Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Are we done yet?

A friend and I were discussing the Bible recently.  I wondered why nothing has been added to it in so many centuries and suggested that perhaps it was time for another chapter or two.  She told me that it was complete as written and that there was nothing left to add.   When I said that I found this hard to believe, her response was that everything from the beginning of time until the End Times is included, forecast and chronicled.  It’s all we need.  There is nothing more to tell.

Progress is an interesting phenomenon.  Take a somewhat closer look at the last two thousand years and you’ll find that humanity and society have made tremendous leaps in science or technology or philosophy at a few points in our known history and also have shown absolute stagnation a few times.  We had the Dark Ages followed by the Industrial Revolution.

Most recently, the invention and development of computers and telephone technology has proceeded at a very fast rate.  There were several years during the 1990’s when I was hesitant to buy a computer because every few months there was a new model that made everything else obsolete.  Changes happened so fast that by the time I’d get a computer home I had a compelling reason to go buy the next generation. 

Technological innovation is geared toward making our lives easier.  Windows started out as a clunky, horrible program and has evolved, like Apple’s operating system, into a self-teaching set of interactive programs that make it simple for us to get any information we need.  Spreadsheet work is intuitive and spell-check handles not only our spelling errors but even some of our grammatical mistakes.  Phones are just simply amazing today.

Here’s the thing, though.  We are getting to the point where we have just about everything that we want.  New cell phones advertise ‘Better Cameras and More Pixels!’  Most other improvements are not at all earth shattering.  I just traded my eight-year-old laptop on a newer model and see very little change in the operation.  Technological change is slowing down.

My personal observation is that when you provide a certain level of comfort to a person or group of people, they stop looking for more.  At some point, it requires ‘too much effort’ to improve something that already does most of what you want it to do. 

I used to be very excited about the very cool stuff we were going to have, according to all of my favorite Sci Fi authors.  Heinlein, Asimov and many of the others worked very hard to project advancement to a point where they could create believable futures.  Those futures had flying cars, advanced limb regenerators and all sorts of matter transmitters.  I was completely absorbed with the fantastic but realistic future we were going to have.

Science Fiction has changed a lot since I first started reading it.  It doesn’t seem as much like fictional science and it really shares a lot in common with what we used to call fantasy.  I wonder if this means that writers themselves are not able to look into a farther future and make further predictions about where we are headed.   

Most importantly, these very same writers today are something of an indication that we’re already there.  Development is slowing.  Engineers are needed but the call for actual scientists is on the wane and in many cases, we talk quietly about what ‘real science actually means and ask what happened to peer review. 

I worry about that.  Humanity should be curious.  We should want to know everything.  We should always be challenged by the things that we don’t have and by the future that we don’t know.  If we actually lose that momentum, we stagnate and the Bible won’t require another chapter at all.  We’ll hit End Times pretty quickly and will disappear without so much as a whimper.
Wow.  That’s depressing.  I’m going back to dreaming some more.