A digital world
The writer, Dr. Sibtain Panjwani (London, United Kingdom) qualified as a dentist and obtained his MA in Medical Law and Ethics and a PhD in Law, after which he went on to work closely with Marhum Mulla Asgherali M M Jaffer at the World Federation.
The world is becoming ‘digital’ (relating to data or information in the form of digital signals and their use of it) and in the process are we as human beings ‘digitalised’ (being manipulated) by the technology we use? Many of us believe this is true as we express our choices on many social and consumer platforms when we do our shopping online, build our businesses online, spend our downtime online, and even make life-long friends online. From AI chat to varieties of apps, we are expected to embrace such ‘Instant Digital Technology‘ (devices that deliver what we want/desire at the touch of a button). The media tells us that, 66 per cent of the global population are active internet users and the internet is set to become an even bigger part of our lives. Even generations born in the 1950s are warming to the idea of utilizing these technologies. Hence, we can imagine the extent of digital intrusion in our lives – good and bad.
This ‘Instant Digital Technology ‘ surrounds us. We embrace it. Yet, many of us do not understand it nor are interested in how it functions. It is too complex to understand but then, does it matter? No. We seem to enjoy it and feel good about it and as it is easy to use, so we do not mind even if we do not understand it. We do not even want to try and understand how it will affect the social and interactive part of our humanness. ‘Digitalisation’ is our 21st century age with its systems, processes, legislations and red tape that only serve to increase our frustration and bring about unnecessary anxiety. Moreover, we have become so dependent that even a small failure in its performance frustrates us. Who can blame us for having to indulge in such frustrations when we are served so well by these technologies that hardly require minimum physical and mental effort? Such is the impact of these digital technologies, seeped so deeply into our lives that our frustrations can turn into anger in no time if the device malfunctions for more than a few moments.
In an increasingly complex world of ‘Instant Digital Technology ‘ which is accompanied by ‘ systems, processes and legislation’, ‘simplicity’ as a key concept is just allowed to be forgotten from our consciousness or so deeply buried within our psyche. We have almost forgotten the value of simplicity. As humans, we build things from simple and basic and we unpeel complexities into simple and basic. Whilst doing it, we apply inductive and deductive thinking skills. This is the key process we use to understand ourselves and what surrounds us. This Simple – Complex and Complex – Simple ways of understanding is a forgotten skill. As thinking social beings, endeavouring for simplicity in our lives should be a key value for us. We appear to sacrifice, perhaps unintentionally or through our negligence, our desire to be simply human and be human with each other. If given a choice, more likely than not, we will opt for the instant outcome and gratification that the world of digitalisation offers us and in the process lose our simple human touch – a commodity becoming more distant in a virtual world that we are increasingly inhabiting. A simple human touch to another human equally reciprocated binds the human spirit in no time ready to serve the greater causes of humanity. A simple human touch is what is sorely missing in our digital world. It should be in the forefront of our consciousness.
As Digital Technology brings ease into our lives and serves our needs, we will increasingly allow it to control our lives. As a human community, we will soon rely upon it so completely that we may begin to lose our reading, writing and arithmetic skills as technology calculates for us, reads for us and writes for us. We may be easing ourselves into ‘lazy thinking’. There is no doubt that such technology as we have today has its place in our lives but each one of us has to determine what level of intrusion one wishes to accept, having understood and considered its positive and negative impact.
In life, there is often a much simpler way of doing things if only we make an effort to look for it and make it happen. Simplicity does not just happen. You have to and want to look for simplicity and be motivated to design simplicity to make life less complicated. Is there a simple way of doing it? Asking this question is the first step in getting involved in trying to do more of one’s life simply. In doing so, you have a window through which objectives and purposes of one’s life get defined and the fog of complexities that obscures lifts. This is the value of simplicity.
Whilst the concept of ‘simplicity’ sounds easy, you have to make an effort to look for it and be motivated to plan simple things in one’s life. Our brain tries its hardest to simplify life by setting up routine patterns of perception and action. It is our thinking and reflection that identifies the pattern and once we identify the pattern, we flow with it. Instant gratifications where we do not have to exert physical or mental efforts move us towards normalising it. Whilst this may be appealing to our modern-day living, it is achieved at the expense of critically exploring the effects (negative or positive) of our present-day living. Is it too much of an effort even to think through the consequences of present-day living? We have forgotten the notion that there is always the possibility that there is a simpler, socially advantageous and environmentally friendly way to do something in our modern living. Even if that is not the case, it is always worth investing some thinking time and creative effort in trying to find a simpler approach. We need to bring this critical factor back into our lives such that simplicity should become a permanent feature.
In life, we need to understand what we are about, what we are dealing with and what we intend to achieve and then design a simple plan to achieve it. Time, that Allah swt takes an oath in ‘Surah Al-Asr’, is moving fast and is limited for us on earth. Our future depends on how we spend it. It is worth recalling the impactful words of the Quran that man is indeed at a loss unless he designs his/her life to continuously work towards maintaining faith and doing good deeds and exhort fellow human beings towards good with truth and patience. Uplifting our faith through good deeds and exhorting one another with truth and patience provide us with a simple design to follow in our lives. There is a whole different world beyond this world that we will have to navigate. We need to construct our life journey around these words from Allah swt. They are simple and everybody can understand yet has depth for those who wish to gain deeper insight: Have Imaan (faith) – Do Good deeds (Amal-e-Salih) – Exhort one another with truth (Haq) – Exhort one another in Patience (Sabr)
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