Recently I met, what I consider an unusual delegate, to the recently concluded GNH Convention in Paro. I say “unusual” because this person works for the world’s premier technology company that touches practically every aspect of our lives - whether awake or asleep.
In my view technology companies and what they put out in the market influence our lives in the most fundamental ways. Thus, if GNH fails, technology must take part of the blame for its undoing. That is what I told him when we had some discussion on the subject of GNH. The discussion continues over e-mail. The last e-mail I wrote to him reads as follows:
Thank you for your two mails … I apologize for the delay in responding to them since I was out of town and then got really busy upon return.
Bhutan is just too insignificant - considered from any point of view: we simply cannot make a difference, neither economically, technologically - in any way. But despite that, even considering that 90% of the world population probably does not know the existence of Bhutan and even if they did - they wouldn’t know where we are, Bhutan does arouse some interest among world leaders and thinkers and policy makers – I think primarily because of our GNH philosophy and may be because of our leadership in environmental conservation. Both of these, in my personal opinion, are unlikely to be sustainable over the long haul but for the moment - it draws world attention to a minuscule country that is a none-player. So I agree with you - there must be something that we are doing right - that we can generate so much interest that a technology person working for a company that is at the forefront of technology that practically directs human behavior, should be interested enough to come to Bhutan and try and decipher the abstract that is GNH.
Your thoughts are great that Bhutan should chose and adapt technology that is appropriate in terms of GNH that we propagate. However, do you truly believe that is possible? You as a technologist should know more than I do that to a large extent technology and its application determines what we understand by happiness - it treats our illnesses, it causes our diseases; it influences the way we interact with friends and family; it reduces distances and yet keeps us far apart.
As you may remember, I had expressed the view that GNH is unlikely to work until we completely dismantle the present economic order - how and what we produce, how we consume, how we transport, how we market – alter the very objective behind all our economic activities. But this is an impossibility – because the human race has evolved way beyond the point where we have the option to do things differently. No single nation can perform singly. No single nation can hope to do things differently and as long as that is the reality, GNH will be a tough deal to deliver. That is evident by the fact that after so many years, we are still undecided on the true path to realization of GNH. Paradoxically, successive studies show that he who is affluent is a happier man!
As I told you, I believe that the loss of human values and other social ills can be, to some extent, attributed to the emergence of technology. Technology now directs our social habits, the way we perceive efficiency, affluence, the way we conduct our love affairs - it defines us. Consider for instance the mobile phone - it was designed for ease of communication but advancement in technology has turned this device into some thing that impedes human-to-human interaction - it drives a wedge that distances a human being from the other. We are a nervous wreck if our computer or the Internet should fail.
Thus to me it seems like people like you who are at the forefront of technology must work towards redefining the fundamentals of your design approach. I think you can start by steering the direction of technological development towards a more useful path – the GNH path - that which will enrich human society in better ways than it is doing now.
The technological alternatives that you talk about being more appropriate for Bhutan is something way beyond me :) For a person that started the technology revolution in Bhutan - I now shun it to the extent that I refuse to be on Facebook, Viber, Tweeter etc. It is not deliberate but instinctive.
You have some great suggestions - perhaps you should talk to our government about them. They are certainly worth pondering over. May be you should come back next year for the GHN Conference for a longer duration and present your ideas to the appropriate authorities.
Bye and take care