Based on the notes taken from a conversation Srila Prabhupada had in June of 1976 at an organic farm in West Virginia.
The modern Western civilization is a nasty civilization that is artificially increasing the necessities of life. For example, take the electric light. The electric light requires a generator, and to run the generator you need petroleum. As soon as the petroleum supply is stopped, everything will stop. But to get petroleum you have to painstakingly search it out and bore deep into the earth, sometimes in the middle of the ocean. This is ugra-karma or horrible work. The same purpose can be served by growing some castor seeds, pressing out the oil, and putting the oil into a pot with a wick. The modern system has improved the lighting system with electricity, but to improve from the castor oil lamp to the electric lamp you have to work very hard. You have to go to the middle of the ocean and drill and then draw out the petroleum, and in this way the real goal of life is missed.
Just try to understand. The consequence of improving from the castor seed oil lamp to the electrical lamp is that you forget the real business of life, you lose yourself. This kind of civilization is going on. This is called maya or illusion. For some fictitious happiness you lose your whole purpose of life.
People are in a precarious position, constantly dying and taking birth in various species of life. Getting free of this cycle of birth and death is the real problem. This problem is meant to be solved in the human life. Humans have advanced intelligence for self-realization, but instead of using the advanced intelligence for self-realization, people are utilizing it to improve from the castor oil lamp to the electric lamp.