Sunday, February 16, 2014

2/17/14—Leaving Valuable Data Behind

Harbingers of spring, out in full force.
One of the things I wrestle with in this amazing world we live in, is what we give up in order to move forward technologically and socially. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we don't live in caves. I'm happy we don't communicate with smoke signals. And I'm thrilled I don't have to hunt what I eat. But none of these conveniences come without a cost. 

Like the universe, I think we're meant to expand and evolve in all directions. So it's not like this is the age of evolving technologically. It's (always) the age of evolution in every which way. I'm going to be 51 this year. When I think of how much everything around me has changed in my lifetime, from microwaves to computers to media, it numbs the mind. I can't even imagine how much more profound it would be for someone in their 90s. 

But just as our technologically advanced age has gifted us with information and data unlike ever before, it comes at a cost. Instant answers mean we reason less and rely more on the data we find. There are whole parts of our brains that see less action because answers are so easy to find. And, as I said, we're happy to believe in whatever we find. The stories that float around social media are proof of that. People get all up in arms about these "true stories" of things that never happened. It's like even the intuitive "hit" of "wait a minute, something doesn't ring true" is dulled. 

Often when I sit out in my back yard, I wonder what cave men would have made of the day I'm observing. Like yesterday, the skies were overrun with birds. First, he would have known they were robins. And second, he would have used that as a clue that spring and warmer weather was on the way. What we consider "quaint folklore" or "old wives tales" today were and are still valid data important to survival. 

He would have known by the shape of clouds and how the wind hit his face what kind of weather we were bound to have tomorrow. He would have known the time by how shadows move across the ground and the date by studying the stars and the angles of the sun. With this data, he would have known if it was time to start gathering wood or whether or not it was a good time to fish. His intuition would be finely tuned to subtle signs around him, alerting him to danger or opportunity. And all of this would come from within. And all of this is what atrophies when we use Google instead of common sense or intuition. 

Again, not saying Google (and I'm just using Google as an example) or any technology is bad. It's amazing what we can do and I'm grateful for it. But we pay the price for that by becoming further dependent on things outside of us and less dependent on things within us. And I think that, at the very least, is sad. At the most, it is extremely dangerous. 

It took early man generations of data and practice to fine tune their inner knowing. If anything were to happen to us, energy wise...anything from being hit by a meteor, widespread world war, an enormous natural disaster...anything that could wipe out energy resources or our access to data, we're screwed. Books and maps and other resources are becoming more and more scarce, while the information in them becomes more and more available online. But if you can't get online, or if some dictator rules what you can and cannot see, you're probably about as prepared as me to wing it in the wild. Even survivalists are not as prepared as they think (though they're way more prepared than I.)

We assume that the things available to us will always be available to us. And maybe they will be. But one thing is for certain, things will not be the same as they are. Chances are, we'll move even further away from our instinctual heritage and rely more on machines. And as we do, I believe we'll be moving ever perilously closer to our own undoing. 

Not to be overly dramatic, but the further we move from self reliance, whether that be emotionally, physically, intellectually or otherwise, the more vulnerable we become. It could be argued that we become become better able to defend ourselves, the more advanced we become. That is also true. But to focus on one way of being and abandoning another, which is what we're unconsciously doing, can't be smart. No matter how much we evolve in one direction, leaving another direction to atrophy is just asking for the pendulum to cause us to swing the other way in order to maintain balance. 

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