Where is Technology Heading?Trying to 'Win the Future?'
To Turn the World Into One Big Tool to Save Itself, That's Where
By Douglas McDaniel
Where is technology going? Well, you could ask a number of people in all fields, and you’d likely get a different answer, although the color green, implying nature and more fire with less fuel for yet another revolution, something akin to instantaneous science fiction, as the world slowly moves from monoculture to permaculture, would be the most common synthesis of what people are thinking.
If you asked the person who knew something, quite a bit actually, about technology who had gone away for a while to enter the new city of glittering lights, they would nonethless be inclined to refer to it more in terms of the clash upon their ears. The unbearble noise. The glare, the lights, the strangeness of things. And of course, the smell.
Or you could ask the person living with little technology other than a cell phone. If they are lucky. If they are not members of the dispossessed in the long-promised, ever widening digital divide. They might say it’s all they need, that cell phone. But that one thing is being used to try to attain all they really need: such as a job or a way to reach so and so to score such and such ...
You could speak to someone who knows everything about technology in the 21st century. However, they might be difficult to understand since in all likelihood their speech will sound like Martian.
Clearly, better, clearer ways of communication are needed. Efficiency in every category, more Promethean fire with less fuel, machines that think and think green, are needed. They could run by their own volition so man can return to some semblance of balance and spiritual, creative and sustainable growth. The new hunger for tech is headed now in that direction, too, as many of the old alchemical questions are not how to turn the lead into gold, but the gold into soul.
But during a political season and the possibilities of an intensified global war expands, endelessly, the crystal ball is muddy at best. Or so it seems. If one tries to predict the future by looking at history, you end up with some pretty good answers about where technology is headed.
For example, seasons of militarism have always been the leading edge of technology. The world wide web itself was built for those very same reasons.
Meanwhile, the counter force of cyberwar, disinformation and surveillance are surely the factors to be most felt by the consumer and refugee under such dystopian conditions. Other than the bombs, themselves, that is, more likely delivered by soldiers with laptops than those with guns, we can just trust in the knowledge that the art of war will improve.
Where is technology going? Look at those who developed the web, the brains, the geeks, if you will. Twenty five years ago, when the academic-based internet was being built, it was Dungeons and Dragons players who were leading the way.
Today you could ask them and they would point you to one of their 500 social networking links, perhaps one titled, “13 Aspects of Technology, all of it leading to improved Techno-pop-gnosticism.” Then, they would try to explain the 37 more technolopolitical “proto-psychic stages” to follow. They’d say: “It’s all leading to the planet becoming one quantum, quite convergent tool ... always coming together, then falling apart, but why, despite all of our web hits and faster, ever faster need and desire and ability to get our kicks with just one click, we still don’t know. Perhaps, we know even less, now. Despite our best efforts and examinations and experiments. But, no worries. If the bee in the hive doesn’t know why it makes honey, why should we?”
Or you could ask someone in business, who works B-to-B, who is entrenched in every conceivable technology. However, they would likely not have the time, since they are so busy (to coin a phrase that inspired Google.com) pouring water endlessly into broken vases, trying to keep all of the fires burning. They might be more inclined to simply let go of technology for at least a few days, to enjoy things that either have nothing to do with technology at all, but are, like a fine old motorcycle, quite beautiful as old-tech. Like a simple fire in a fireplace. Or, better yet, in the woods, testing their varying degrees of ability, among those in the group, to remember, exactly, how it’s done.
Of course, most employed people don’t have that kind of luxury these days, as the global situation is calling for increased time keeping the global technology wheel spinning. But trying to maintain the current dependency on the status quo of the monotechnoculture is clearly folly. Looking at it on this date, all we really know that everything could change in a blink of the eye. Because, during the time you read this, it actually did.
Just today, there is a story about a new building, a tall one, that “defies gravity.” Meanwhile, somebody, somewhere is developing a new kind of snowboard to defy gravity better.
But the real word on technology street is about war, not of the usual kind, but the global war to turn all new tech toward fighting the battle of man against nature. A long slow hard struggle to turn the Titanic around. That is, to save the planet. According to a world-class scientific panel put together by the United Nations, the human race can now start enjoying the last days of the ski industry, for example, like the last days of disco. But with the weather, who knows? We could be entering a new Ice Age. Hummingbirds, killed off in the drylands of New Mexico, could blossom into the size of ptyerodactals in North Dakota.
Right down to the rapidly escalating decrease of snow in the mountains in some regions, an increase in others. Word on the streets of science is global warming and its effects are so well past being recognized, it’s no longer hip to say it’s so, Joe. The environmentalists, then, the greens, can keep doing good works, sure, but otherwise, go into transition mode. Intractable positions can now be transformed into a simple “do no harm, but allow for existing energy-alternatives- development” mode.
Time to reassess, to pat yourself on the back. The environmentalists managed to get even the biggest idiots to listen, and their online savvy played a big part. But now what’s need is not to assign guilt, but action. What we are looking at now isn’t convincing everyone trees need to be preserved for mere aesthetic values, but that the ethic now is the avoidance of the global warming effects leading to a red line event, as in mass extinction.
That is now actually the task at hand, according to the word on the streets of pure science.
That’s right. We got the “asteroid is going to get hit us” notice from the U.N., from NASA, from everyone, including Exxon. I say “notice” because this is the part of the movie about human history where Bruce Willis gets drafted, after initially refusing the call, as all film heroes do, and says, “OK, I’ll do it, I’ll join the world army to save the planet using the best of all available technology.”
The local emergency management response for any responsible adult should now include a list for a few things. First, you need to make some sort of announcement to your kids. Tell them “Sorry, we all have to join this world science army, or we are cooked. If we all stopped driving our cars today, if we even stopped heating our trophy home, stopped doing all of the things that made it happen, the effects of the greenhouse gases as they currently exist is enough to raise the seas by almost five feet and turn your futures as video-rock star dandies playing at a venue at any town on earth with a dock and a bay into a precarious – yes, sadly, it’s true my sweeties – impossibility.”
Tell them sorry, sorry, sorry. Tell them, “Sorry but, you beautiful little eagles, it’s time to put the video game down and get back to your physics and engineering and mathematics studies so that you can, as soon as possible, make some horrendous choices in global energy needs, such as gas-fired and nuclear power plants, safer and more efficient for human survival.”
Tell them to go outside and invent something fun, like an airborne nanotech methane eater to make the world sky-woes go away.
Tell them the days of such pleasantries as gravity games are over. Meet the new hip: Wind. Storm. Fire. Drought. Disaster. Catastrophe in cascades … you get the picture. Give them good survival tips for a future world that will feel a little like Venus and Mars, but it can’t decide.
In Colorado, for example, where we sit on enough resources to turn the country into Western Arabia for the plundering of lodes of natural gas and uranium, resisting the trend is not just difficult, if not impossible – to resist is an act of global irresponsibility.
It’s a hell of a thing to get one’s mind around, this paradigm shift of what will be necessary for human survival, but you only have a few days to think it through, tops. Then, soon as you can, pack up the Hummer, drive it out to your nearest drilling rig, and see if there’s anything you can do to make it more efficient, cleaner, better. Say here, have one of our extra Thanksgiving turkeys, all cooked at the necessary temperatures in our big ass ovens. Tell the gas rig workers, “Thanks, next time we come around, we’ll bring you something nice from the Salvation Army store.” Invite them to stay, when they get world-weary as the hours get longer and the daily temperature averages continue to rise, in one of the bazillion rooms of your trophy homes for the weekend.
Tell them, “Sorry, sorry, sorry. We’ll stay out of the way of your siphoning of the earth. Just, in this century, could you be a little more Zen about it? OK, great, thanks. Good luck saving the planet for the rest of us.”
Then it will be OK to ski and dance, a little, I hope. We’ll see how it all looks with the guns and technowledgy gods and cannons during the next big American Revolution in 2012, when it will be yet another time to re-define under great pressure. When we get another big check on the earth, the sky, the seas and all of our technology. When we can look at our tools, our responsible uses for fire, always a dangerous trick for mankind for 10,000 or more years, asking ourselves, did this tool work? Why or why not? Then start that big wheel turning, hopefully by this time without any fuel needed at all, again. For the next generation. A perpetual motion machine that benefits with a beneficial campfire glow for not just one, but all things, all day, and especially, night.
Douglas McDaniel is the author of, most recently, "Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain."