Modern living helps us avoid problems

Arthur C. Clark, author of 2001: a Space Odyssey, and inventor of the concept of geostationary satellites for telecommunications, once wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clark, author of 2001: a Space Odyssey, and inventor of the concept of geostationary satellites for telecommunications, once wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Consider the kinds of changes the boomers have seen: television (and then, colour television, followed by cable and satellite), moon landings, cheap international travel, computer chips, cell phones, the internet and biotechnology.

Barely 150 years ago half the world was home to stone-age culture. Today its inhabitants communicate globally with friends via computer social networking, watch the professional sports on satellite tv, and via internet plan holidays virtually anywhere on the globe including Antarctica.

All this comes with a cost, though, and not merely the cash we put out for our iPods or our flat-screen tvs’ vivid setting. We have become accustomed to experiencing the world through these means an given the extraordinary power exhibited, we are unlikely to be willing to admit that we humans have any limits at all.

Of course, death is the great leveler, and we still watch uneasily as colleagues, friends and family pass away as a result of accidents, or cancers and other medical blights. We dig into our pockets for the neighbourhood collector for the heart fund, and dutifully swallow our vitamins. But overall, our expectation is that like most of the challenges of the last century or so, we’ll beat these, as well.

Contemporary “Edison” Ray Kurzweil believes we will. Given geometric growth in scientific discovery, he argues that we will defeat aging and perhaps even ultimately death (aside from accident) before 2050. He might be right.

However, there is more than one fly in the ointment of his optimism that we need to keep in mind. Despite geometric increases in the amount of knowledge available to society, none of us knows more than a fraction of it. We are better educated than ever, and at the same time we know progressively smaller and smaller fractions of what is available to be known. Despite our best efforts, we’re becoming more ignorant.

We are frighteningly dependent on the expertise of others, and the complexity of socio-economic arrangements keeping our whole social edifice going is staggering.

Our ignorance is exacerbated by our immersion in distraction. Illegal drug production is one of BC’s largest industries. After weapons, entertainment is one of America’s largest exports. We are awash in popular entertainments. Many of us know Rick Mercer or Jay Leno better than our next-door neighbour.

One doesn’t see Hansard at supermarket checkouts; one does see the ongoing saga of Brad, Jennifer and Angelina. There’s always another sports playoff series or championship match to distract us from anything pressing like medical care policy or peak oil.

We’re still a television society, with the average adult Canadian watching 1500 hours per year (about a quarter of our waking lives). Add to this internet surfing (instant new spouse, anyone?), and we spend a lot of time in fantasyland.

We’re spectators entranced by wizardry, skeptical of the supernatural, but happy to soak up its confidence, and primed to believe that any difficulty we face is just a few heartbeats away from its solution. Let’s hope we don’t have to face any real problems.

Al Lehmann teaches school in Terrace, BC.



Just Posted

TDCSS to end on-campus daycare service

NWCC committed to finding licenced provider to fill space

Terrace teen honoured at Commonwealth writing competition

Ariadna Sullivan among 12,000 entrants vying for top awards

VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers are using aerial drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in the province

Rent continues to rise in Prince Rupert, drops in Terrace

A report from Canadian Mortage and Housing Corporation shows the average rent has risen by $132

Cops targeting risky behaviour, auto crime

Holiday campagaigns aim to keep roads safe, valuables protected

Pool upgrade on budget, slightly behind

Completion is set for March 30, and opening will likely be late-April, early-May

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

Most Read