This Saturday, NASA is planning to launch its much-awaited next-generation space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope, which has been in the making for decades, is the most complex space science observatory ever built. According to NASA, “Webb will peer more than 13.5 billion years back into cosmic history to a time when the first luminous objects were evolving. It’s the first observatory capable of exploring the very earliest galaxies… Webb will also study the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, and observe moons, planets, comets, and other objects within our own solar system.”
Technology is a wonderful thing. It has given us abundant and cheap energy, appliances that make our lives easy and traveling enjoyable and safe. Technology has given us advanced medicine, longevity, knowledge beyond our dreams, and “eyes” that can see the edge of the universe.
Yes, for centuries, we have been pinning our hopes on technology to give us something that it isn’t meant to give us: happiness. We thought that making life easier and longer would make us happier, but we were wrong. This is why from the days when we derived light and heat from a fire we lit by banging stones against each other, to the days when we switch on an electric device energized by solar panels, we have not been able to satisfy our most basic need: to feel happy.
Happiness comes not from technology, but from good relationships with the people around us. If we keep pinning our hopes on technology to make us happy, we are sentencing ourselves to a life of misery. However, if we focus on nurturing good relationships with the people around us, we will surely be happy.
Once we have that solid foundation of good relationships and feel happy and content, technology can be a great addition. In this case, we will know how to use technology to improve and strengthen our relationships, and we will not be misled into thinking that technology itself can, or should, make us happy.
Currently, when we think of progress, we think of technological progress. But real progress is not in switching from fire-power to solar-power, but in building better connections that generate warmth between us. We need to redefine “progress” to reflect improvement in our relations rather than in our ability to generate more energy through nuclear fission or fossil fuel production.
When our hearts are lit up by the people around us, we will know what kind of energy to use, how much of it we really need, and how best to use technology for our sake and for the sake of everyone else.
The James Webb Space Telescope Mirror is seen during a media unveiling at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Maryland November 2, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/