"The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or in the gears of a motorcycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower" (R. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, p. 18).
"Humanistic Psychology in a Technological World" is a new, evolving course whose central thrust is to explore the points of contact between humanistic psychology (with its particular findings, values and life-orientation), and our increasingly technological world. I want to explore what I think of as "the heart of humanistic psychology" -- its core nature, value and connections to life. However, I want to situate this exploration within the actuality of the world in which we find ourselves -- a world that has an increasingly technological character. More specifically, I'd like to explore questions like these:
How can we as humanistic psychologists engage a world whose orientations and values are often antithetical to our own? For instance, how can we hope to practice substantive, humanistically oriented psychotherapy in a clinical world that so often revolves around the axes of practicality and economic expediency? How can we hope to think and live deeply in an academic/intellectual milieu that so frequently takes its mark and measure from the ethos of productivity? How can we retain our vision, and our sense of deep destiny in a world that in many ways invites us to sell our very souls? To me, these are interesting and important questions.
More generally, what is the individual and social psychological meaning of living in an increasingly technological world? For instance, what are the implications for our sense of autonomy and agency -- our sense of being capable of effective action -- our sense of being able to change things (and each other) in a way that makes a difference? What are the implications for our dependency on each other -- on experts and specialists?
In what ways is technological world-development interwoven with economic world-development? Is the psychological question of technology in some way also a psychological question of economics, consumerism and scarcity?
What is the nature of a technological world-attitude, and how did it emerge within the Western socio-cultural matrix? What were the key, historical shifts in perception, value and direction out of which our modern technological world has grown?
Is our world's technological character part of its larger post-modern evolution? If so, how? And what are the implications?
Is there perhaps a poetic or musical dimension in technology -- even in the midst of its darker possibilities? What are technology's charms and allure, beyond the simple "ease" it seems to provide?
How is technology inviting us to rethink the meaning of our human condition? For instance, now that Deep Blue has become world chess-champion, and as the field of Artificial Intelligence continues to threaten the "uniqueness" of other human psychological capacities, are we at all called to grapple with the meaning of being human in a new way? And what of the technology of cloning, which is expanding the boundaries of our biological realities and possibilities?
Is there a sort of thanatos-drive inherent in technological expansion (as the threats of nuclear annihilation and mass global pollution/toxification may suggest)? What of modern-day Luddites, neo-Thoreauians, and the like? To get an angle on this question, I'd like to explore the Unabomber's anti-technological manifesto.
In what ways might our world's technological nature shape even our consciousness? For instance, does television, the internet, etc., make for a different experience of time? Does technology such as global-communications shape how we encounter and experience one another? How does technology influence how we experience the spatiality of the world as a whole?
Of course, I don't want to limit the course to these questions, but they may serve as indicators of where I want to course to go. As many of you know, part of my interest in questions like these is distinctly personal. My first two degrees were in Computer Science (after studying biochemistry for two years). I also worked for three years as a professional systems-analyst. All in all, I've spent a fair amount of time in some of technology's rarified environments -- life-spaces that in many ways are difficult even to imagine, without firsthand experience.
As far as I know, this sort of course hasn't been taught before (at least not in the way I'm envisioning it). So, the course will likely have a very exploratory character. I hope for this course to open a space for new thinking -- a thinking/feeling/living that is at once precise and wild -- a new, honest, intense inquiry into the reality of our world.
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