Find freedom in wired world, Lightman tells students

TORONTO (CUP) — Something as simple as turning off a cell phone can lead to the development of a better world, Alan Lightman told students at the University of Toronto last Wednesday.

The respected physicist, novelist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor delivered a lecture entitled “The World is Too Much for Me: Finding Private Space in the Wired World.”

Lightman discussed how an obsession with the speed of technology contributes to a loss of silences and inner reflection, as well as a lack of privacy. He emphasized that while technology is beneficial, we need to be able to unplug from it to consider what is really important in life.

“I believe that if we’re not able to spend time in our inner lives,” Lightman said in an interview prior to the lecture, “which is where we think about our morals and our values, then essentially we are amoral.

“On the national level, I think of whole nations like people. If the citizens in the country can’t listen to themselves then I don’t believe the country as a whole can [listen to themselves]. This also impacts its relations with other countries,” he said.

While there may be no obvious solution to the problem of the increased pace of life due to technology, Lightman claims that a crucial part to tackling the problem is acknowledging that it exists.
“The key, it seems to me,” Lightman told the crowd, “is awareness. We must become aware of the choices.”
These choices involve taking small steps such as not answering the phone during dinner or leaving the cellular phone at home while on vacation.

“I believe that all of these technologies can be used to benefit us, but they can also be abused and we need to be more conscious of the way we’re relating to the world around us,” Lightman said.