How many times have you had trouble finding a parking space downtown? Well, according to some scientific theorists, the day may soon come when you won't have to drive around block after block looking the computer in your car will tell you where you can park. And when you want to go on a trip, your car's computer will map out the best route. According to experts at last year's World Future Society convention in Washington, D.C., these are but a couple of the conveniences we'll be enjoying in the future.
We'll also be able to program our computerized home appliances without even pushing buttons. For example, just tell your video entertainment center which programs you'll want to see. Too busy to catch Monday night football? Tell your TV to store the telecast till next week. You will even select alternative plots to dramas and soap operas.
Geoffrey Calvert, a Canadian economist and actuary, predicts that in the near future people will live in good health well beyond one hundred. Some experts predict that we will soon have vaccines to prevent most major forms of cancer, drugs that will unclog arteries and prevent heart disease, and wrist devices that will warn us of illness. Artificial blood vessels, hearts, and kidneys will be commonplace and inexpensive.
Researchers in agriculture hope to greatly increase crop and dairy production through genetic engineering, farming the sea, and developing new-age foods such as spirulina. Industrial advancements would include factories in outer space, better utilization of solar energy, and the robotization of many boring, dangerous, and tiring jobs.
Such predictions may make us optimistic about a bright future of comfort, convenience, increased enjoyment, and longer, healthier lives, but let's not forget that the promises of science often prove empty. Placing our faith in the predictions of modern science may result in a big letdown. Remember DDT? In January of 1945, Science magazine proclaimed,
Success in at least one such campaign was cited by Professor Essig. About twenty years ago the Mediterranean fruit fly, a terrible menace to certain fruit and vegetable crops, especially the citrus fruits, was accidentally introduced into Florida. Drastic measures were necessary, but by thorough cooperation among federal, state, and private interests the last traces of the fly infestation were wiped out in a short time.
DDT's promise spreads broadly over three fields: public health, household comfort, and agriculture. In the first category come the triumphs already scored by DDT against such plagues as malaria and typhus. Household comfort will be promoted by the abatement or even the complete wiping out of such insects as flies, fleas, bedbugs, and 'nuisance' mosquitos. DDT can be useful to agriculture not only in combating field and orchard insects, but also in protecting forests, livestock and poultry.
Unfortunately, by the 1960s, the U.S. government had to place heavy restrictions on the use of DDT because of its harmful effects to fish and waterfowl and its probable harmful effects to human communities who consumed contaminated wildlife. So although in 1945 the readers of Science may have felt confident that the problem of insect pests would soon be conquered, forty years later Florida citrus growers are still contending with the Mediterranean fruit fly, and flies, fleas, bedbugs, and mosquitos remain a problem.
Nor can we overlook that science and technology has helped create for us the threat of nuclear holocaust. According to Theo Brown, executive director of Ground Zero, which studies nuclear war, a ninety percent reduction of nuclear arms would still leave the U.S. and the Soviet Union with enough nuclear might to destroy one another.
The above are but two instances of the plethora of science's dubious achievements. To regard the achievements and promises of modern science with optimism, therefore, may well be naive, even foolish. If we think long and hard about the matter, without becoming enamored by scientific gadgetry and titillated by brash promises of a technological Utopia, we should see that the contributions of modern science are at best superficial. In many cases they prove counterproductive, even suicidal. We want to be free of suffering and to enjoy happiness that's natural. But science has helped us only to palliate, not to cure. It has lulled us into a preoccupation with the symptoms of our suffering, without showing us the root cause.
If we examine the real cause of the problems we are trying to alleviate through science and technology, we should see that increasing creature comforts is no solution at all. This is nicely explained by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
The sufferings of human society are due to a polluted aim of life, namely lording it over the material resources. The more human society engages in the exploitation of undeveloped material resources for sense gratification, the more it will be entrapped by the illusory material energy of the Lord, and thus the distress of the world will be intensified, rather than diminished.
In other words, not understanding that we are eternal spiritual beings, servants of God, we strive for pleasure by gratifying the bodily senses. Because of a strong desire for sense gratification, we develop an exploitative mentality toward material resources, humanity, and other living beings. Especially in this age of spiritual ignorance, this exploitative mentality leads to extremely sinful activities, like cow slaughter, abortion, and unrestricted sex indulgence. We needn't, however, condemn science and technology. They are tools. In the hands of self-realized persons, they can serve the highest aims and noblest end of society. In the hands of exploitative sense-gratifiers, science and technology will wreak havoc.