Friday, November 30, 2007

The Future Is Now

Why don't we see the marvels of human engineering?

I guess you could ask the same about the natural world, but human engineering has, to me, a sort of immediacy to it, a sense of pride and promise, especially when you look at everything that has yet to come. A quick peek at what life was like 200 years ago shows how dramatically things have changed; there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no plastics, no cars, no radiation (that's a bad thing), no computers, no television, no stainless steel, no telephone, no radio, no ... well, the list is pretty exhaustive. Basically, everything that's of any importance to you if you live in the industrialized world. Your life right now is utterly controlled by technology.

"But wait!" you say, "I'm not technically literate*. I don't own a computer, car, television, telephone, or any other piece of electronics." Ah, but you shop from places which sell goods made by machines which couldn't have existed 200 hundred years ago. Even the basic manufacturing processes didn't exist back than. Nor did the transport vehicles, let alone the transport systems, needed to get that product to your door. And if you get water or gas from a major company, not only are they getting those resources through comparatively new technologies, but those systems are probably managed by computers.

The upshot is that we don't even have to go back 200 years, or 100 years, or even 50 years to find things that we couldn't live without. Granted, the further back you go, the more you would be missing out on - but the new technologies are running the old technologies. The chair you're sitting in is probably made with stainless steel (1904), plastic (1950s), and some sort of synthetic upholstery (1940s), designed on a computer (1970s), put together with robots (1954) and assembly lines (1920s), shipped by something with a diesel engine (1892), put into a shop which ordered it either online (1980s) or through the telephone (1876), and finally got by you. And if you paid with a credit card (1958), then that entire system of payment wouldn't be possible without modern technology.

This is all obvious stuff that we just don't think about too often. Even more profound is the fact that in 1995 the internet had 19,000 websites - in just twelve years that's ballooned to more than 50,000,000,000. Considering how much it's used by everyone in the industrialized world, even those who don't use it directly, how can we not look at this advancement and marvel at what it is to be human? How can we not yearn for the future?

*In which case I have no idea why you're reading a blog.

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