Friday, December 4, 2015

A month of gifts, day 4: The Gift of Science and Technology

I love living in the future.

Last week I tried to describe my family’s first computer (a Commodore 64) to the Plague, who is eleven and fascinated with computer games. I explained my favorite game—the one where you had two ‘cannons’—diagonal lines—on ‘hills,’ and the player had to figure out the right angle for her cannon and blow up the computer’s cannon before it returned the favor. The cannon ball was a couple of green pixels, and my geometry skills being rudimentary, I died a lot.

The Plague listened with horrified fascination. Minecraft, by comparison, is astoundingly complex (however, I still die a lot—fall into lava, get smacked around by zombies, get pushed into lava by the zombies . . .) And let’s not even talk about my current favorite, Skyrim, with its gorgeous visuals, intricate storyline, and soaring music. It amazes me how far computer technology has come in three decades or so.

Don’t even get me started on the tech I carry around with me. I told someone recently that if you’d told eleven-year-old me that one day I’d have a phone that could take pictures, play music, connect to this thing called the internet that can put me in touch with the entire world, and also still talk to people, she’d have never believed it. And if you’d told younger me I would be able to download books to that phone, a dozen or more, and read whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted, her poor little head would have exploded.

For all the flaws of the modern world—and they are many and varied—it’s a pretty amazing time to be alive. When I see posts from all over the world, from people I’d never have had the chance to meet if I’d lived in an earlier time, it gives me so much joy. While I’ll never be able to visit all the places I dream of seeing, your pictures and stories give me a glimpse of that world. And that is a tremendous gift.

For that matter, if I’d lived a couple generations ago, I’d probably be dead by now: appendicitis, difficult pregnancies, the childhood diseases I didn’t get because of vaccinations. People of my generation like to joke that we don’t know how we survived a childhood without seatbelts or helmets, and with great family reunion toys like Jarts. 

(No, Mom, we totally DID NOT play with the Jarts while you were busy talking to the aunts. Forget I said anything!)

The truth is, I know I was raised in a relative sweet spot, timewise. And contrary to what the evening news would have you believe, this day and age is remarkably safe for a lot of us.

Not everyone, of course. I think of refugees fleeing their homes, of countries disintegrating into civil war, of people who live in fear because of their skin color or sexual orientation, of those living in the harshest poverty even in my own, relatively wealthy, country. Science hasn’t freed us from bigotry, from selfishness, from self-righteousness. At its best, though, our technology reminds us how close we are, and how fragile and precious the web we’ve constructed that connects us.

Now if we can just stop using the miracles to kill each other, we'll be doing great.

Triangulations: Lost Voices--available now! (Including my near-future horror story, "Wandering Swallows.")


  1. Replies
    1. Especially if you weren't overly fond of your various intact body parts. :)

    2. Especially if you weren't overly fond of your various intact body parts. :)