Will We Look Like That To The Future

fred pelka

Former Member
Well, we seem to be going around and around here, but that's okay. I was hoping to find perhaps a reasonable medium between technology as an evil monster devouring its children, and technology as unalloyed good to be pursued no matter what the cost. Probably I just screwed up with my choice of words. For instance, technology "taking sides." Michael is right, in that inanimate objects can't act of their own volition. Even so, inanimate objects can, I think, influence the way people think and act, and can also influence and even determine the outcome of conflicts, situations. So while a gun might not "float out of its box, hunt somebody down, and kill them," a gun in someone's hands might give that person a feeling of invulnerability, of power, of control, making them capable of doing things they wouldn't consider without it. A disgruntled employee without a gun might, in a fit of rage, return to work and heave a chair at his boss. A disgruntled employee with a gun might result in a headline that reads, "Four people dead as angry employee kills co-workers, self." Clearly, the firearm had an impact in how the situation played itself out, even if it is only an inanimate object.

I also think that it's possible to assign degrees of responsibility, without "shifting blame" or letting direct perpetrators off the hook. Yes, it was Saddam Hussein et. al who dropped those chemical weapons on the Kurds. They are ultimately responsible. This doesn't have to mean, however, that the folks who provided them with the means to produce those weapons ought to be held blameless. Similarly, those in control of the Titanic that terrible night obviously bear ultimate responsibility for their decisions. On the other hand, I don't think this absolves the folks who decided somewhere down the line that more lifeboats weren't needed. And certainly, the size of the ship, the fact that it could go as fast as it did, the feeling of invulnerability its sheer size apparently conveyed to everyone connected with it, must have counted for something as the various decisions were made that night. So it isn't an all or nothing kind of thing.

I think Tom, in his ironic post above, is on to something. I think technology serves those who can afford it, who own it, and the creators and purveyors of technology do have some responsibility in that regard, for the consequences of what they create. Anybody know the Tom Lehrer song on Werner von Braun?

...the rocket goes up
where does it come down?
"That's not my problem,"
says Werner von Braun.

This is all very far removed from the original question raised by this thread. But then again it's the distractions and diversions that make this all so interesting.

Best wishes to all,

Fred
 
Thank goodness the Titanic disaster put an end for all time to the subordination of the safety and well-being of an international conglomerate's customers to its corporate profits!

And thank goodness that the primary goal of capitalism is, and forever will be, the conservation of the only planet of its kind in this end of the galaxy.

And how inspiring it is to know that an informed electorate will continue to control the selfish desires of those who produce and market biomedical technology such as cloning.

Nothing has changed, folks. Nor is it likely to, no matter how many platitudes about "a decision we have to make" are uttered here.

Nice strawman arguement you made there, Tom.

Now if you wish to address the arguements and concerns that I actually made, I might consider whether it's worth my while to take any further interest in this thread.
 
"I am confused, what is this thread about???"

It was supposed to be about how this present society would be viewed by the future...but that's a bit of a problem, since no one in the present can decide how to view it (or so it would seem from these posts, including one from myself, admittedly). :D

It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.
 

fred pelka

Former Member
"I am confused, what is this thread about???"

The thread is about "Will We Look Like That to the Future?"

I think it started with folks wondering if we'll look as quaint and humorous to people in a hundred years, as the Gilded Age with its fashions and fads looks to us now. I think it then started careening from one topic to the next, eventually morphing into a debate on technology, arrogance, and such. Personally I have no problem with mental pinball, but I suppose it can get confusing at times.

Judging from the last few posts, I think the future may well see this as a contentious era when many people held opposing viewpoints, and were willing to passionately state them in a variety of public forums. What I'm hoping is they will also see this as a time when we were able to resolve these differences without resorting to name-calling, vilification, and violence. History at this point seems to be arguing against me, and often seems, as one Gilded Age writer put it, "a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." Me, I'm just stupid, weird, naive enough to keep hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, history is wrong.

Everybody, let's lighten up a bit. "Less squabbling about petty stuff" is absolutely right.

Best wishes to all.

Fred
 
>>It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.<<

Never happen. Sorry. Humans have always been a pretty contentious and arguementative lot and I've seen no evidence of any kind that this will ever change. We may find less destructive ways of channeling all that, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. It's just the nature of the beast. It was a surprisingly smart scriptwriter who had a character on Babylon 5 say "You cannot make history. You can only hope to survive it."

Whoever this was, he knew what he was talking about.

>>Me, I'm just stupid, weird, naive enough to keep hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, history is wrong. <<

Mmmmmmmm...Fred, it's not the history that's wrong, although our take on it may well be at times. It is what it is. The question is, can we learn from it?

We have the capacity to do so, but all too often, few people are willing to make the effort. That's why you often see the same old issues, controversies, and schisms of ages past being hashed over and over, and over again.
 

Bob Cruise

Former Member
>Hiroshima and Nagasaki are livable, forests have been restored, wetlands have been restored, rivers, and lake cleaned up, species such as the American Eagle and the American alligator brought back from the edge of extinction...need I go on? <

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by single bombs. The incidents stopped WWII, but only because one nation possessed the knowledge for making the bomb. These days, however, nobody drops bombs on each other due to the threat of nuclear retaliation, thereby underscoring the unpleasant fact that too many nations now have "the bomb" (including versions more lethal than the 1945 models). Unfortunately, even that may change now that the Islamic world has been brought kicking and screaming into the Age of Technology. In the Western world, wars were fought for conquest and some sort of net gain ("the spoils of war"). All nuclear-stopgaps go out the window, however, when you've got state-backed religious fundamentalists who seek to destroy for the sake of destruction.

As for eagles and alligators, guess again. A new book - "Monster of God" - explains how virtually all the "alpha" predators like crocodiles, bears, tigers, etc. will be gone from the wild by the year 2050 unless humanity steps in to protect these creatures. Yeah - we can reverse the process, but will we if there's no financial gain? Why did it have to come to this in the first place?

>The Titanic didn't cause herself to sink. Her watch team had a nasty accident where they blundered into an iceberg.<

>The World Trade Center towers didn't cause themselves to fall, and neither did the aircraft that were flown into them.<

True. And this is where the folly of human nature comes into play when new technologies are "thunk" up.

The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that? As many have claimed, if those bulkheads had gone all the way up, the ship - at the very least - would have taken much longer to go completely under, thereby allowing nearby ships to come and rescue the passengers.

The Einsteins who built the Trade Center allowed for an impact from the largest plane then-known - yet completely overlooked the fire what would have resulted from jet fuel (not to mention that it is conventional firefighter knowledge that ANY fire above the 8th or so floor is difficult to control - so why place people in jeopardy in the first place?).

Now - does that mean that buildings could have been built which would have survived the terrorist attacks?

No, because, from the start, jets were - and will always be - essentially jumbo-sized, airborne molotov cocktails. Amazing that it took a Third World mind to notice that.

It seems, then, that - for all the intense thinking and evaluation done by the "great" minds who invent these new technologies - there's always a sucker punch delivered at the most tranquil of moments (a moonless night, a beautiful day).


>inanimate objects can't act of their own volition.<
>The term I used is morally neutral.<

Interesting that the question of morality is brought up here, insinuating that technology kills only when people use it for "bad" purposes.

But what about those times when technology malfunctions?

"Guns don't kill people, people do" overlooks the numerous deaths each year from kids who find guns in the house. Yes - the person owning the gun is responsible; however, just a much to blame is the design of the gun: it allows for the snuffing out of a life in a fraction of a second. Granted, this design is the result of the human mind - nevertheless, it's the momentary absence of a (knowledgeable) human mind which ends up being killing those kids.

Or what about when technology is put in charge of people?

The tag line for Micheal Crichton's first foray into the amusement park drama says it all: "Westworld - where nothing can go wrong... go wrong... go wrong..."

Technology was not the cause of The Titanic and the WTC disasters - but it was directly responsible for the grand SCALE of these events.

Same with the Lusitania (which, btw, is what I consider the true historical equivalent of the WTC - not the attack on Pearl Harbor as so many are quick to identify).

Sure - accidents will always happen and aggressors/terrorists will always strike. But putting thousands of lives in one mega-structure only means that when something fails, the resulting loss of human life will be catastrophic.

For that matter, look at how x-rays were treated upon their discovery: "Healthful", "Rejuvenating".

As the line from "Jurassic Park" goes: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think whether they should".

Or what about those instances when technology gives one a false sense of security?

Sure - Captain Smith was going too fast. But was he operating under the assumption that any collision would not result in the ship's sinking.

Sadly, such erroneous reasoning continues to happen.

Here where I live (NYC), recently, three teenagers took a rowboat out on a lake - in an area which was off-limits because of its known dangers - and ended up drowning. They had a cellphone and called 911, but all the 911 operator heard was "Help - we're out here and we're going down-". 911 didn't respond to the call because it subsequently knew nothing. Later, it was revealed that software which could reveal the location of a phone call was due to be installed in the 911 system but had been delayed for whatever reason. The parents of the victims, naturally, were outraged, saying that if said software had been installed their children would still be alive. My reaction, however, was "who put it into those kids' minds that a cellphone would keep them out of trouble out on open water?"

I am reminded of an exchange between the paleobotanist and the creator of Jurassic Park: "'It's still an illusion!' 'When we have control again-' 'You NEVER have control, John! That's the illusion!'"

>All this is way off the topic though. <

Believe it or not:

"Morally, of course, the owners and builders are responsible, but at present moral responsibility is too weak an incentive in human affairs - that is the miserable part of the whole wretched business - to induce owners generally to make every possible provision for the lives of those in their charge; to place human safety so far above every other consideration that no plan shall be left unconconsidered, no device left untested, by which passengers can escape from a sinking ship. But it is not correct to say, as has been said frequently, tht it is greed and dividend-hunting that have characterized the policy of the steamship companies in their failure to prvide safety appliances: these things in themselves are not expensive. They have vied with each other in making their lines attractive in point of speed, size and comfort, and they have been quite justified in doing so: such things are the product of ordinary competition between commercial housees.

Where they have all failed morally is to extend to their passengers the consideration that places their lives as of more interest to them than any other conceivable thing. They are not alone in this: thousands of other people have done the same thing and would do it to-day - in factories, in workshops, in mines, did not the government intervene and insist on safety precautions. The thing is a defect in human life of to-day - thoughtlessness for the well-being of our fellow-men; and we are all guilty of it in some degree. It is folly for the public to rise up now and condemn the steamship companies: their failing is the common failing of the immorality of indifference."

- From "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley

>Getting back to the topic: Will We Look Like That to the Future -- I think Bob is on to something. ...we still are enthralled by all the things we can do, without asking ourselves too deeply why we do them, what is the purpose, what are the possible consequences. <

Bob is always on to something.

Here's the bad news:

Our current society - everywhere, from West to East, North to South - and in fact the entire Age of Technology - are all based on a simple but critical premise: gas and oil are cheap and easily obtainable fuel sources. Take a look around you: nearly everything you see - buildings, furnishings, food, etc. - was either manufactured or transported - or even both - courtesy of hydrocarbons.

Now then, in about 100 years (as the title of this thread ponders), all oil and gas reserves will have been depleted. That's when the real fun begins. Yes, there are alternative energy sources (solar energy, gasohol, coal, etc.), but all of them are substantially more expensive than oil and gas.

What will the economics of the future be? How cheap and easy will it be to ship food and consumer goods to city stores? Will gasohol be a viable fuel for jets? What will be able to deliver the power needed to make possible mass public transportation?

I shudder to think how a society grounded in the idea that energy is cheap will make out in the future.

Thanks to technology and innovation, we have become incredibly spoiled (not to mention obese in many cases).

Prior to 8/14/03, the cry around NYC was "Close the Long Island Nuclear Power Plant! It's a potential terrorist target!". After 14 inconveniencing, powerless hours in the dark, however, the same voices changed their tune: "Maybe that power plant should stay?"

So then - what will we look like to those 100 years in the future? Taking all of this into account, we'll probably be viewed as having been extravagant with regard to energy, in much the same fashion as the Edwardians were extravagant when it came to making their own lifestyle possible (e.g., they had cheap labor, we have cheap energy).

>Unless one thinks that it might be better to go back to the trees and take our chances with plagues, drought, famine, and Leo the hungry lion. If that's your idea of paradise, you're welcome to it.<

Oh - have I confessed to everyone that I live in a nudist camp? (Right now - the only thing I have one is the computer.)
 
>>Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by single bombs. <<

Which invalidates the overall point I made...How?

>>As for eagles and alligators, guess again.<<

Guess on what? What I pointed out happened.

>>True. And this is where the folly of human nature comes into play when new technologies are "thunk" up.<<

The key word is human nature.

>>The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that?<<

Very smart and based on some very reasonable assumptions about the sort of accidents that had been happening. In many respects, the design is actually superior to what's out there today.

>>"Guns don't kill people, people do" overlooks the numerous deaths each year from kids who find guns in the house. Yes - the person owning the gun is responsible; however, just a much to blame is the design of the gun: <<

Absolutely wrong on all counts. Statistically, as well as in any practical sense. I don't have time to go over all the misconceptions and false assumptions wrapped up into this one. Suffice to say that the design is in no way faulty because a gun is a weapon, as is an archery set, as is...beleive it or not...a boomerang, as is any sort of knife. It's designed as a killing instrument. You can't scream faulty design at something that works exactly as it was designed to do.

Bob, I don't have time this morning to go over all of this. I have to get to work early and perhaps should have gotten up earlier. (Should I blame my alarm clock for my getting up a tad too late? I think not as it did exactly as I bid it.) Suffice to say that what you've persisted in doing is blaming the tools, not one of which had and any voice or choice in determining how they were used, and wouldn't have spoken up if offered any because they don't have a voice or any way of making a choice.

It's blame shifting of the same sort as when people tried to lay the Titanic fiasco at God's feet and assert that He was trying to teach us some sort of "lesson."

Just more of "It's not my faaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwllllltttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Well it is our fault. No matter how you slice it, dice it or argue it on any matter whether it's local building codes, aircraft operations, ship design or the ever increasingly dull gun debate, WE are the ones who make the choices. If/when we screw it up, we have none to blame except ourselves.

It's just that simple.
 
>>It'll be grand when the present is past, and there's no more human controversy...less squabbling about petty stuff, among other things.<<

>Never happen. Sorry. Humans have always been a pretty contentious and arguementative lot and I've seen no evidence of any kind that this will ever change.<

If I was able to say what I wanted to say originally, I would have been able to say that what I consider to be the only way to end human controversy is something akin to the apocalypse. In other words, when humans don't exist anymore as humans!!!!!

But I would be slapped down for saying such a thing...because that's such a horrible thing to say...but I never said I wasn't horrible. ;)
 
Hmmmmmm...Kritina, while saying what you just did may be harsh, it's also pregmatically realistic. Any sense of idealism I ever had died a pretty quick death when I came to understand that.

I suspect when the epitath is written on "our" century, people will look back on our controversies, schisms, factions, and debates and say "Hmmmmmmm...more of the same old thing."

Not that our decendants will have much to crow about because they'll be doing the same thing all over again.
 

Bob Cruise

Former Member
>Just more of "It's not my faaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwllllltttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" <

No - that's not what I'm saying.

My stance is - and has always been - that the human beings who design these wonders of technologies are imperfect in their ability to foresee exactly how such "wondrous machines" will misfire - despite what is perceived to be "due process of evaluation".

My difference of opinion with you is that I recommend that more restraints be placed on the implementation of new technologies, especially when such technologies are intended to service large numbers of people.

>the design is in no way faulty because a gun is a weapon<

Well yeah - a gun is supposed to shoot a bullet, but it's not supposed to go off in the hands of a child. The design is faulty precisely because it cannot tell who is pulling the trigger. Humans, of course, are responsible for making the device "child-proof" - as well as for setting those child-proof mechanisms in the first place.

>>The dummies behind the TITANIC built a ship with bulkheads which only went up to E deck. How smart was that?<<

>Very smart and based on some very reasonable assumptions about the sort of accidents that had been happening.<

But not smart enough.

More than "reasonable assumption" should have been applied when designing a ship that big.

Why wasn't it?

However, for a real skewering of the ship's design, let's go to the videotape:

"The design of the Titanic's bulkheads calls for some attention. The 'Scientific American', in an excellent article on the comparative safety of the Titanic's and other types of water-tight compartments, draws attention to the following weaknesses in the former - from the point of view of possible collision with an iceberg. She had no longitudinal bulkheads, which would subdivide her into smaller compartments and prevent the water filling the whole of a large compartment. Probably, too, the length of a large compartment was in any case too great - fifty-three feet.

The Mauretania, on the other hand, in addition to transverse bulkheads, is fitted with longitudinal torpedo bulkheads, and the space between them and the side of the ships is utilized as a coal bunker. Then, too, in the Mauretania all bulkheads are carried up to the top deck, whereas in the case of the Titanic they reached in some parts only to the saloon deck and in others to a lower deck still - the weakness of this being that, when the water reached to the top of a bulkhead as the ship sank by the head, it flowed over and filled the next compartment. The British Admiralty, which subsidizes the Mauretania and Lusitania as fast cruisers in time of war, insisted on this type of construction, and it is considered vastly better than that used in the Titanic. The writer of the article thinks it possible that these ships might not have sunk as the result of a similar collision."

- from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley

As far as keeping with the original title of this thread, I also want to say that, in 100 years, those living will probably look back at us as the "end bookend" of the very age which begin with the sinking of the Titanic.

As William McQuitty pointed out so shrewdly, the sinking of Titanica signaled the end of an era. As proof, McQuitty compares the Titanic memorial to the Great War memorial in Belfast City Hall: the former is in order of importance, the latter is in alphabetical order.

But someone else's ending is another's beginning.

What followed in the wake of the Edwardian Class System was the so-called "Modern World".

Courtesy of technology, a huge Middle Class burgeoned and thrived (due to all those office and factory jobs needing staffing).

Cars, credit, suburbs and the stock market became common denominators.

At least, for those in America and most of the rest of the Western World.

Now, however, it would seem, the rest of the planet is catching up.

Technology has since filtered down to the have-nots (e.g., the "Third World", as well as what's left of the Communist bloc), to the point that what began as Cuban skyjackers demanding a free flight home has diabolically morphed into Muslim terrorists employing laptops and devices from Radio Shack to wreak the most devastating attack on U.S. soil.

But wait - there's more!

Technology has also facilitated the process of "globalization".

Jobs that used to be relegated to the American lower-middle class (and, in certain cases, even the upper- and middle- middle classes) are now migrating across boarders and overseas (call your credit card company for "help" - more than likely you'll reach an operator in India who's been trained to speak with an American accent). Consequently, those living in under-developed countries seem poised to reap the biggest gains - serving, as they do, in this new global economy, in the same capacity as the simple office/factory employee of the early 20th century.

Also, the U.S. stock market - which was always seen as a even-handed gamble from the '20s to the '90s - is now in the doldrums. "Recovery" keeps being forecast, but, so far, the only companies making money are those which are laying off and/or re-locating their factories offshore. People who retired in the go-go '90s on the basis of their 401ks are now going back to work.

Thus, 100 years from now, it is my firm belief that, much as the Titanic signaled the end of the Edwardian Age, 9/11 will be viewed as the beginning of the end of the dominant role enjoyed by the Western World's Middle Class.

Respectfully yours,

Bob Cruise
Mayor of Curmudgeon City
(yes - I carry a rain cloud above my head at all times)
 
>>>Just more of "It's not my faaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwllllltttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" <

No - that's not what I'm saying. <<

Yes it is.

You may not think that, but in the end, that's precisely what's happening. As to the rest, the premise suffers quite badly from what can only be called the "Zero defects" mentality. It's a way of thinking that assumes that people should be able to see all the problems back then because we can in the here and now. And the problem with that is that we "see" all this with the remarkable clarity that can only come from hindsight.

I don't play that game.

Since this thread is now becoming quintessentially political (Meaning having nothing to do with reality) in a sense that is way inappropriate for this forum, I'm going to resign from any further discussions in this thread.
 

Bob Cruise

Former Member
>this thread is now becoming quintessentially political<

Not necessarily so.

I think it all boils down to the fact that, stepping back 91 and a half years, you would have sailed on the Great Ship, I would have refused.

(Oh - have I confessed that the Trade Towers always scared the hell out of me? From the first time I laid eyes on them to the period just prior to 9/11, I avoided them like the plague. Any business that had to be conducted there was taken care of quickly - with my exits always swift!)

Of course, 100 years from now, who'll know the difference?
 

fred pelka

Former Member
I find myself pretty much in agreement with Kritina on all this. In fact, sad to say, I'd even go one step further. Given the events of the past three years, I wonder if we've framed the wrong question. Instead of asking, "What will people think of us a hundred years from now," we might well need to ask ourselves, "Will there be anyone around, a hundred years from now, to wonder?"

If you combine Bob's initial point -- that technology has given us the means to do far more harm to each other and the environment than existed as little as a hundred years ago, and what seems to be Michael's constant theme -- that human fallibility, if not human folly, is the great constant of human history -- it seems to me that the future is likely to be very grim indeed.

Yes, the thread has gotten quite political. I personally don't have a problem with that. I think this too is a sign of the times, in that most everybody I know seems to have these same worries and questions. Anyway, I've always been of the opinion that politics and history both have a way of turning around and biting us if we don't pay close enough attention.

See you at the apocalypse.

Fred
 
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