‘Let’s see through the eyes of our grandchildren’

Soraj Hongladarom: “The Facebook metaverse is a dangerous idea because it can make people even more addicted to social media.”

via Soraj Hongladarom

Imagine if you could see the future through the eyes of your older self. There are Buddhist meditation methods that allow you to practice placing yourself not only in the past or present, but also in the future. “If we put ourselves in that position, we will naturally take good care of our current situation,” said Soraj Hongladarom. He is professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Science, Technology and Society at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok (Thailand).

The past year has been intense for the entire planet because of the corona pandemic. Which development surprised you the most?

“To prevent the spread of the virus, full focus was placed on ‘working from home’ and ‘social distancing’. This caused a large-scale change in the way people work. This is especially true for universities. Even now I still teach all my courses completely online and have not met any of my students in person. And because students prefer not to turn on their cameras, I didn’t see their faces either. Only a few students who are already in their graduation phase turn on their cameras so that I can see them. But nobody does that in a larger bachelor’s degree. Still, the students are paying close attention and their study results look promising. This surprised me a bit.”

Many Dutch people are concerned about the future of their children, because our way of life is unsustainable; we exhaust ourselves and the earth. But it is difficult to change our habits. Do you have any advice for us?

“My advice would be that we have to think long term. We have to expand ourselves, so to speak, so that we can see ourselves in the future; what we would experience in twenty or thirty years. If we put ourselves in that position, we will naturally take good care of our current situation so that terrifying scenarios do not arise in the future. Such imagination has a Buddhist root; there is a method of meditation where you imagine something mindfully so that your whole mind focuses on the imagined scenario or object. This can be very helpful. After we practice seeing ourselves in the future, we can gradually move to seeing through the eyes of our children and grandchildren.”

If you could design a new lesson for primary school (4-12 years), what would it be? In other words, what do our children need to know to be prepared for the future?

“I am part of a movement in Thailand that is calling for philosophy to be taught in both primary and secondary schools. I think philosophy is very helpful in teaching students to become critical thinkers and to imagine scenarios that could happen under certain circumstances. Philosophy can be taught to primary school students. We don’t need to talk about Plato, but we can introduce philosophical problems such as: why are we here, what kind of future do you want to see, what kind of world do you want to live in, and so on. It’s about asking the questions and talking about it. Students love it!”

Humans are relational beings. We take care of each other, our pets and our environment. But we take better care of some people, animals and things than others. If you were in charge, what should we take more care of in the next fifty years?

“We cannot take care of everything at once. That is impossible. It is therefore not surprising that we take care of the people, animals and things that are close to us. But that doesn’t mean we alone to take care of our loved ones and pets. We can design laws that make sure every animal gets its protection. Maybe we can even give them some sort of legal voice.”

“Having said that, in fifty years’ time the world will be very different than it is today. Environmental issues concern us all, and 50 years from now it will be no different. So we have to pay attention to that. The relationship between humans and technology is also important. The Facebook metaverse — a real-life virtual environment that Facebook aims to build as an alternative to physical encounters — is a dangerous idea that could lead people to become even more addicted to social media than they are today. We need to be more critical of these technologies. In fifty years, the technology will only be more powerful; so we now have to find a way to steer its development in the right direction.”

Philosophy around the world

On Thursday, November 18, 2021, on the occasion of World Philosophy Day 2021, UNESCO is organizing a worldwide online event Philosophy Around the World – Worldwide Philosophical Relay-Race. Ida Giugnatico is one of the speakers. She has been invited to represent the continents of Europe and North America, and will speak about the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to tackle environmental problems.

Source: Kennislink by www.nemokennislink.nl.

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