The the general benefit of the world

          The astronomer Carl Sagan once said,
‘Science is a way of thinking, much more than it is a body of knowledge.’  Although there are a number of ways to
interpret his statement, I take it to mean that science is not simply about
“knowing” things, it’s more about shaping your thought process; the scientific
method involves thinking, probing, questioning, and in turn cementing our
understanding of the world around us. Human beings have, for generations and
generations, attempted to use this understanding to engineer technologies that
make life easier for all, much like how modern thinkers like Descartes aimed to
master nature in order to gain something from it. At the same time however,
this relentless pursuit has begun to put a strain on our environment in ways
that we have become aware of only in recent times. As such, I believe that in
modern times, it has become crucial to not only utilize science as a means of
creating technology and enhancing comfort, but to also deepen our understanding
of nature and develop new technologies that could reverse the damage that
humans have inflicted on the world. A truly good life, in my opinion, would be
one in which we can successfully reach an equilibrium point to balance
requirement and luxury, and in the event that that boundary is crossed, figure
out a way to capitalise on it, not for personal gain but for the general
benefit of the world as a whole.

         One important aspect of science that I believe
is essential for us, is knowing and understanding the difference between
“Knowledge”, “Wisdom”, “Insight”. These may seem synonymous, but they are
actually very different. Knowledge is about having information. It gives us
facts and ideas acquired through study and research. Wisdom is the ability to use that knowledge in the bigger
picture of life. Insight is the deepest level of understanding. It gives the
clearest grasp of knowledge and wisdom.

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is using the facts we study to create a robot, say.

is using it for the betterment of people.

is understanding that this creation has its negatives too, a fact one must
accept while making it.

believe that it is these second and third tiers of wisdom and insight, the
deeper levels of understanding, which are the most crucial in today’s world. It
starts with knowledge, which we can acquire with the help of science, but we
also need to go deeper, gain wisdom and insight, in order to develop a certain
kind of sensitivity that is essential to tackle the many issues that the world
as a whole faces today, most of which we humans have instigated ourselves.
Cultivating scientific thought and at the same time inculcating such values in
future generations is going to be essential if we wish to sustain existence for
millennia to come.

          Heidegger would quite possibly disagree with
my stand; he believed that what we are actually doing is ‘coping’, and that
understanding scientific principles does not lead to better dealing/coping. Although
Heidegger would agree with using a practical point of view to “cope”, he was
also of the opinion that focusing on scientific principles isn’t effective in
engaging the world. Well, I disagree with that, because the evidence of the
fact that science is, in fact effective in engaging the world is right here in
front of our eyes! It is because humans have successfully engaged the world
that they have been so effective in manipulating it.

my stance isn’t as philosophically significant as it should be, but as I’ve
come to realise recently, it is difficult to attach a philosophical
significance to subjects like Engineering and Computer Science. But at the same
time, engineering and pure sciences are very much connected. Scientists explore
the natural world and show us how the world is and why it is the way it is,
while engineers create solutions to real-world problems. While it is true that
engineering without science would be meaningless, without engineering, science
would be a merely an academic pursuit, there would be no meaning to it, no end
goal. This strongly contradicts Aristotle’s opinion, however, as he believed
that the academic aspect of things, or the intellectual virtue, is the highest,
perhaps to some extent, even higher than the practical aspect. This
intellectual virtue is what gives us humans our rationality, the one main
quality that sets us apart from other beings in the world. For Aristotle a good
life, a virtuous life, was one dedicated to fully using one’s rationality; for
him, that was the end goal. But my question to him would be this: if our
intellectual virtue is what has brought the world to where it is today, and
let’s face it, it’s not an entirely good place to be, then how can we still say
that this is a good life? We no longer live in a world where we can have the
luxury of studying science as a way of simply satisfying our academic pursuits.
It is a time where drastic action is required, one that cannot be brought into
motion without science and engineering.

        There is yet another way of looking at the
practicalities of science. It has opened up innumerable avenues as far as
employment and livelihoods of people are concerned. Over the last few centuries
the percentage of people involved in the STEM workforce (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics) has spiked. People from all kinds of backgrounds,
countries and ethnicities have contributed to science and continue to do so
even today. This is a strong contradiction to Aristotle’s claim that one’s environment
solely dictates who you become in your life. Science has transcended all kinds
of physical boundaries and relies only on one’s own intellect and way of

         While science has indeed lead to a vast
amount of development, the downsides of it that we see today are quite possibly
a result of superficial understanding and a great lack of long term vision. In
order to be able to alter this situation, we need to change not just the way
we’ve been doing things, but also the way we’ve been thinking, which brings me
back to my original point about science as a way of thought. We need science
not just for the facts and the knowledge, but we also need it to show us how to
think, and how to change the way we think. We need to attain a deeper understanding
of science itself, gain essential wisdom and insight in order to fix these
problems. In many ways I think we fail to see exactly how crucial a part of our
lives science and technology has come to be. Everywhere you look, you can see
its impact. In our typical fashion, however, we have taken it for granted, and
in doing so we have set ourselves back on the path of repeating past mistakes.

Descartes most famous words were “Cogito
ergo sum”, or as we know them, “I think, therefore
I am.” Descartes used these words as a testament to existence; if you’re in
doubt, then there has to be something doing that doubting, that thinking, which
is you. In saying so, he made a direct contradiction to the medieval way of
thought. As opposed to putting God being the centre of everything, he placed
himself there; he marked himself as the starting point. I believe we need to
adopt the exact same philosophy. The change that we’re looking for, the change
that I’ve been talking about all this time, isn’t going to miraculously appear
and magically insinuate itself into the world; it needs to start from
somewhere, it needs to start from us.

perhaps my reasons may not have the philosophical depth of that of some
others’, but I do believe in them, and I believe they have the practicality
that the world is very much in need of today.  Moving forward, as we slowly but surely
transition to the postmodern era, certain aspects of medieval era thought will
need to be done away with. For instance, the ancients believed that the only
solution for a bad person was to reform themselves. Such idealistic thinking
has no place in the postmodern world. We are now moving toward an era where it
will be more imperative to instead try and benefit from humanity’s selfishness
and negativity, to capitalise on it. Because you see, simply discussing ways of
change is really not that difficult, but actually changing one’s thought
process is a much more trying task, not only because of our conditioning, but
more importantly because