The quality of our captivity, individually and collectively, depends on our relationship with nature. If we are subsistence farmers on poor land, we have one level of relationship; if we are research scientists in the laboratory, we have another. But both farmer and scientist remain vulnerable to suffering, disease, misadventure and aging. In society, division of labor and specialization sometimes give us the option to interface with other people rather than directly with nature but obviously some people must deal directly with the physical on behalf of us all -- the farmer in his way and the scientist in his.
People dealing with nature, including the farmer, will try to use their wits to improve the results that come of their efforts but the cutting edge of the effort to maximize the benefits from our interface with matter takes place in the arena of pure scientific research where no immediate applications or practical benefits are sought. Pure research reaches only for knowledge - new knowledge - that will, eventually, find application and result in revealing new practical options. This tends to alleviate our subjugation to the natural world and empower us through artificial contrivances.
When we come to a new understanding of some aspect of nature, especially a breakthrough understanding, our relationship to existence changes on at least two levels. Externally, regardless of who made the discovery, we gain possibilities, options and freedoms that were formerly denied us by our collective ignorance of matter. New knowledge adds to our options and renders us less vulnerable than before. More cogently, new knowledge of existence further integrates us - our Being - with existence. That which was formerly unknown - hidden - now, in some way, constitutes a part of our lifestyle and even ourselves.
So where is this process leading? With science and technology advancing as they are, what has gone awry with this process of ongoing integration? Why is so much in our world going wrong? Where are the blessings that would justify the billions of dollars spent on science and technology annually? The inadequacy of our present integration with existence is evident in many things but, most fundamentally, in our continued vulnerability to disease, misadventure and aging.
Where should this process be leading? Why are we not witnessing a smooth and rapid transition to a better world. The answer has to do with our attitude towards physical matter and our method for approaching it.
Today, nanotechnology is the scientific discipline that most explicitly aims at revealing the knowledge of matter. Nanotechnology seeks to command matter at the molecular, atomic and even subatomic level. Researchers in this field believe that, eventually, millions of nanocomputers small enough to be contained in a spoon, when thrown on the ground (or anywhere else where raw matter is available), will be able to produce a home, a car or anything else that we want, before our very eyes, depending on their programming.
The idea behind this is that all things are made of the same subatomic building blocks and, given adequate knowledge, need only be molded to our will. The "replicator" in the popular Star Trek, science fiction TV series is based on much the same principle. What we still lack is that level of subatomic knowledge and command.
The reason things are advancing so slowly, even with nanotechnology, is that science has neglected the metaphysical indications necessary for its efficient performance . The upshot is that science has become excessively expensive, bureaucratic and materialistic. The integration we need, external and internal, requires an incomparably more intense confrontation between the spirit of the researcher and the natural phenomena he is contemplating than what is currently practiced by even the most zealous of researchers. This kind of communion requires an involvement of more than just the brain in the process we call "mind."
The body was meant to become an instrument of vision - a mind. When we turn our gaze inward, as those in meditation tend to do, we find that the space we associate with our body is alive with feelings, sensations and even thoughts. Above all, it is a space for visualization. But for creative vision to manifest, our inner "cyberspace" has to become programmed with and mimic the phenomenon being contemplated. In a virtual sense, through its projection within ourselves, we must become the phenomenon we are studying if we are to reveal the secrets of its makeup.
The power of the mind to project visions representing reality is found, most particularly, in its capacity to extrapolate and correlate. If the mind grasps, in sufficient detail and with sufficient accuracy, the visible aspects of a phenomenon, it can, in principle, hypothesize and project estimations concerning aspects that are hidden. Some qualities of a phenomenon will suggest possibilities and constraints in one direction while others will suggest possibilities and constraints in others. Numerous features are normally visible or known and each such feature, in its turn, suggests many other features. In fact, so many hypothetical possibilities exist that ordinary mind boggles at all the imaginable combinations and permutations. It would take endless lifetimes to program a computer with all of them in order to perform the factor analysis needed to zero in on the one constellation of qualities that existence allows for in the phenomenon under consideration.
So, to discover, definitively, which combinations are possible and which are not and also how the possible ones combine to form the complete picture of a phenomenon, we ourselves have to become the computer. Our mind must be able to see from above, as it were, the unique set of circumstances that constitute the being of the phenomenon under consideration and how it connects to other phenomena that are the adjacent components of the larger reality. The closest to this kind of seeing or "Accelerated Thought "* is called, in the world of computers, "massive parallel processing." Computers might be able to perform this kind of "seeing" if they were able to automatically capture data with the same kind of fine-grained acuity possible to humans when we intensify our effort of observation. Mobilizing this ultimate effort, in turn, demands a strong conviction in the possible -- a conviction that the infinite is hidden within the apparently finite and that we are meant to reveal it.
Who among us are capable of this level of conviction? For it is most likely that upon them our future depends.