(KD): You have said that the biggest threat of technology
is not from the apparatus itself but from its corruption of the
What is the major threat of technology against
the human essence?
JEREMY NAYDLER (JN): This is something Heidegger
wrote about in his seminal essay, 'The Question Concerning
He said that technology encourages us to adopt an
instrumental relationship to the world, so we tend to see things
as means to our own ends rather than as ends in themselves.
that becomes our default mode of relating to the world then that
reduces us as human beings.
We lose our reverence for nature, we
lose our openness to the fundamental mystery of existence, and
our sense of the sacredness of life.
Then our hearts become
Rather than living in wonder, we find ourselves cut
off from spirit, and that is how we lose touch with what it
means to be human. This is because to live humanly is at the
very least to live with our hearts open to the mystery of
I would also say that freedom belongs to the human
essence, and the more sophisticated technology gets, the more it
tends to undermine our freedom.
By freedom I mean the capacity
to live by the ideals, aims and values that we have ourselves
adopted, rather than having them imposed on us.
One of the
effects of the technologization of our lives is that we are more
and more hemmed in and forced to conform to a machine-dominated
world, with the result that our ability to act freely is
KD: You seem to imply that technology is opposing the
natural cosmic order or flow of evolution.
In what way is
technology in opposition to the cosmic order?
JN: I wouldn't want to say that all technology places us in
opposition to the cosmic order.
There are many technologies that
don't have the devastating effects that we have seen produced by
more recent technological developments.
It was really with the
scientific and industrial revolutions that we collectively
embarked upon a course that has led to our "falling out of the
Our human activities have increasingly been commandeered
by the power of our modern technologies, and this is because we
have surrendered to an unremittingly instrumentalist attitude,
which tells us that the more efficiently we can exploit nature,
And so our technologies lead us even further into
How can anyone look at what is now occurring in the
world today and not know that we are rebelling against the
cosmic and natural order?
KD: Your own research considers what you call the "shadow sides
Are these 'tech
shadows' in any way representative, or a projection of, our own
JN: When we consider the digital revolution, and the process of
miniaturization that electronic technology has gone through, we
can see how incredibly useful it has been to us.
and the smartphone have become indispensable for most of us, if
we are to function in the contemporary world. But we also need
to see that these technologies play into our weaknesses.
cannot really satisfy our deeper yearnings. Rather, they tend to
distract us away from what is living within ourselves as our
deeper purpose, and instead we fall prey to our more superficial
There is the shadow! Or one of the shadows.
We are all so hungry, but what are we actually hungry for? We
can so easily misunderstand our own inner yearnings.
What is it that will really satisfy us?
think it is the next seductively designed iPhone or smartwatch.
The "feel good" factor of the shiny new device doesn't last
long, because in the end it is just a thing.
And while this
technology certainly enables us to do so much more than we can
do without it, it does not in itself satisfy the deeper hunger
that lives in the soul.
KD: In your most recent book you refer to the "infrastructure of
Would you say that our current
global civilization is shifting into a form of
JN: I fear this is what is happening, and it has been
accelerated in recent months by the way governments all over the
world have responded to the global coronavirus pandemic.
is grave danger that in different countries - even those with
long democratic traditions - citizens become adjusted to living
under a state of emergency that then becomes normalized.
very quickly become habituated to the drastic limitations placed
on our freedom by our governments, under the pretext of
protecting the public from a fatal infectious disease (which it
turns out is not nearly as fatal as at first predicted).
the armory of,
...and so on, is
brought to bear on us.
Because of the global nature of the pandemic, there has been a
degree of harmonization in the responses of governments to it.
Global organizations like,
...are key players
There is now an attempt backed by the
WHO and the UN to create a global legal framework for dealing
with the pandemic.
While this may seem perfectly reasonable, it
makes me feel uneasy. I can foresee a situation in the future
when if you haven't been vaccinated then you will not be
permitted to travel abroad.
And that could well be the least of
what is in store for us.
The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who has been an
outspoken critic of the Italian government's response to the
pandemic, has warned that we are rapidly moving to a situation
in which we may all find ourselves controlled far more
effectively than under any of the old fascist and communist
totalitarian regimes of the mid-twentieth century.
And that is
thanks to the electronic infrastructures that have already been
put in place, and are being constantly upgraded, in so many
countries all over the world.
KD: You also state that the electronic ecosystem will enable
machine-organism hybrids to usurp natural organisms as part of
an extension of human control over nature.
To what extent does
such technology represent a 'replacement of nature'?
JN: I will give you an example, which is not exactly a
machine-organism hybrid, but it is a machine that is mimicking a
living organism and has been designed specifically to take over
the functions of that particular creature.
The creature is the
honeybee, which has suffered an enormous decline over the last
few decades. As it is vital for the pollination of many
different crops, the decline of the honeybee has caused much
There is a great deal of evidence that points to the use of
insecticides, especially neonicotinoids, as adversely affecting
bees, which is hardly surprising given that they are insects!
But bees are also highly electro-sensitive, and many studies
also point to the saturation of the atmosphere with
electromagnetic fields as another significant factor in their
What better solution to the problem of honeybee decline
than to design
a "robot bee" to replace the honeybee?
be susceptible to either of these pollutants, so we can use it
without having to worry about its health or the possibility of
it going extinct, because we will be able to mass produce them.
A robot bee won't sting us either...
Over the last decade various
laboratories around the world, one of which is based at Harvard
in the USA, have been developing different "robobee" designs, to
make an artificial creature that can replace the real one.
But will it make
honey? I don't think so...!
What you see here is the technological mentality aggressively
stepping into nature and, instead of us taking the measures
needed to reduce the threats to the honeybee population, their
plight is seen as an opportunity to make a new commercial
product that will replace them.
This is just one example. It is
by no means the only one, in which technological innovations are
being designed to replace living creatures.
KD: You ask in your book whether people are prepared the make
inner development (the 'inner turn') a part of their life. Is
the 'inner turn' the only way to counteract the encroaching
dominance of technology?
JN: What I notice both in myself and in others, especially since
the use of mobile phones and then smartphones became so
widespread, is that,
they take on the role of "the constant
companion," to whom we turn for comfort and reassurance, almost
as if they are our best friends....
Sherry Turkle wrote a book in
The Second Self, in which she explored the
psychological role of our digital devices, and how we have come
to constantly refer to them.
We can feel our whole lives are
somehow "in them," and as we live our lives online more and
more, if we lose them or they crash it can seem like a
Some people Sherry Turkle interviewed said
that when their device crashed it felt as if they had lost their
lives! It was like a death.
That is why it is so important that we keep making the inner
turn. In the world's sacred traditions, there is the figure of
the inner companion, sometimes pictured as our guardian angel,
or the Sufi "inner friend of the soul," or the Christ within.
Building our relationship to this transcendent inner figure is
an important part of the work of spiritual development.
teaches us to remember that there is a higher level of
ourselves, the "immortal within the mortal person," which we
have to keep trying to connect with.
By no means easy...!
can see how our digital devices can supplant this far more
important task, presenting to us a counterfeit "second self" or
"inner companion" in place of the authentic one.
If we can work
on building up the connection with our true "inner friend," then
we become inwardly strengthened and less beholden to the
KD: You made an intriguing reference to how Rudolf Steiner
regarded electricity as light in a fallen, degraded state. There
is the suggestion here that electricity is to Lucifer what Light
is to the Sacred Source.
Is the enveloping 'electrosmog' a way
to sever humanity's connection to its sacred Source?
JN: Steiner had many extremely interesting things to say about
electricity. And one of them was that it should be regarded as
light in a sub-material state.
That is, it is light that has
fallen below the level of nature, into what he termed "sub-nature."
For this reason he warned us to be very wary of
building our whole culture on the basis of electricity, because
its tendency is to draw us away from nature and to pull us down
One of the purposes of
the rollout of 5G is to strengthen the
"global electronic ecosystem," which our computers, large, small
and tiny, all function within. But the more we live our lives
through our electronic technologies, the more we become
alienated from the natural world.
The electronic ecosystem
becomes a kind of rival to nature's ecosystems, in the sense
that it is the environment in which we spend more and more of
our time, never more so than in these last pandemic months.
if the world we feel most safe in is the world mediated by the
light of computer screens, then,
what happens to our relationship
to sunlight, not to mention the flowers and trees, the wind and
It is important to consider how the light of the computer screen
differs from sunlight.
What lives in sunlight...?
Steiner said it
is the garment of the cosmic Logos.
In saying this, he was
reiterating an old teaching. In the Psalms we find God described
as wrapping around himself a garment of light. I can't go into
this further here. I devote a chapter to it in my book.
will say is that the garment of light that the divine is wrapped
in is not, and simply cannot be, the light that emanates from
the computer screen.
KD: If Artificial Intelligence (AI) and electricity are two
sides of the same phenomenon, then AI could be regarded as a
manifestation of an energy in a 'fallen state'.
consider AI therefore to be a manifestation of what Steiner
the Ahrimanic forces?
JN: When we consider what kind of intelligence is referred to by
the phrase "Artificial Intelligence," it resolves into an
entirely quantitative concept.
It is something entirely
measurable, and it is measured by the number of "calculations
per second" that a machine is able to perform. Computers perform
logical operations extremely fast and can therefore be
programmed to produce any number of different outputs.
give the impression that our machines are incredibly clever,
much cleverer than we are, but this is a type of intelligence
that excludes any real understanding.
They don't really know
what they are doing.
It is intelligence without consciousness.
It is mere cleverness in a meaning-vacuum.
It is totally
What is it, then, that is manifesting in this type of extremely
clever, but utterly cold and soulless intelligence?
say that it is the manifestation of a spiritual being?
what kind of spiritual being could it possibly be?
One way of
answering this is to observe what kind of affect the use of
Artificial Intelligence has on us in our daily lives.
How do you
feel, for instance, when in order to do something online you are
required to enter all these details in dialogue boxes and drop
down menus, and then you have to tick this box and that box, and
prove that you are not a computer by interpreting some illegible
And if you get one single detail wrong, you have to go
back and in some cases start the whole process again. I
personally experience a sense of constraint, as I am forced to
conform to the alien requirements of these algorithms.
like I am encountering something fundamentally anti-human here.
It is in these small everyday experiences of interacting with
this intelligence that we begin to sense the nature of what it
is we are dealing with.
I think it is better not to rush in with
naming it, but rather try to observe as closely as we can what
we are experiencing, as if we are dealing with a person, and
then build up a picture of the "Who?" behind the AI.
personifying in this way, we learn to recognize its signature in
many different aspects of life.
We are constantly encountering
it, and we can see it too in the much bigger trends and
tendencies that are occurring in the world.
KD: You have stated that one of the challenges we face today is
to "overcome our collective de-sensitization to these subtle
What do you mean by this?
JN: Modern urban living has de-sensitized us to nature.
digital revolution has accentuated this.
To attune yourself to
the life-forces in nature, you have to spend a lot of time
outside, in the elements, in different light conditions, in sun
and in rain.
You have to spend time with plants, and in
relationship to the soil, to bugs, to the birds and to countless
other creatures. And much of this time needs to be spent not
Just being open, and open to Being. It is what
Heidegger talked about when he said "openness to Being" defines
the human essence.
Just to be present to what is there. In this
way, we begin to overcome our collective de-sensitization to the
subtle life-forces in nature.
KD: As succinctly as possible, how do you view the short-term
future for humanity and life on this planet?
JN: There's an extremely powerful trend today in which many
human beings are caught up.
Many, it seems, feel they don't
really belong to the planet anymore, and are drawn increasingly
into the new electronic world that has recently announced that
it is an "ecosystem" in its own right!
The implication is that
it can offer a habitat for the human soul. It doesn't require
great insight to see that the more time people spend online, the
more they withdraw their allegiance to the planet.
One of the most powerful symptoms of this withdrawal of
allegiance to the planet is the fantasy of literally abandoning
the Earth and
This fantasy has gripped the
minds of some very rich and influential people, for example the
billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and celebrity scientists like
Brian Cox and the late Stephen Hawking.
It is symptomatic of a
kind of renunciation of our responsibility to the beautiful
Earth on which we live.
I think this inner renunciation has
already taken place for many people, aided and abetted by their
online lives, and this is why the fantasy of abandoning the
Earth and leaving it to its fate seems so attractive.
This points to the crying need to take far more seriously our
responsibility for nature, recognizing that this Earth is where
we as humans belong. It is to this Earth that our primary
loyalty must lie.
To shoulder this responsibility is also to
shoulder the heavy weight of guilt, pain and despair that so
many of us feel when we read, or see images, of the unceasing
devastation that we are collectively inflicting on the Earth and
our fellow creatures.
However, we need to get over the paralyzing effect this has on
us and look to see what we can do to heal nature's wounds.
can join campaigns, of course, sign petitions and try to shop
more carefully, but we should also attend to what is closest to
us, so we stand more firmly on the Earth.
Every garden, every
plot of land, no matter how small or modest, is a point of
contact with nature.
It invites us to tend and care for it, to
help to build up the life-forces in it. And if we don't have a
garden, then we can still make a point of walking in nature,
even if it's the local park, and give our attention to the daily
miracles that abound.
This giving of our attention to nature is
absolutely crucial, because through it we root ourselves in the
Many of us feel trepidation for the future, but this feeling
alone is not particularly helpful.
We need to gather our
strength to meet the future with equanimity and make it our
daily practice to live with positivity and hope.
And we need to
know that the quality of our consciousness of nature is in
itself a gift that each of us can bestow.
If we can live with
greater awareness and appreciation of the wisdom and beauty that
surrounds us, that itself will make a difference.