect ourselves from natural realities because they are uncomfortable at times and inconvenient to our immediate pursuit of a pleasant sensation.

It also seems that we have reached a point where a lot of us think that we are different from nature, perhaps because some people have spent their whole lives without spending a moment in an un-manicured forest. We are completely interconnected with the rivers, mountains, forests, oceans etc. Without their existence, we cannot exist. If we find an absurd way through science to exist without nature, I am assured it will not be a life worth living. Therefore, Our mental and physical well being directly depends on our interaction with nature.

Any thoughts?

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    Mar 10 2014: So, would you also advocate for the elimination of solitary confinement in prisons? Especially for juveniles. We are at least able to see nature from our windows, walk outdoors, and breath fresh air.

    For obvious reasons, the voices of children jailed in solitary cells are rarely heard. But there are signs that government leaders are listening to a rising chorus of voices of citizens protesting the cruelty of locking up kids in jail cells for nearly every hour of the day.

    Prison isolation fits the definition of torture as stated in several international human rights treaties, and thus constitutes a violation of human rights law. For example, the U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any state-sanctioned act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for information, punishment, intimidation, or for a reason based on discrimination.
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    W. Ying

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    Mar 1 2014:
    We are self-deceiving.
    We are making invalid happiness.
    Invalid happiness leads us to humankind self-extinction.
  • Mar 9 2014: It is boring at the top of the food chain. Boredom is why we move away from nature. Boredom is why we will re-embrace it; if there is anything left by that time.
  • Mar 6 2014: One could argue that man has always lived in an artificial environment, changed to make life easier. The creation of clothes, housing, transportation (horses, mules, camels). I believe man creates an "artificial" environment to allow the species to continue to expand and grow, also make living easier. Growing grain crops instead of gathering wild grain is an definitely an artificial environment.

    where do you draw the line?
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      • Mar 10 2014: Interesting, I am a little more optimistic of cities - and I know some of the worst. Taught a special class in the south bronx, bedford-sty, and several others during the summer. I have hope.
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    Mar 4 2014: Hi Brian,
    Thank you for your reply. Some points spring to mind.

    (1). Technology is neither good nor bad; but neither is it neutral. The idea that "Technology is neutral" (and therefore that its impact merely depends on good/bad uses) is too simplistic. Technology is an extension of human power, and built into every technology is the designer's mind (briefed by those paying for it) as to what the new piece of technology is to be designed for. How many other uses can you find for guided missiles, for example? An exhibit in a sculpture park perhaps?

    (2). Individual technologies tend to coalesce into a "technological system" (as we can see with the development of the internet). They also bring unexpected surprises (sometimes dismissed as "mere side effects"). Take for example the idea of a "horseless carriage". The first car rolls out of the inventor's workshop as a marvel to behold and then soon becomes a status symbol to own. Then it becomes an aspiration for the masses (with Henry Ford). But this means the need to develop a network of roads, petrol-stations and the petro-industry. The "horseless carriage" then becomes a legal entity to regulate & tax its use, then an economic reality supplying many jobs, a social reality of commuting to work from housing estates, then a political reality as an industry to be protected, a military reality in the fight for oil supplies, and now an environmental reality as a pollutant to be reduced. Did the guy who first thought of the horseless carriage envisage all that? I doubt it. The same will happen with the internet; and our lives will have to become "integrated" with it as our "new technological nature".

    (3). There are many approaches to "know thyself" on offer. One of my favourites is "There is nothing wrong with you" by Cheri Huber. Also, about 6 months from now hopefully, look up
    • Mar 5 2014: Hi Joshua

      Thanks for your knowledge and perspective. I enjoy your factual approach to the topic.

      I am a little biased on the topic as I have lived in pure natural surroundings as well as in cities surrounded by artificial design. I have found a deeper sense of inner peace and happiness in the natural surroundings. Through my experience, I have observed that it is easier to get to know thyself in a quieter and more still environment. As it is more quiet and there is not as much to distract ourselves in a natural environment, we eventually have to come face to face with any turmoil inside us. In an artificial environment, we can just turn on the TV or listen to music when we feel a disturbance and discomfort inside us. Thus, we continue to pile up turmoil "garbage" inside of us and become an "explosive garbage truck" waiting to dump it all on the next person or object that pushes the right, or wrong, button.

      To know ourselves, I believe we must face and mindfully let go of the turmoil inside us. It seems to me, that the majority of the people living in the cities are using the artificial surroundings in an attempt to escape their turmoil within, some might be aware of it, some might not be aware. I guess this all brings me to the question: Is it worth putting our planet at risk for convenience and a pursuit of diverting discomfort? when facing discomfort might actually be our gateway to peace and happiness.

      This is my perspective at the moment. Happy for feedback
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        Mar 5 2014: Hi Brian,

        I live in rural Portugal, where people live off the land and my neighbour has a donkey and cart (well, other neighbours have cars, so do I - so it's mixed). England got too hectic for me, even though I lived by the sea in far south-west Cornwall, already far away from the city - so I appreciate the need for connecting with nature, and disconnecting from the artificial built-environment razzmatazz.

        My approach is that the only world I can change is my inner one - which I consider a fairly radical approach to life. I am aware too that the direct "hands-on" approach is also valid (as Gandhi said, some people are so poor that God comes to them in the form of bread). So I'm all for engagement with the world, but only from a centred inner strength (and not from unprocessed fear/guilt/shame).

        Meanwhile, growing your own potatoes and carrots is certainly not convenient, especially when half of them get eaten by slugs; but despite the upsurge of "city gardening", it won't provide enough food.
        I agree with your point about distraction, and the dangers of keeping the lid on unprocessed stuff. It seems that most people will do just about anything, except "grow up, psychologically and spiritually" - but as you have pointed out, therein lies the personal challenge of going through the inner discomfort-zone first before we are relatively free enough of our stuff to engage with the world without dumping.

        I am a great advocate of developing a sense of "enoughness", in terms of material goods and the striving for more. This is where the inner journey (know thyself) comes to the fore again; the more we know ourselves, the more we sense we already have everything within ourselves; and the less the appeal of materialism; hence the less negative impact on the planet. And if the ultimate aim is inner peace, contentment and happiness anyway, then this is independent of material goods and palliative distractions - as an authentic inner journey will eventually reveal to us.
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    Mar 2 2014: Hello Brian,
    To some extent we could consider the "artificial" world the new natural world. They share certain similar characteristics such as uncertainty, ever-changing, dependency, and we relate to these aspects in a similar way (fear of, enjoyment of, dependency on, etc).
    You say "Our mental and physical well being directly depends on our interaction with nature." Partly true. It also depends on our interaction with the new artificial nature we have made (as outlined above) but more important our well-being depends on our own approach to handling 21st century 'nature' (both artificial and natural). In this respect, "know thyself" is probably the most secure basis and powerful way with which to deal contemporary life.
    • Mar 4 2014: Hi Joshua

      Thanks for sharing a more balanced perspective on the situation. I also believe that our well being depends on how we interact with, or perceive the outside world, and not depending on the outside world itself. However, i have a concern that if the majority of people use the inteligence and conveinence of our 21st century nature to fuel greed and selfish desire, we might not have our original nature or human race for much longer. Our artificial tools to create conveinence seem to becoming destructive to our earth, which is a necessary link to sustaining our life, to say the least.

      I guess the next question is how can we collectively approach our 21st century nature with the intent of selfless goodwill and harmony for all beings? These might be questions for another conversation, but do you also have any ideas on how to help ourselves and others "know thyself"?
  • Mar 1 2014: Define "artificial" in a non-arbitrary fashion, and I could answer that.
    • Mar 2 2014: Hey Bryan
      Thanks for joining the conversation. Are you suggesting that I am being arbitrary with the question? If so the definition of artificial is: made by human skill, imitated, forced and simulated. In terms of putting this term into an "artificial world" it implies that we are creating imitaded, simulated and forced souroundings by means of our human skill. In terms of "we ourselves become artificial" it implies that we are imitating, simulating and forcing ourselves to be something other than genuine and real.

      I hope i read into your reply properly and look forward to more of a discussion
  • Feb 28 2014: What's wrong with artificial?
    My nature as a human being dictates that I get sick, have to go through hell to get replacement parts when something breaks down (when they're available at all), and eventually I grow old and die. Not to mention that I can't see in the dark, can only communicate as far as my voice will carry, and can't go any faster then the capacity of my natural and limited legs.

    You don't have to live with everything nature gives you. Some of it is in dire need of replacement.
    Natural doesn't always equate to good.
    • Mar 1 2014: Hi Nadav. Thanks for replying and sharing your perspective.

      My ultimate goal in life is to create happiness and peace inside and around me. My observations have proven to me that unpleasent situations/sensations are unavoidable in life. I have also noticed that the drive to change things outside of myself for the pursuit of a temporary pleasent sensation causes my mind to take advantage/minipulate others which results in suffering in the other person and in myself aswell. Therefore i have found that learning to change my relationship/accept outside situations and sensations inside is more productive work toward peace and happiness than trying to manipulate outside conditions (creating artificial environment)