In a world filled with unnatural, should we complain about technological progress by citing natural examples?

I can’t recall the date on which I got this aspiration to live 200+ years, but if you go and check my profile on Rainmatter Discuss (, the bio says: a human with an aspiration to live 200+ years. I don’t think I had the same aspiration until the age of 24 (just to remind you, I am still 23, lol). As I have experienced - we are what you think - a few days back, I found myself reading the book “Longevity: The Science Behind Ageing and Why We Don’t Have to.” After reading the book, I was talking to someone from the same field, and as soon as I mentioned - thanks to all the research, we might live 100+ years soon. His first reaction was - it looks unnatural. That got me thinking about Natural and Unnatural. Hence this essay.

Last year, I wrote an essay titled “Nature Vs Nurture: Why we as a society must stop making unconscious mistakes.” The whole argument of the essay was - that we can’t define someone based on their nature because humans are the outcome of both - Nature and Nurture. In the mid of 2023, I also wrote an essay where I highlighted how everything that we see around us has been built by humans like us in the past few hundred years. Even though the age of our fundamental component - cells - is 3.8 billion years, the human species has been on this earth for 10,000+ years experiencing near-death experiences many times.

So, I did this experiment with him that I am going to do with you as well (if you are reading this essay). This experiment has nothing to do with the place or the state you are in. In whatever situation, state, or location you are, just be attentive and look around you. Now take the names of the things that you are seeing in your head. Now ask yourself what those are - natural? Since I don’t know about your state - let me give you a list of mine. At the time of writing these lines, today is 2nd Dec, and it is 18:27, in the evening, and I am sitting in a cafe on a chair, typing on a laptop which is placed on a table. The charger of my laptop is connected to an electric board that is connected to electricity. There is one glass half filled with water on one side, a tissue paper, one pen, my mobile, water bottles, sticky notes, a couple of spoons, sitting on a chair, me wearing a t-shirt, shoes, and jeans. I can also see many other tables, other humans with the same structure, lights, decorative lights, paintings, music running in the cafe, glass, and the list goes on.

Since due to nature, it is a month of cold, I am wearing a sweater to protect myself from the natural cold so I can keep doing what I am doing. Also, this is night, and I am sitting in this cafe; the light proportion is more than compared to natural light. In fact, there is almost a 99% chance of me reaching back to my home thanks to public transportation. I am sitting in this cafe and typing all my thoughts at almost the speed of light (lol, I am exaggerating, I wish I could).

Now if you are done taking these names in your head, it is time to ask this question - how many of those things are natural? I am not sure about you, but in my case, the answer is just one. At this moment, there is nothing natural that I can see except one - me. I am natural. But my survival and me doing what I am doing and the rest of us are because we built all these unnatural things that we use every day. Can you tell me how many natural things you counted? One, two, three, or everything?

The fact is, and whether we accept it or not, today we technically survive on unnatural things. Of course, you can argue that the root of all those is still natural. For example, electricity comes from coal, sun, wind, water (all natural), the food we eat (natural), and the water we drink (natural). Again, the root is natural even though the water that I drink is purified through an unnatural method. Even if the day we will 3D print food - the ingredients will be natural or ingredients built from atoms and molecules will be natural. However, if we had just relied on the natural method/components - do you think we would have a strong 7 billion and have everything that we have around us? Of course, today, we have visible challenges (the Climate Problem is one of the biggest), but there is no way we can live on natural things.

Today, we are in trouble due to these unnatural things, sure. But there is no way any of us can survive without these natural things. Of course, the problem does lie in not knowing the connection between the visible aspect of unnatural things and the fundamental components that have made that possible. I can give you one example, mine. After seeing Kailash Nadh (CTO of Zerodha) using a handkerchief, I almost stopped throwing tissue papers. In most cases, I use them multiple times, and I am not exaggerating. The seed of this behaviour was based on the realization that the fundamental components of these tissue papers are trees. I am still guilty of not carrying a handkerchief, yet. We have problems; however, from the intersection of space and time - returning back to completely natural things would be almost impossible provided our species ceases completely.

This is a small part of the essay that I wrote recently. You can read the complete essay, here

The ‘appeal to nature’ is understood as a bad argument, sometimes even a fallacy. You can find numerous arguments of the pattern “so-and-so behaviour is found in wild animals, therefore it is natural, therefore humans ought to behave similarly”. Sometimes the framing is the opposite: such-and-such behaviour is not found naturally, therefore we ought not to do it.

This sort of argument is just an easy alternative to the hard work of thinking things through :slight_smile: . And in any case, people have already (and for other reasons) made up their minds about what ought, or ought not, to be – and cherry-pick their examples from nature to support their position.

One could argue that a large part of human progress is a rebellion against what is ‘natural’ (which includes violence, disease, discrimination, etc).

Nature teaches us a number of ‘lessons’, not all of which we would want to implement. Ecosystems consist of a large number of interconnected interactants (so far so good), but these include predators and pathogens, not something we would want to deliberately introduce into human societies. Chimpanzees show strong familial bonds, but also sometimes wage war against neighbouring clans. Lions are mostly uninterested fathers, but will kill cubs fathered by rival males. And so on.

In other words, there is no straightforward equation between what is ‘natural’ and what is good or desirable for us individuals or as a society. So we have to decide separately, and based on other criteria, what is good/ethical/moral/safe and what is not.

1 Like