Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quote of the Day

I've been meaning to post this quote for awhile. It comes from Chuck Klosterman's book "The Visible Man." What an interesting take on technological advances.

- Joel

“Everything science gives us immediately becomes normative. To an eighty-year-old man, a computer is this amazing device that creates instantaneous access to limitless information. He can’t get his head around it. But to a twenty-year-old man, the computer is a limited machine that costs too much and always needs to be faster. Because human live finite lives, all technological advances immediately feel banal to whatever generation inherits their benefits. Any advance can be appreciated only by the handful of people who happen to exist within the same time period of that specific technology’s introduction. You follow my meaning? Those are the only people who notice the difference. To a seven-year-old, a computer doesn’t even qualify as technology. It’s like a crowbar. Everything magical is temporary. So the idea that science makes our life ‘better’ is kind of an ephemeral illusion. Take vulcanization, for example. That’s a manifestation of science that seems to improve everything about modernity. Right? Of course it is. We wouldn’t drive without it, or at least not the way we drive now. But if vulcanization wasn’t possible, would we miss it? No. Of course not. We wouldn’t miss it at all. We’d find a way around it, or we’d effortlessly live without it. We wouldn’t even have the capacity to miss it. Vulcanization seems to make life better only because we already know it exists. We wouldn’t miss rubber tires if they had never been invented, in the same way we don’t miss cows that taste like lobster or shoes made out of glass or sexual time machines or anything else that science can’t create. Over time, the net benefit of technology is always going to be zero. Children born into Amish communities don’t miss TV until they discover such contraptions exist, right? There’s just no real evidence that proves people in the fifteenth century were less happy than people are now, just as there’s no reason to think people in the twenty-fifth century will have happier, better lives than you or me. This is a strange notion to accept, but it’s true. And once I accepted that truth, it forced me to reevaluate everything I did as an intellectual.”

Y__, The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman.

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