The Second Renaissance
Every day that goes by where I donÃ‚'t fly to work in an autopilot hoverbubble pisses me off.Ã‚Â IÃ‚'ve long since expected robots to pretty much tackle the mundane tasks of the day, including but not limited to cooking my dinner, washing my clothes, pre-warming the toilet seat, and tucking me in with a nice glass of juice at night.Ã‚Â The fact that I even have to type these words instead of projecting a focused stream of thought at my computer screen is bitterly annoying Ã‚– though, I take some solace in that my word processor automatically kicks out the extra s I always put in the word focused.Ã‚Â Sure, my vision of the future is derived in no small part from what was promised by 1950s science fiction authors, but come on, I expected better than this.Ã‚Â I canÃ‚'t help but feel like our technological sprint is degenerating into a leisurely jog through the park.
ItÃ‚'s hardly fair for me to fault people for not maintaining the greatest leap in human knowledge presumably since someone hit someone else on the head with a heavy stick, but thatÃ‚'s no reason for me not to do it.Ã‚Â I have little doubt that - should we not all be dissolved into our elemental constituent parts because someoneÃ‚'s God got really hacked at someone elseÃ‚'s God and told a bunch of people to just blow the whole damn thing up Ã‚– futureÃ‚'s history will record the twentieth century as something both remarkable and unprecedented.Ã‚Â It was violent to be sure, but also possessed of a steady crescendo of knowledge and implementation; from the assembly line to the internet in the span of a century.Ã‚Â This will someday be referred to as the second, and I think greater, renaissance.Ã‚Â Compare, for contrast, the technological advancements of the mid-renaissance fifteenth century where humanity made the mindblowing leap from inventing the first golf ball to inventing whiskey!Ã‚Â Sure, some German guy also modified a wine making press to incorporate movable type, but that hardly stacks up to the microprocessor, a-bomb, airplane, or penicillin.Ã‚Â
Unfortunately for us, weÃ‚'re coming into the game at its end.Ã‚Â When they look back on our days they will speak of the second renaissance beginning in the late industrial revolution and ending with reality TV.Ã‚Â ThatÃ‚'s not to say weÃ‚'ve a terrible dystopian clichÃƒÂ© to endure along the horizon, but that I think we ought to get used to the things weÃ‚'ve got, because I suspect not much more is coming for a while.Ã‚Â CanÃ‚'t you feel the big slow down?Ã‚Â I can.
Look at the leap from the 1950s to 1970s Ã‚– bellbottoms excluded.Ã‚Â From the early a-bomb, cars the size of medium sized asteroids, and a thousand technological and medical barriers aching and soon-to-be broken to a world where man walked on the moon Ã‚– and got pretty bored with that in a hurry Ã‚– put a machine on Mars, broke the sound barrier, and created the first ICBM.Ã‚Â From black and white movies and television about basically good people doing unambiguously good things, to color television, special effects, and moral ambiguity as entertainment.Ã‚Â From the Big Bopper to the Beatles, to the BeeGees.Ã‚Â It was a world dashing forward, never catching its breath.Ã‚Â The chasm between the two generations was both volatile and obvious in almost every respect.Ã‚Â Civil rights, womenÃ‚'s rights, workerÃ‚'s rights, a narrow world view shifted to a global worldview, advancements medical, pharmaceutical, and technological; it was a tumult of change rolling like boulder down K-2.Ã‚Â
Then came the computer revolution, the internet, the space shuttle, and space stations.Ã‚Â Were I to guess where the finish line might some day be drawn, IÃ‚'d put it near the completion of the human genome Ã‚– for all the good thatÃ‚'s doing anyone.Ã‚Â Things have been slowing down, and at an increasing rate, since the late sixties.Ã‚Â Plenty of invention and innovation to be sure, but ones of increasingly less macrosignificance, like for example the word macrosignificance which is one entirely of my own invention, but ultimately not particularly relevant.Ã‚Â
So weÃ‚'ve got nothing to look forward to?Ã‚Â Well, no itÃ‚'ll still be busy days, just on a different front.Ã‚Â WeÃ‚'ve spent so many years amassing this knowledge and technology that weÃ‚'ve never really sat down and fixed a grasp on how it changes the world and how we deal with one another. If IÃ‚'m wrong, and weÃ‚'re not at the end of the second renaissance, then certainly itÃ‚'s changing face on us.Ã‚Â ThereÃ‚'s a whole world culture that needs to be addressed and sorted out.Ã‚Â Above and beyond the simple stuff like having to deal with people who believe in other Gods because they can just call them up on satellite telephones, the big issues might be how weÃ‚'ll deal with a rising lifespan, how weÃ‚'ll communicate effectively in the untamed online frontier where anonymity is taken for granted, or how weÃ‚'ll keep ourselves busy in a world automated enough that we have a lot more time to threaten to blow each other up, and from time to time do it.Ã‚Â
The stories of evolution and change are always less interesting when focused Ã‚– I put that extra s there again, by the way Ã‚– on the semantics instead of how the people affected cope with that change.Ã‚Â In truth, the coming days may be far more interesting than anyone has a right to look forward to.
Methinks that I skate too close to being political, topical, or pertinent here, so letÃ‚'s leave it at that.Ã‚Â IÃ‚'m not trying to make some grand suggestion here.Ã‚Â Maybe a prediction of sorts, though itÃ‚'s more likely that IÃ‚'ve just strung some words together to play out a random thought I had in the car when I passed an old man wearing a gray fedora driving his fifty-something chevy too slowly for my tastes.Ã‚Â Regardless, I suspect that the advancement of the technological world to which weÃ‚'ve become so accustomed might very well be long past its prime.Ã‚Â I leave it to you to decide if thatÃ‚'s good or bad.