Friday, December 07, 2007
Technology's promise and reality
Here I am now in the year 2007 with a different kind of restlessness—the kind that doesn't keep me from going to sleep, but the kind that awakens me in the middle of the night. What makes me restless on this particular early morning at 4:00 a.m.—ideas, upcoming projects, caffeine, athletes foot?
Looking back on those restless nights as a kid, it's somewhat disappointing when comparing my ideas of what the future would be like and what it has actually become. Sure there are some things that are pretty slick and are the result of our advancing technology—the cell phone, personal computer and the internet come to mind. However, when I consider how all of these high-tech gadgets are used (or should I say "misused?), that kid's excitement for tomorrow is nowhere to be found. I suppose in my youthful mind I pictured us being a bit more responsible or meaningful in the employment of whatever new technologies that came into play. Had I considered cell phones, I would have seen such calls as legitimate or important rather than the multitude of unimaginative, distracting and dumbed-down calls that are made... "Whacha' doing? Where are you? I'm standing in the isle at Wal-Mart, which margarine should I buy?"
I'm reminded of Springsteen's latest song Radio Nowhere.
I was tryin' to find my way home
But all I heard was a drone
Bouncing off a satellite
Crushin' the last lone American night
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
At 9-years-old and watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, I anticipated that by the time I was, say 47, trips to the moon would be common—even routine. As it turns out, it's still difficult to get there and back. And now that the momentum of the Apollo program has been lost to a program limited to earth orbit, returning to the moon will be like starting all over again.
Perhaps returning to the moon will be more challenging now, given all the new complications that are part of today's intricate technologies. If that turns out to be true, the second part of this saga might be just as exciting for today's 9-year-old kids as it was in the 60s.
For now, let's rename the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to 3001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe when 3001 finally comes around, Arthur C. Clarke's work will be a bit more accurate of our world then.