Thought of the Week

Changing a letter: eGosystem or eCosystem?

The increasing permeation of technology into our immediate spheres, its governing of our relationships (“Social Media”), combined with our fast-paced lives, made me reflect more deeply our interdependency and true (human) connectivity. There is something profoundly meaningful in a human touch, something a robot never will be able to meet, even though it (or he or she?) might be able to meet our basic human needs. What does it mean to truly “live” and “be”, both as an individual and as a community or society? What role does the reciprocity of those interpersonal relationships play in these questions? 

Even in the small country of Austria, agriculture is progressively technologized. A farmer who has no milking robot cannot survive. Nowadays robots even push the cattle feed close to the cows and clean the stables. It looks practical and allows you to know precisely what kind of nutrition reaches each cow, simply by checking an App on your phone. 

Our (especially Western) world tends to optimise “eGosystems”: the smart alarm in the morning wakes us up when it is best for our biorhythm; “smart homes” tell us when we need “fresh air”; even human life itself is gradually enhanced through transhumanistic developments (cf. Aubrey de Grey’s “postponing of death”). These technologies emphasise the individual, the ego, and aim for continuous improvement. Yes, ensuring growth in our businesses and our careers is usus. We do not know anything else.  

But “growth” is varying: Depending on which geographic latitude you were born in, you will (generally) interpret historical processes differently: Westerners talk about amplitudes with linear expansion and aim for individual growth (“better, greater, wider”); whereas Easterners see it as a (recurring) circular system strongly considering communal connectedness.  

Consumerism per se is not a negative term. First, it is true that it can be understood in the more traditional fashion of (excessively) using or acquiring goods. On the other hand, however, the word stem in Latin is sumere and simply means “to take”, the prefix con-sumere adds the aspect of “taking together” (con from cum/with), which could then be read as “using, expending, spending, consuming” together. 

A good example of how technologies can be used that enhance community, is seen in the lives of those who live with communal ownership. However, whereas followers of the more radical Neo-Luddite-Movement refuse using smartphones and prefer painting, making music and reading, and live often far from civilisation – I think the Bruderhof* gives a more balanced example: if the community wants to purchase and install a new technology, a council will evaluate whether this change will serve the purpose of the community better or leads to its deconstruction. Not the individual ego is at the centre, but the interdependent and connected community is. 

James D. Hunter helpfully refers to a “faithful presence”: to serve one another and to see(k) the wellbeing not only myself but the other (whether it is my neighbour or nature). I should be faithfully present to the creation around me, in my space of influence (German “Wirkungsstätte”). 

Neither the cosmos nor our micro cosmos (our life) is black and white. Rather, it is colourfully made. We need to embrace and honour the interdependency of humanity, creation (nature), and its maker as one beautiful “eCosystem”. God placed us in this garden, on this earth as stewards and as gardeners in his creation. So let us take care of the beautiful eCosystem he wants us to play a vigorous part in together (see 1 Cor 12,12 ff.) and organise society with real (not digital) values and virtues. 

Recently a national newspaper put it succinctly: To help our (natural and human) ecosystems heal “we need quick, collective Acting.” Let´s start by little changes in our mind, like changing one letter. 

13 JUNE 2023 | by Verena Schnitzhofer 

* Bruderhof is an international community, living and working together, with common property.

Further inspiring reading: 

Featured image: Skyler Ewing | Pexels

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