After Hours

Welcome to the future. All Homo Extinctus please step aside.

TechRepublic member Todd Fluhr thinks that the shockwave of societal change and cultural perspective has hit us faster than in previous generations. If you haven't learned to adapt and change, you're already obsolete.

Disclosure: I am writing from an American cultural perspective and grew up before the 1980s.

Bowfinger (to his significantly younger girlfriend): Yes! We'll be just like Bogey and Bacall!

Daisy: Who?

--  "Bowfinger"

If you're over thirty, you're separated from the emerging culture and technology by a cultural divide greater than you realize. The world you grew up in has gone. Your pop-culture references are as dead as disco, and you might as well have grown up on Mars for all the good it will do when trying to Grok the current generation.

The good news is that you now live in the future. You made it. You are here.

The bad news is you can't afford it, and your entire reference point is obsolete. You are Homo Extinctus and will soon join the Neanderthal and dodo bird as oddities of history.

As the old Chinese curse goes, we live in interesting times. The last 10 to 20 years have seen profound social and technological changes. Most of us welcome these changes with open arms and open wallets. We live on an ever-expanding edge of a shockwave of revolutionary transformation. The potential and promise of new technologies are embraced with each new consumer marvel. Products are launched and enter our lives almost daily to create an inexorable tide towards a radically different tomorrow. In fact, it's already washed away our yesterday.

What was once science fiction are now everyday conveniences. In many ways, we now live in a future far beyond anything imagined before the 1980s. Stem cell and genetic research, organs grown from cells, viable skin tissue created by modified office printers, the internet, cell phone applications, computer advancements, holograms, creation of mini-black holes in the lab, energy weapons, and invisibility cloaks... the list is almost endless and growing every minute.

To anyone over 40, this will make sense. Our cell phones put the old Star Trek communicators to shame. Consider how many other "science fiction" elements of the original Trek we've surpassed - automatically opening doors, medical sensors, computers, user interfaces, the list goes on. The only things we haven't got are the tractor beams, teleportation, and warp drive... but we're working on those.

Consider this. If you were told in the 1970s that someone had created a mini-black hole in a lab or a human organ grown from stem cells, you'd challenge their sanity or at least be skeptical. Such technologies were impossible. We could hope and extrapolate what might be possible in the future, but there were limits to what technology could do.

Not so today. We live on the edge between the finite abilities of yesterday and a tomorrow of unimaginable technological achievements. If you're browsing your favorite blog de jour from your wireless device and see headlines on quantum computing, teleportation, or a new laser powerful enough to rip open space and time, you'd say, "Wow, what next?"

People born after 1990 have grown up with a maelstrom of emerging technologies, in this brave new world of possibilities, and it's created a cultural disconnect. Before 1980, in spite of educational standards, most students could read a book or watch a film set in the last hundred years without difficulty. It didn't require a great leap of culture to understand the London of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade's investigations, or the world of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Even the modern adventures of James Bond or Steed and Misses Peel were easily accessible.

This isn't true for the younger generation. For them, reading an older book or watching an older film set requires the same perspective shift as any fantasy story or historical setting. Ultimately, the last 100 years of literature and film have been moved from modern fiction to ancient history in the span of a decade by our cultural transition into the future.

Generationally speaking, our daily lives have changed as well. Whereas today's youth is exposed to internet video, social networking, and a constant barrage of new apps and iPads, chances are you grew up with rotary or dial phones and only three channels on your TV. It's a profoundly different world. News used to be news. It was delivered through newspapers, radio, and on the television during the dinner hour. Now, new is an entertainment industry, constantly streamed 24/7 on the web or among hundreds of other television channels.

Here's a quick test. What do you think of when you read the following? Vietnam. JFK. Cold War. Bay of Pigs. Berlin Wall. Nixon. Watergate. Iranian hostages. Cher. Ollie North. Lawn darts. Eight track tape. Album. Beta. VHS. Marlboro Man. Gas prices. WKRP. These are the things of your culture if you were born in the 50s, 60s, or 70s. Imagine what kind of answers you would get from people under the age of 25.

Now, for extra points, try the following words: Bush. Clinton. MTV. New Music. Friend. Phone. Video. Google. Photoshop. Application. These are common reference points from the transitional period. How might the answers be different by someone born in the 70s and someone born after 1990?

This isn't meant as a rant on today's generation or the generation gap in general. Every generation feels a disconnect from the one before and fear of the one to come. But never before in our cultural history has technology changed so much, so fundamentally, in such a short amount of time.

Every generation forges its own identity. It's inevitable and desirable. But what are the implications for tomorrow? Is the current generation doomed to become Neanderthals in a land of iPad using Cro-Magnons? Is it even possible to integrate and evolve with the new and improved society? Or are we relics of a different time and place?

The shockwave of societal change and cultural perspective has hit us faster than in previous generations. As technology and change escalate, the faster we become irrelevant and out of date. Jerry Rubin once said to never trust anyone over 30. Logan's Run lowered that age to 21 and executed them on Carousel. Now, we're just trended by marketing demographics and marginalized by brand-name merchandise.

The world you knew is radically different from the world that is. Your point of reference is gone. If you haven't learned to adapt and change, you're already obsolete. It's time to evolve and forget everything you once thought relevant.

If you can't do that, then it's time to dust off the old VHS and watch some Max Headroom reruns.

134 comments
B.Kaatz
B.Kaatz

Most of this seems focused on the age of everyone. A few comments pointed out where they had experiences of older folks actually picking up and becoming proficient, and even adept at operating with the new technologies, regardless of the age of the person picking it up. When you read these posts, you have no idea the age of the person posting it, unless they tell you. As an example, I started with buying my own C64 in 1980. For the next several years, my mother would always complain that computers were too messy with all the cables and printouts. Well, here we are, over thirty years later, and my grandmother has been using Facebook for years to keep in touch with the grandkids and great-grandkids, and my mother JUST bought her first computer *last week*, a Mac! (A perfect system for her.) So, it seems to me that the only time you actually fall under either classification of Homo Extinctus or Homo Obsoletus is if you also subscribe to the 'ancient' cliche of "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

do i ever feel "dated" now. Good read though, I enjoyed it :)

Matilda77
Matilda77

Just correcting your assertion that in the Logan Run film they lowered the cut off age to 21. This is wrong. The carousel would dispose of people who reached the age of 30. I think it's sad and maybe dangerous that youth today have little exposure to timeless things and too much focus on disposable technology products like they are an end in themselves. I have exposed my 10 year old to a variety of cultural products from different decades in the 20th century. I once told her I hope I haven't skewed her tastes and sensibilities away from her generation. She surprised me by thanking me - she said she was very glad I showed her stuff that wasnt part of her generation.

rahbm
rahbm

I still have the VHS and even a Beta VCR. Now, where do I get Max Headroom?

Ron K.
Ron K.

A quantum leap is the smallest movement in an interaction. Good night, all.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The parents of the baby boomers (our parents!) made sure that, even if we couldn't directly relate to the hardships of the Great Depression or the cultural effects of WW2, we could at least understand them. If the current generation has no cultural references to relate to, it's our own damn fault for not providing those references.

Lucky2BHere
Lucky2BHere

The only thing different from an observer's perspective now is the speed with which things are changing. Other than these subjects focused on here - media, pop culture, science - "we" aren't changing. We still respond to the same things as humans, and for the same reasons. Teens who are exposed to old movies and books still react the same way, particularly if they have some context. Even a synthetic eye or ear, or enhanced prosthetics won't make "us" different. Our physical and intellectual cycles, whether we are from Zimbabwe or New Zealand, are mostly the same. We still want and need the same things, and we all get tired of trying to keep up at some point. Part of that is we all find out how much most of this doesn't really matter much. I spent all my years in college learning what life was like in each of our major historical periods. The upshot was people were/are/will be the same regardless of outside technological influence. A really fundamental constant to us that just might not be in the not-to-distant future. What is more interesting and relevant to our collective futures is how all of this outside stimuli is beginning to become one huge mash-up. I remember reading somewhere the date for the last of the possible combinations of musical notes will be played around 2025. Just say that's close (And realistic, which I believe. Today's music, for example, is themes, rifts, words and melodies borrowed and tweaked for the most part. In fact, 60-09s music is being played night and day in dorms around the world). Extrapolate that idea to words, design, face-type/body-type combinations (don't tell me you haven't seen someone from another ethnic group look a lot your cousin/best friend/et al) and so many other things. How that will affect creativity and innovation, our connections with each other and the ecosystem, and how we view ourselves as a part of the universe will probably have significant consequences - whatever they might be. Talk about being irrelevant...

edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

I post 5 songs at a time of my Pandora radio stations onto my Facebook page in order to try to re-introduce music as more of a mix of new and old than of just old or just new.

unconditionalliving
unconditionalliving

When we live our lives mostly on the outside, we seek relevance in the superficial. When we live from the center of being, we adapt continually, which is all evolution is ... endless adaptation ... growth of essence, not growth of surface. People who feel lost are trying to live on the surface, which always changes more rapidly than the core which gives rise to the surface. Live from the center ... it adores change.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

That describes my experiences almost exactly. Too young for all the free love, and too old for the grunge movement. :)

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I've been hearing that since the 60s. The "boomers" thought that was true for their generation. Change has been going on for longer than that. My grandparents literally grew up in the "horse and buggy" days. To them the world was small towns surrounded by farms and ranches. By the time they were in their thirties, passenger planes were flying overhead. Their grandparents believed human flight was impossible. In their 60s man landed on the moon. It's not just the current youngsters that doesn't know what it was like. We (boomers) don't really know what it's like to follow a mule with a plow on a daily basis, work a dirt farm with animal and muscle power. Yeah, I know. There are some of us who do, (not me), but not many. Ever hear the term, "40 acres a day"?

sboverie
sboverie

I am a late boomer, but I am more drawn to the later generation. Growing up in the 60s was a time of change, hair styles and fashion went through rapid changes from year to year. As a late boomer, I got to hear about the exciting things the boomers were doing but those things became passe before I was old enough to do them. It was like hearing how cool old Europe was and seeing only ruins left by the Huns; wondering why people thought it was so special.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Which is, itself, something that has been around (at least) since society began. The invention of the printing press changed the world fundamentally where those born after it lived in a world of readily available information inconceivable to those who were born *before* it. It revolutionized society and literacy and opened the doors, arguably, to modern society as we know it. World War 1 is as good of a marker as any for the dawn of the truly modern age. The airplane, the automobile and the telegraph shrunk the world overnight by an order of magnitude. People are self-centric. It helps to take yourself out of your own perspective to look on the world through the eyes of someone else. My grandmother passed away in 1986 and was born around 1903 - but the changes she saw in society from the time she was born to the time she passed away were rapid, dramatic, and nearly inconceivable for my mind, born in 1970. When she was born, it was a difficult journey just to get from one city to another. By the time she had passed away, people had been on the moon and the furthest reaches of the globe were less than a day away by jet airliner. When she was born, it could take days or weeks for news to arrive from distant lands. By the time she died, news that was happening on the other side of the world was instantly available. Yet, all this advancement you're talking about here, and we're still pretty much *stuck* to this planet or 40,000 feet above it, maximum - as a species. We haven't been back to the moon at all, and have only been to orbit around the earth in limited numbers among the most trained and qualified of our species. Sure, if I could hop in a Delorean and go back to 1985 with an iPhone would seem like space-age future tech reverse engineered from alien technology. But it seems to me all this "sufficiently advanced technology to be indistinguishable from magic" that you're talking about here is fairly meaningless consumer baubles and trinkets. On the important issues, we're still mostly using machines that burn dinosaur bones. We're still travelling the old fashioned way by sub-sonic jet travel. Speaking of the demise of the Concord, we're still travelling by unsafe JET turbine. We think our technology is so advanced - but we're really still on the covered-wagon end of the technology scale. We can TASTE that we're near the change-over to a civilization of advanced technology - but in the meantime, we're still in a place where one good super-volcano, wayward asteroid, or nuclear war and we're back to wearing animal pelts and living in caves. The Tsunami in Japan illustrates we're still ants scurrying in fear at the mercy of the whims of a natural world that doesn't really like us that much and spends a lot of time and effort trying to exterminate us. We're helpless to master our universe. Stephen Hawking may be able to master the most abstract concepts of how the universe works, but no one can download his brilliant brain into a better body, artificial or organic. When I can travel in aircraft that runs on safe anti-gravity that uses non-volatile fuel in a craft that has shields that protect me from any impact or collision - or better yet, safely, painlessly, and risk free enter a portal and seconds later materialize anywhere in the world that I want to go - for less than the price of a fast-food burger - then we're onto something. Flue travel FTW, only not through wizardry - through science. Hell, they still can't give me a machine as powerful as my desktop PC that is the size of a pager and clips onto my belt and connects wirelessly with acceptable throughput to various I/O devices. The closest we've come is the Atrix. Stone age computing. Yabba Dabba Doo. Todd, are you a baby-boomer? I get the idea you're just a little older than I am. A decade or so? I think that makes all the difference in our perception... but I think every generation before yours got to the point you are, as will every generation after. At some point, generation iRony (the current generation of goofy beards and bad fashion sense and horrible taste in beer) will feel just like you do now. I for one, am not actually impressed with our technology achievements as a society and species. I'm disappointed. We've still just barely come down out of the trees and started walking upright. We've got a long way to go before we risk the kind of paradigm shift as a culture and species that you suggest in this piece. But - that is just my perspective. I could be wrong.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Computers and such, it is my father, the technology illiterate, who is now leading the way in their household (since I moved out anyways). And he only learned from browsing the internet while at our shop during dead time. Now, at his current job, he is the one moving the computers around and hooking them up, helping people find stuff on the internet (he has a knack for it, he finds stuff even I can't find)

tonyhinkel
tonyhinkel

"The future ain't what it used to be"... for sure And I loved Max Headroom!

Old Timer 8080
Old Timer 8080

Google NEOTERICS for a glimpse of the future according to this screed. There are several good sf books on the negative of this kind of speed society. Read " Slow Tuesday Night " for the future as you describe it. Meanwhile, us " Old Farts " continue to enjoy the fruits of our labors... And don't try to " put down " other people like certain arrogant people... " HUBRIS is often quickly followed by NEMESIS "

words26
words26

Ironically, the future is the unfurnished waiting room of HISTORY.

htmapes
htmapes

The adoption of new technologies and social constructs is accelerating. Those of you familiar with Kurzweil will have seen this before. The impact is enormous. A new technology arises. In the 20th century, it would take a generation to achieve ubiquity within the western world. Today, the adoption is measured in years and transcends borders, being more horizontal than vertical. For those of you who have read Pynchon, it's like the invention of the rocket; that made physical borders obsolete in warfare. The new social associations made possible by democratization of technology are swamping not just the old order but individuals as well. Our delta-T is getting shorter and shorter. Going to be a hell of a ride over the next 10-15 years.

codepoke
codepoke

Being human is still about relating to people. We've made so many changes we're complicating that, but we won't survive as a species if we lose the advantage that got us where we are.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Stem cell research is still in its childhood. Application of stem cell technology is in its infancy. It is NOT an every day convenience. The same holds true for genetic research. We may have a map; but we don't have a compass, and we certainly aren't giving tourist packages for the Gene Ride like some Bio-Disneyland. Regrown organs? Still pre-Henry Ford. Mini-black holes? Is the LHC really doing that just yet? Or is that still on the schedule for a coupel years from now? Energy weapons? Sorry, they don't work worth a damn in the atmosphere; and we have no space program to put them in orbit. Invisibility cloaks? Anything beyond making a small board invisible is still science fiction. Holograms? Still pretty much a gimmick. The internet, cell phone applications, computer advancement? Everyday conveniences are robust technologies. Considering the extreme vulnerability of those last three areas, we ain't there yet. You say our cell phones put the old Star Trek communicators to shame; you're only partially right. For number of functions, sure, cell phones replace the communicator, the tricorder, AND the universal translator; but then the Enterprise never had to set up cell towers every 5 miles, or orbit a dozen satellites to get their coverage, and their coverage maps don't contain massive white patches between the reds or the blues. The point is, we live in the world of the possible, not the actual. The youth of the west of today have a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and reality. They are almost incapable of differentiating between needs and wants. You speak of Neanderthals in a land of iPad using Cro-magnons; but iPads are brand new technology and the verdict on them is still out. Your alleged Cro-Magnons may turn out in the end to be australopithicenes instead. There is some hope out there. Funny how the number of young people exploring the steam punk genre seem to be increasing. Perhaps they are begining to recognize that they missed something along the way to Best Buy. p.s. Turkeys can fly. They are absolutely jaw dropping when they do.

C-3PO
C-3PO

Are these two things also obsolete? (Respect for the elderly and family) We have lost our respect for the older generation, and that's only getting worse, and the family has decayed (or evolved?) to morph from the nuclear collection of child, parent, grandparent to be any random grouping of individuals who finds a connection on facebook - that's why my son and many of his friends list their family as each other, not their immediate siblings and parents... Watch out - the decay of core values by the immediacy of a "me" generation has its pitfalls... while the older generation might be considered "obsolete", they may not be the ones who are the harbingers of extinction... Just a thought.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

and I very much recommend the John Brunner books "jagged orbit" "stand on Zanzibar" and "shockwave rider".

santeewelding
santeewelding

Except that an eternal "center of being" cannot very well "grow". For that you need a here and a there; a now and a then. Eternity has none. Nor may "it" adore change, for the same reason. Which brings me to "it". How do you speak of third-person "it" unless you -- remarkably -- stand outside eternity? Soothing is about all you got. I give you that.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

The center does hold, if it is flexible enough to flow with the changes. I'm not trying to impose an artificial center on the new universe that's flowing around us: I'm just trying to figure out where the new center starts.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

Some quick counter-points and some quick agreements. Look how long it took the printing press to really affect day to day life and mature. To say 150 years is not an over-estimate. Consider how long it took commercial aviation to become common place. From the 1930's to the 50's. The same with television from the 50's through the 60's. Now compare how fast computers have accelerated rapid cultural dissemination of new technology and change within the last few years. It's an escalating exponential growth curve of technological capabilities that moves ever faster. Here's an interesting article I very much recommend http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity#Basic_concepts I like your time travel scenario but let me ask you this: Excluding fashion and art, imagine what the average person might have immediately available to them in these scenarios. If you lived in the year 1000, what handy common place thing easily grabbed on the fly could you take back to the year 500 to show you were from a technologically advanced culture? Almost nothing. Travel from 1850 to 1800: what handy things could you grab from about your person to take back o prove you were from an advanced technological civilization? Very very little. What about 1900 to 1850? Maybe a better crafted gun or watch. Maybe a new fangled thing called an auto mobile but it's not something amazingly futuristic, just a well built oddity. Medically, you might be able to take back some new bone saws. Other than that, not much. What about 1950 to 1900? What can you show from a technologically advanced culture? This time you could really impress the natives. Now we're seeing a leap, almost. Most of the things handy on your person aren't really super advanced, just refinements and practical advancements. Maybe something like a machine gun or fountain pen, or even a car. There was very little you had available for personal use that the people of 1900 couldn't reproduce or appreciate the basic engineering principles. Medically, you could take some penicillin back and be hailed as a savior. Now we get fun. You're in the year 2000. What do you have on your person or immediately handy that you could take back to 1950 that would seem completely alien and unreproducable? Probably a good laptop or digital device of some kind. Imagine showing one of those to Einstein! Probably a cell phone: look at the circuits and battery technology as well as the implied wireless network. You might even have a pacemaker. Bet that would be interesting to the people of 1950. They wouldn't even be able to reproduce those objects in 1950. They'd have to conclude you came from an amazingly advanced technological society. Now you can prove you're from the future. Do you see how fast technology is changing? Not long ago 50 years made very little difference in a person's daily life in a way that wasn't understandable or accessible to the previous 50 years. Now we're advancing at a rate that's almost science fictional. Consider the Greeks and Romans. By any of their definitions of "God", we are almost there. Re my being a little older than you: I have no point of context. I'd need to know your age before answering that. However, I do think it safe to assume I'm older, as I am, in fact, old. I consider myself ancient to the point of absurdity. I came in on the last edge of the baby-boomers, and am in my 40's. I only maintain a pseudo youthful outlook by having refused to grow up my entire life. While my age does place me in one generational demographic, I've never actually fit. When I was young people were always telling me I was too mature and thoughtful, and now that I am old, they keep telling me to grow up and act my age. Sometimes you can't win for losing.

dford
dford

Born in the early '40s - I'm starting to panic - maybe I won't be around long enough to see some of the stuff I'd hoped for - I've been waiting for that 'Door into Summer' to take me any place in the local (Galactic) cloud for, well, years. Never did hanker after a flying car, though. Much of the stuff that makes today different has never really been on my list - some of today's 'marvels' are entertaining, a few are useful. I just wish we'd get a move on - there's a lot of stuff I'm still waiting for (you mention a few) and I haven't got that much future left! David

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Too dark for the audiences of the time, and too smart for SyFy today.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

I'm not trying to fight the future or the speed with which it is evolving / coming: I'm asking about cultural perspective in a society with a 15-minute attention span.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

Thank you for adding this. This is my point exactly. We are approaching singularity in technology: how does this affect a hyperpluralistic culture? I'm not at all certain we will see the fruition of the convergence / singularity and transhuman evolution, but I am optimistic my kids or grand kids will. Some studies show the exponential growth of technology reaching that point in about 30-40 years on the inside, 80-120 years on the outside. That's not out of reach.

dogknees
dogknees

There are other valid ways of being "human". Is not creating technology one? Is the autistic/asbergers sufferer who cannot relate to others less human than you? I have little interest in the personality of individuals (outside my immediate circle) but a great interest in what they have created. Creativity is just as much a human trait as society or art or music,.... Read about Paul Erdos. His personal interactions were almost exclusively with other mathematicians and on the subject of number theory. He has contributed to the standard of living we all enjoy, and, to me, is as human as anyone else.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

.... may be evolving into something else. We might be along for the ride well past our own extinction.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have no idea what's causing these double-posts lately.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Not domestic farm-raised ones intended for the grocery, especially not when dropped from helicopters; or did you not get the reference?

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

First, I think you're confusing my use of "everyday commercial availability" with "everyday possibilities becoming real as we speak." And for the record: stem cell technology is in its infancy, BUT it's also being used daily for various research and practical purposes. Heck, it's even available in China currently to anyone who wants a routine injection of stem cells under the belief it will help restore their youth. It's back ally stuff, but if you have the money, you can get it. http://gizmodo.com/#!5165333/beijing-clinic-using-stem-cells-as-eternal-youth-beauty-treatment Lasers and energy weapons: the army has been testing and deploying high energy weapons for several years now. It's not science fiction. I can go online and get a laser under $100 that sets fires, burns plastic, and pops balloons. Would you like a link to this "unavailable" technology? http://gizmodo.com/#!5560206/the-spyder-iii-pro-arctic-is-a-real-life-lightsaber Re genetic mods. We already have gene therapies for treating hereditary diseases and such. We are on our way to recombinant cocktails for recreational self improvements. Genetic DNA technology not common place? It already is in Medicine, Research, Industrial, Agriculture, and other uses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_engineering#Medicine Regrown organs? Being done in the lab. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0404_060404_bladders.html Give it a few years. Is the LHC really doing that just yet? Don't you see the flaw in that statement? "Yet"? It's just a matter of time. "Yet". It's not an impossibility, it's a "how soon". Invisibility cloaks? coming fast. http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/44641 and with energy shields! http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2007/06/shootthrough_in/ Holograms? here and in use: http://youtu.be/8p6N_Ow5xRg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZVwF6tyHBc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZHs7qo0ZSE http://youtu.be/WkVe7wTlV0s We live in the future, and it just keeps getting more future-tastic.

dogknees
dogknees

Don't deserve respect. Some of the worst behaviour I've seen has been from those older than myself. And I'm 50! People don't automatically deserve respect simply because they've lived a long time. It's all about what they've done to earn respect. As regards families. If your brother goes and kills someone, your responsibility is to tell the police where he is. There are a lot of things more important than immediate family connections. When the things we do can affect millions of people, our responsibility is to them, not our immediate family or friends. I hear it all the time. Some community is being accused of acting badly. Then members of that community say that it's only a small group within their community that are responsible. So, why won't the members of the community hand the trouble makers over to the relevant authorities? Because "family is more important", because their "shared history" is more important than creating a new community with decent values. Garbage!!

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

My daughter did a "30 day" wall on facebook in which her parental units were not represented. However her main comments about family frequently contain "thank God for my Mom, Dad & Brother". Her "30 day" wall was about immediacy. In a sense the lack of immediate recognition made me chuckle. I am a success in that my daughter takes my love and support for granted the same way she doesn't consider air, until asked specifically how well she could live without it...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...the family has decayed (or evolved?) to morph from the nuclear collection of child, parent, grandparent to be any random grouping of individuals who finds a connection on facebook - that's why my son and many of his friends list their family as each other, not their immediate siblings and parents..." Do your son and his friends have more in common with each other than with uncles, cousins, and grandparents with whom they share nothing other than DNA? As a military brat, I never lived near my parents' families and moved every two or three years. I had aunts and uncles I would see for maybe a couple of days every other Christmas or 4th of July. I have half a dozen cousins I wouldn't know if they showed up at the door. There are plenty of other people at work and even on the Internet that I am closer to and have more in common with than just segments of a double-helix. That old 'child - parent - grandparent' grouping often existed because those involved didn't have a choice, especially when we were a more agrarian society. You stayed and worked on the farm because you didn't have as many, better options like we do now. One of the reasons you didn't have better options was because your parents pulled you out of school after sixth or eighth grade because they needed you to ... stay home and work on the farm.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

I do think the definition of "family" continues to change. It changed from the 50's through the 60's (radically) and every decade since. What's tomorrow? My extended family facebook friends? We are a drift in a sea of change, growing ever further from the past and ever nearer an unknown country.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]unimaginable technological achievements[/i]. Unimagined=unachieved. :| Amazing that ever-increasing dependency on technology that is itself dependent on a (cheap, for the masses at any rate) source of power is (virtually) always seen as a good thing. Not that I don't love my technology... [i]Grrrr... This new site design. It appeared that yours was the thread opener.[/i]

dcolbert
dcolbert

These arguments are not alien to me. I've spent a lot of time contemplating the very points you make here. But, I'm not certain that the accelleration is as rapid as it seems from where we stand. Compare a modern 1ghz dual core smart-phone or a quad core notebook to an early 8 bit PC from the 80s. But first, compare the earliest automobiles to ones from the 30s or 40s. Now, clearly a Model T and a Studebaker from the 40s were both automobiles. In 30 years, they had gone from primitive "horeless carriages" to something that is basically recognizable despite certain technologies as a modern automobile. But even the horseless carriage is easily recognizable as an automobile. But here is another similarity. Lots of people who've only ever saw or operated a modern car would be hopeless on getting a horesless carriage started, let alone moving. Much the same way that if you took a modern Mac user and sat them down in front of a Commodore 64 with no instructions, they would be able to do little more than turn it on, if they could get that far. The evolution of the PC aligns quite well with the progress of the automobile in how long it takes the tool to advance to a certian point, in my opinion. The first consumer PC kits were showing up nearly 40 years ago, in the mid 70s. It took them until almost the 90s to really evolve into anything we would recognize as a fairly MODERN PC. I'm sure to my grandmother, her console tube AM/FM radio in the living room didn't look like an antique - anymore than the 8 bit Atari I have down in my basement looks like an anqitue to me. But to me, that radio looked *ancient*, and to my daughter, that Atari 800XL looks ancient, too. And the timeline for development *matches*... The technology really hasn't advanced as much as we believe, having witnessed it and gone along for the entire ride from start to present. I'm sure once hand-cranks gave way to electric start, a lot of automobile enthusiasts and early adopters said, "Wow, that couldn't have happened soon enough". When electric headlamps were invented, and windshields, and enclosed cabins, and suspensions, and rubber wheels, and... lots of things came gradually - along the way. I think you can draw a very similar timeline along the evolution of modern information tech. As for your example of what kind of tech I could take back from 1000 AD to 500 - I'm thinking there are a lot of examples that would have made me a God in 500 if I had tech from 1000 AD to throw around. I'm just not sure what those things would be. But I'm almost certain that there were significant technology leaps, even in the middle of the dark ages, in that 500 year span. It isn't my era in study, though - so it is just a gut feeling. I've got a feeling it probably wouldn't be PLEASANT technology that advanced. Not a lot for the "betterment" of mankind going on in those 500 years, but that doesn't mean technology stood still. 1800-1850? The telegraph was absolutely revolutionary. Lots of advancement in rapid and mass transportation taking place during this time, trains and such. But not a plane in the sky. Photography is emerging too, but I don't think we're doing much with cinema yet. But by 1900, 50 years later, that was different. Not only were planes really taking off as a technology, but you could watch them on film in cinema. Somewhere in that time we laid the trans-atlantic communications cables too, right? We don't KNOW what these changes were readily, because we weren't there to experience them. But every 50 years for the last 300-400 years at least, the world has changed dramatically compared to what was right before it. I mean, 1492? Is that the modern age? I'm a history major, and when it is your field of study you *know* the answer is a lot more complex than it seems on the surface. From Rome to the late 1400s, things were relatively static - but we had a lot of natural setbacks during that time. The Black Death *really* put us behind schedule on a lot of development. Once we got that sorted out though, the timeline for how society has changed is a STEEP curve. 1492 we discover the new world, that brought about "The Age of Discovery", and what else does that possibly describe except a RAPIDLY changing world? We look back and think "how primitive", but to someone in their 20s, the world is completely different by 1500 than it was in 1480. By 1776 America is fighting a war for independence. After that, you've got a civil war, then WW1, then 2, then... well... welcome to today... in the *blink* of an eye, and each half century, the people would have barely been able to recognize much from just 50 years prior, technology and society advanced so quickly. I mean, look at the rise of the steel industry and the modern metropolis. No one every before had seen that in mankind's history, that kind of density and ability to build UP. All of this comes at a BREAKNECK pace - and each change transforms society and culture in a way that is unimaginable to the people that came just shortly before. The rub is, to the people that came after, it looks like if you take it in reverse, it turns into *MAGIC* when you go backwards. Keep in mind, for being like Gods from the perspective of Romans, we still don't have machines capable of lifting the heaviest blocks used in the construction of the great pyramids. We've got lots of THEORIES on how that might work, but our biggest helicopters and cranes are useless to do what those primatives were doing thousands of years ago. Pretty pitiful performance for the Divine. :)

sboverie
sboverie

Mark Twain wrote "A Connecticut Yankee in King Aurther's Court" with a similar concept. Bruce Campbell's "Army of the Dead" was a funny tongue in cheek movie along the same idea. There are a bunch of small items that would amaze the people in the 50's. Things small enough to carry in a pocket. Ipod Shuffle, a unit the size of a stamp with hundreds of songs that can be randomly selected. Laser pointers in red, green and blue. Digital cameras with display. Digital watch. Tiny, rare earth magnets that can attract 5 pounds of iron/steel. Cell Phone (although it would not work as a phone in the 50s) Shoes with blinky lights in the heels. LED key chain flashlight. Going from 1000 to 500 AD would have the opposite effect in that a lot of knowledge had been lost in the dark ages.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

It's coming faster than it appears.

dcolbert
dcolbert

And feel the same pressure ticking away. ;) Maybe once we go, we get to see it all, and understand it all better than we could ever possibly grasp from the perspective we're limited to here.

rick.jury
rick.jury

evloution is all about environmental pressure causing genetic changes. Humanity have now achieved a new state of being where life is so easy for us there is no environmental pressure. In the wild, life was/is hardcore - a species can gain an advantage by genetic change. What advantage can humanity gain now where almost every individual can reproduce in the easiest time in any species history to do so? No matter how stupid, fat or lazy you are you can stil have a good chance to continue your genes whereas in the bad old days of cro magon man you probably would have just died out. Many human inverventions are more likely to 'evovle' humans but in a strange way that our species will be dependant on artificial interventaion. Take the problem that human babies are constrained to be born with a max head size. Now that biological constraint is removed with ceasarian. does this mean a new species can evolve with larger brain size at birth (but only so long as there is a hospitial for every generation in future?). And these are strange times. My 7 year old daughter can't belive there was a world before google...

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I understood what you meant about stem cells to organs in the blog; I know this is not possible now, but even I would take time to check if somebody reported that somebody has made that breakthrough. It's within the domain of the soon-to-be-possible-maybe. I'd like to point out another recent generation-specific singularity: For people born around 1870, by the time they were 50 years old, the world they had known was gone. Before: rural life and handicrafts, musicians traveling from village to village, gaslight or wax candles. After: Industrialized cities, mass production, Jazz on the grammophone, lighting powered by wired lightning!

C-3PO
C-3PO

Sounds like you are saying it's not your problem, which is exactly what I'm arguing against when talking about family. It is all our problem - and in a sense we are all family. Being tied to a family biologically means we have to deal with these people like it or not (or having contact or not - they are still family). Saying that it is the "authorities" should take care of it is a cop out (excuse the pun). In the native communities, when a person does something wrong, they will often have a meeting where the community (family) gathers around both the perpetrator and the victim. Both sides of the story are heard and restitution is made. It is part of the healing and creates a better community. I don't believe I was advocating that family is more important than community, but rather that the family is an important part *of* community.

C-3PO
C-3PO

There is a difference between respecting someone and being responsible. In your example of someone killing, yes, there is a responsibility to stop it from happening. Does that mean we don't respect the individual (in another context, I might call it love - it is a hard thing to love someone you would rather hate). In respecting our elders (or our children for that matter)? I'm not implying that we should agree with them - only that we show them love, understanding and try to empathize with their path so that we can better understand our own... that's what is good about family - sharing the good, the bad and the ugly - and being connected to it in a way we can't avoid - not just sharing the fun. I have a brother who has made a lot of choices that I very much disagree with. We have lost contact because of it. I don't agree with him, but I respect him. I respect that he made the choices on his own. I respect that he had a right to. I respect that he chose a path that he thought was right for him. I do not like the choices he made. I am sorry that he has to face the consequences of those choices and I am saddenned at how that effects his life. But I still love him, and I still respect him - he's family and he will always be my brother. Can I say the same of a friend who hangs out with me because we both enjoy football? Or can I say the same of that person out there who chooses to make those same choices but has no relation to me? If I had a friend who made the same choices, I don't have the same bond with them - I can walk away and forget about them - I don't have to do anything about it. Family forces us together. Family means we have to live with each other - and deal with our demons.

C-3PO
C-3PO

I too am an army brat of sorts, but of a different kind. I'm a first generation imigrant at 7 years old - now in my 40's. I have no family here in Canada but my immediate parents. The thing about family is: you might not always like them, but they are always family, as opposed to the people I pick and choose to be supporters - if I don't like what one of my virtual family members says about me, then I simply find another person to fill the spot. I can't do that with aunts and uncles.They also shape who we are and define the generations (for good or bad). They are the ones we learn from, rebel against, and to whom we compare our own demons - not the facebook family - they, on the other hand are our mentors, peers, and the ones we conspire with to build our own future. The same point from a different perspective - every family tree has a drunk in it... you can't avoid them, so what do you do? You deal with it somehow - some people ignore, others help - but the point is, you have to deal with it. The loss of nuclear family is not about loosing supportive individuals in your life, it is about a community bond that goes beyond a selfish desire to surround oneself with your own cheerleading squad. Your argument about the agrarian society is valid, but if anything, it supports what I'm saying - being involved because we have no choice *makes* us involved. Having a choice means we can choose not to be involved.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

The pyramids are actually just a tribute to abundant slave labor and religious delusion rather than mysterious godlike technology. Ditto Stone Henge. Re taking things back in time: Skipping in 50 year periods, it's only between here and 1950 that you have things absolutely impossible to reproduce in that period. 1950 - 1900, the big leap was the industrial revolution. But a lot of what we think of as 1940 tech already had the ground work firmly in place by 1900 (even some things like television). The rub here is that in the last 50 years we have made common place to our individual persons objects so technologically advanced that they are literally alien and irreproducible to anyone before 1950. They would have to invent industries to invent the industries to invent the objects sitting around you.

Slayer_
Slayer_

If its true that only around 10% is in use, we could then live 10 times longer and not even use up all our capacity. And of course, our brains would grow to compensate.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

I tend to agree with you fully on this one, but with one important caveat. Being in your 40's .... anyone with an average life span in our age range will likely not live to see the Singularity or beyond. But, and this is an important big but (like pee wee herman says, everyone's got a Big Butt in their lives), I think it's possible we'll live to see the edge of life extension medical advancements that can repair age damage in living cells. It looks to be 20-40 years out (but then again, it could be much longer). If that technology becomes available, you can bet it will be covered ion your HMO. The reason: most insurance medical costs are incurred in the last years of your life due to age-related problems. Remove age-related problems and the insurance company saves a huge amount of money (and also gets more premiums from you longer). So maybe, just maybe, if we make it another 30-40 years, in a weird way our health then will be better than it was in our 30's. Then the question becomes how long can our brains live before reaching their maximum "hard drive capacity"? (I'm speaking metaphorically.) If you live another 30 years, I bet you might live the next 30 after that in amazingly good health. That then gives you about 60 years of continued life from now in which anything can happen.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I doubt in my lifetime that they'll be able to download my consciousness to a device, or make significant advancements in biological and genetic engineering, to effortlessly extend my life by any singificant and meaningful duration in an economically accessible way. I doubt the youngest reader of this forum will live long enough to see that development come to pass. If they do, there better be some other rapid advancements (like the ability to terraform at least some relatively nearby heavenly bodies) right along side it. They've probably got about 40 years max to get cracking in my case. Short of that achievement, the rest is all relatively moot - to me. I'd hate to finally buy my Porsche unknowingly three days before a fatal heart attack. Hardly seems worth the effort and almsot certainly results in someone ELSE getting a remarkable deal on a hardly used 911. Likewise, if they find or invent the fountain of youth but it can only arrest forward development, not turn back the clock, and I'm 85 and miserable - what should I care? Hooray humanity... not so much for me, though. I'm far fonder of myself than I am of humanity in general, just for the record.

dogknees
dogknees

Environmental pressures do not cause genetic change, that's random. The environment "selects" the fittest of the changes that exist.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"They also shape who we are and define the generations (for good or bad). They are the ones we learn from, rebel against, and to whom we compare our own demons..." Not in my case. I can't learn from or rebel against people I rarely met and never really knew. "...you can't avoid them,..." Sure I can. But it's not so much that I've actively avoided them as much as I've passively made no effort to make contact with them. Why bother any more than I would with any other group of strangers?