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Monday, May 24, 2010

The IT Trap

Advertising is an ever-present feature of the consumer society, and we are constantly being bombarded with images and messages which shape our lives, often unconsciously. It’s something of a chicken and egg story. What came first: the advertising which promotes mass consumerism, or the consumer society itself? The best answer is that that they feed off each other.

Advertising is linked to culture. In east Asia, IT culture has become pervasive. Take a look at this advertisement, above, currently running on the MTR (subways) of Hong Kong. It’s by HSBC, the biggest bank in Hong Kong. I don’t think I have ever seen a more perfect representation of the forces driving modern Hong Kong and east Asian culture, than this ad. It sums up Money and Machines societies to a “T”. The woman has sold her higher Self out to the immediate needs of the small self – for security, amusement, and to look cool. She has become a robot.

Deep Futures is the term I give to human futures which are, by definition, deep. They permit the deeper psychological and spiritual drives of human evolution to express themselves. Deep Futures allow the exploration and experiencing of the inner dimensions of mind, especially those that lie beyond the human ego.

The human ego as we experience it, has developed from the evolutionary needs of our species. It is essentially concerned with meeting survival needs, and elevating its sense of status and separation (specialness). Unfortunately this agenda runs counter to the expression of the human spirit, or the higher self. That expression requires a letting go, and an acceptance of impermanence and mortality. Any narrative, image or message which reinforces the ego’s story thus subverts the expression of the human spirit, and the evolution of Deep Futures.

IT culture is a big part of the current problem with Money and Machine futures.

There are increasing sings that IT addiction is running dangerously out of control in east Asia. A recent survey in Hong Kong found that teenage many girls are spending increasing amounts of time on the internet.  About 27% spend 4-6 hours a day web surfing, 7% spend 6-8 hours, while 10% spend 8 hours or more per day on the net.

In China, where the central policy of “scientific development” lies at the heart the Communist party’s vision of the future, up to twenty five million of the eighty million teenage internet users are addicted to the net; numerous military-style boot camps have sprung up to help cope with the problem. In Hong Kong, some children are developing “biophobia,” and are scared of trees and of walking barefoot on grass. There are now classes teaching kids how to play outside (K, 2009).

Is it any wonder then, that the wonderful hiking trails just minutes from downtown Hong Kong are almost deserted on weekends, while indoor culture thrives, as I wrote in my previous post?

Some argue that the internet deepens understanding and awareness, but many would disagree. A recent US study found that 40 per cent of Twitter chat is “pointless babble,” along the lines of “I am eating a sandwich now” (Forty Per Cent 2009). This is not a deep future, but one of mindless distraction.

As someone who has devoted two decades to exploring inner worlds and spiritual development, I know first hand that there is a requirement for mental stillness, or the higher Self cannot be accessed. Once we lose the connection with spirit, the peace and love that is a natural immanence of that connection is also lost.  Most IT- centered activities prevent us from being still. They cut us off from the body, the breath, from intuition and the emotional body. An immersion in IT culture also alienates us from nature; and being present with nature is one of the most simple ways of connecting with the human spirit.

The problem in Hong Kong, as with so many modern cities, is that government policy is dictated by the demands of big business. People are being controlled and manipulated – brainwashed in fact – into lives of shallow servitude to ego-driven corporate interests.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the material world or human wealth, as long as it is put into perspective. When it becomes the driving force of society, spiritual alienation is an inevitable consequence, and along with it, we jettison peace and genuine happiness – which are natural occurrence whenever there is an immediate connection with the spirit.

The IT savvy robot-girl in the HSBC commercial is not a future to be desired, but to be transcended.


  • “Forty Per Cent of Twitter Messages Pointless Babble”. 17.08.09.
  • K, Angela (2009), “Chickens Have Feathers”. The Malaysian Insider. 25.10.09.


  1. Spot on, as usual. And the problem is even worse for the unfortunates actually making these gadgets: see this story about the Foxconn factory which produces iPhones and iPads:

    Cut off from nourishment, the soul withers and dies - and the psyche follows soon afterwards.

  2. Simon, I didn't really think to see the Foxconn issue as being realted, but perhaps it is. Certainly the exploitation of people - to turn the cogs of society - is a linking factor. Beijing and Chinese hard-line nationalists are congratulating themselves that the US has basically ditched the human rights criticisms of China. But it is this criticism which has forced change in China, and the Foxconn problem is directly related to the poor working environment created by Beijing's macropolicies, esp. their rejection of those damn expensive human rights. There's no use pinning all the blame on the Taiwanese or Apple - It's Beijing which has downgraded human rights to make China more profitable and to ensure its power is not threatened. I wonder if the nationalists care to consider that.