Four twenty-something’s sit together pushing their happy meals around the table oblivious to each other and the environment. Each is enchanted by a different view of the same virtual-reality. Not so smart after all. I am suspicious of brands that merge the image of ‘smart’ with ‘technology’. Quick, convenient, multi featured yes, but smart, no.

Joseph Chilton Pearce claims that humanity is growing up in a virtual-reality with a corresponding loss of empathy and care for nature.

We assume that technology and science are highpoints of evolution. But evolution has been involved with the development of greater neural structures of the brain and the subsequent human capacities to move beyond the limitations and constraints of the lower animas… A rocket to the moon does not represent an evolutionary expansion… A discovery of humanity's immunity to fire or cold or our freedom from having to eat food [awareness of telepathy, development of intuition and insight, not to mention daily doses of empathy and kindness] – these are clear cases of evolutionary expansion. Our move beyond violence, war, and hatred would be a high-water mark of human evolution.

Joseph Chilton Pearce
The Death of Religion and Rebirth of Spirit

At the heart of my caution about virtual-reality technologies is the way they percolate into the lives of children before their bodies and brains have matured, not in a virtual-reality but in an organic one. Cool, quick, convenient and multi-featured is not enough. Discrimination and making appropriate choices are not possible without a strong, steady, living-reality as a reference. And that is, by objective measure, slipping away. Keep in mind that technological induced virtual-reality is dead. What the developing body and brain needs most of all are intimate experiences and relationships with life. The more children relate with dead things the more like them they become.

Is there a tipping point when that organic reality loses out and is replaced by something other? Once this happens who will miss what was we have lost? In a color blind world who cares if the sky is blue or pink? Once tone deaf who will miss music? No doubt, we will continue to create more and more powerful virtual-reality machines, glasses and chips are on the way - but will we become less human in the process?

My caution tends to express as negativity, interpreted as gloom and doom when compared with the bright, intelligent, can’t live without slogans associated with these brands. Not gloom and doom, my concerns are fueled by epigenetics, the way genes read and adapt to the environment altering the foundation of perception, cognation, emotion, empathy - in a word – reality.To understand why I think that smart technologies are not as smart we need to understand that 'harmonic resonance' conveys different meaning than superficial sensation.

Why are ‘smart technologies’  not so smart? First, they all involve visual, screen based virtual-reality. Compared to organic reality, virtual-reality is dead. Virtual-reality seduces and mimics the newest evolutionary, symbolic, metaphoric, imaginative centers of the body-brain. Being counterfeits of natural organic processes, virtual-reality in the form of commercial data and images push aside, displace, diminish and retard both the capacity to create mental images and the importance of one’s own images compared to the commercial counterfeit. Introduced early these technologies produce a gap in development. The counterfeit creates an addiction, a compulsive dependency which increases the demand for more and more powerful counterfeits. We feel like we are getting smarter but in many ways the opposite is true.

Thought and imagination are also forms of virtual reality. Quite new however, is the way commercial virtual-reality leach its way into our body and brain before that brain develops a stable and reliable organic reality attuned with the natural world. Without ‘knowing ourselves,’ how our body works, the nature and consequences of our dis-eases, our emotions, how we feel as we relate to this marvelous earth, what thought is, before we develop the capacity to distinguish when thought is coherent and true and when it is dishonest, delusional, filled with fantasy, culturally induced myth, unquestioned beliefs about self and other – until this organic reality is clear, firm, steady, introducing powerful forms of virtual-reality is inappropriate, harmful.

Bonding is emphatically blocked or bypassed by virtual reality that takes the place of nature. This virtual reality begins with technological childbirth, continues through bottle feeding, nurseries, cribs, playpen, television, television as babysitter in infancy and early childhood, PlayStations, Game Boys and computers (tablets and so called smart phones). Those not bonded with the earth will have bonded with an electronic world and will later support virtual reality at the expense of the living earth. The harm that results may not even register in the child because the ecological awareness has no receptors in a child of virtual reality. Further, any harm pointed out will be rationalized. Such a child can only seek evermore intense forms of artificial stimuli as he grows older, for he is dependent on these for maintaining full conscious awareness of feeling really alive.

Joseph Chilton Pearce
The Death of Religion and Rebirth of Spirit

Emerson and Thoreau noted in the 1850s, with caution not unlike my own, ‘the weaver becomes the web.’ Technologies morph into our bodies and our bodies into the technologies. They change how we experience and relate to the world and to ourselves.

Microwave technologies, Wi-Fi, mobile phones, tablets and all similar devices have altered the natural environment more and more rapidly than any previous technology – ever, which means that more and more human energy and attention is being poured to these devices, the majority of which did not even exist a decade ago.

Have you noticed how often children and adults pet their phones, oblivious to what is going on around them. The attention they invest seems more intense, more enchanted than reading a novel. This is not a mistake. The intense enchantment is what the counterfeit was developed to create, and for profit. Dependency is imbedded in the counterfeit.

Recall the poignant scene in One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The Native character describes how he watched his alcoholic father suck on his bottle – when in fact the bottle was sucking life out of his father. The same can be said of virtual reality. Investing attention in virtual-reality means not investing that attention in organic reality. This is the price we pay – and it is not very smart.

The joys and pleasures of relationship are obviously the glue that bonds and make possible a true civilized society, while virtual reality of electronics and medical prosthetics offer synthetic counterfeits that only further isolate and substitute for those needs they block and replace. Pleasure and joy are not only moral but are also morally necessary to develop a truly nonviolent, intelligent society; pleasure and joy are literally the purpose of and prime impetus in the evolution of our cosmos, planet, species and life itself.

Joseph Chilton Pearce
The Death of Religion and Rebirth of Spirit

The joy and pleasure Joe is referring to emanates spontaneously basking in the shared meaning of attuned of harmonic resonance, what we call bonding to each other and to life. Our capacity to experience love is developed by experiencing and sharing this empathic resonance, something virtual reality can never do.

Just this morning I was sharing with a bright young woman of nineteen how smart phones might make us dumb. Yah, she said, I can’t find my way out of the closet without a GPS. How quickly we forget. We navigated the planet, knew so much about the movement of the stars and seasons, grew food, created monumental works of art, travel across town, across the nation, around the globe, cultivated deep and lasting relationships with friends, exchanged gifts at Christmas, sent birthday greetings, shared photographs, found all the things we need, dined at interesting restaurants all before Google and Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong. I like writing with a computer. I love Photoshop and the international convenience of Skype video conference calls. But I am cautions and concerned about how these technologies are changing the nature and structure of the human brain and the quality of relationships that brain creates.

Michael Mendizza