In the Conscious Business course I teach at ESSEC Business School, I talk about the distinction between Inner Tech versus Outer Tech.
Technologies are means humans use to solve some of their problems. Material technologies have been developed based on scientific observations to help individuals, groups, societies, and civilizations survive, thrive, grow, and expand.
In very simple terms, at an individual level, we can see that when winter is coming and the weather becomes cold, you can use various forms of technology to stay warm and comfortable. What are the first things that come to your mind?
You can put on a pullover, gloves and a woolly hat. You can turn the heater on. These are evolved forms of fire, that humans started to “domesticate” fire about 1.5 million years ago. That was a primary form of technology.
As these examples illustrate, most current civilizations rely on outer technologies to satisfy individual and collective needs.
Yet, there is another forgotten dimension that can help us solve our problems effectively:
The inner dimensions, and inner technologies which humans have developed for thousands of years.
For instance, various shamanic and yogic traditions have developed breathing techniques that increase internal body temperature and vital energy. These techniques have been popularized in the last two decades through the work of people such as Wim Hof (the Wim Hof Method combines cold exposure, breathing techniques, and meditation). Through the wilful regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, these techniques allow one not only to increase body temperature but also to increase one’s sense of well-being and boost the immune system. (Research available here).
In other words: When the temperature drops, you can put a jersey on, increase the temperature of your heater (outer tech), and/or do some deep breathing exercises and use a cold shower (inner tech).
This is particularly relevant since all inner tech relies heavily on scarce material resource consumption. In the context of caring for our beloved Planet Earth, reconnecting with Inner Techs seems of primal importance.
It doesn’t stop at heat-related technologies.
For instance, if you feel the need to get variety in your human experience, you might feel the desire to travel to a distant country. You could drive there, hop on a bus, take a boat, or fly. With current progress, various organizations are researching and developing hydrogen-based aircraft. The first small flight operated by ZeroAvia between London and Rotterdam might take off as early as 2024 (more information here) and Airbus engineering teams are hoping to see larger commercial hydrogen-fuelled/zero CO² emission flights take off as “early” as 2035 (source / their ZEROe models is worth having a look at). In the US, a small 5-seat aircraft called Alaka’i is on its way too. That will be another step of progress in the outer tech. Even then, hydrogen is a technology that requires a lot of electricity input to be produced. It might save CO² emissions downstream (0 CO² emissions compared to CO² emitting engines), but if the energy to produce the hydrogen is not produced through renewable energies (called “Green Hydrogen”), it doesn’t solve the problem completely. Indeed, 95% of current hydrogen is produced by carbon-emitting processes (and thus called “grey hydrogen”). Even with Green Hydrogen, the efficiency is quite low: 30% efficiency for hydrogen to be carried by cars, which means that 70% of the electricity used to create the hydrogen is lost for only 30% of the output (source).
Solving a problem requires upstream thinking. As Albert Einstein said:
“We cannot solve our problems at the level of thinking we used when we created them.”
If we stop looking outside (which creates always more outer techs) and look inside instead, we can look at effective inner technologies which can also fulfil our needs for variety in our human experience:
Various forms of meditation can offer benefits comparable or greater than the need to travel.
Exploring the Imaginal Realms with Active Imagination (the technique coined by Carl Gustav Jung) can show us parts of reality that can’t be experienced even in travel.
Lucid Dreaming and Astral Travel are other forms of travel which one can explore from the comfort of their home.
All these inner technologies offer unlimited potentialities for personal growth and exploration, and the carbon emissions are equal to one person’s breathing.
I am not saying that all should be reduced to inner tech. But in a Western World that has been overly focused on material progress, these inner techs would serve a great purpose if re-explored and re-engaged with.
Indeed, I believe that 80-90% of our individual and collective ills could be solved if we dived deeper and used more inner techs than outer techs.