We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride

 By we, I mean humanity. Human society. The big “we”. And it has been a rollercoaster ride, I don’t think there’s a more apt term for it. Ups and downs, being alternately terrified and thrilled, but no matter what feeling dominated we want to do it again. The real issue at hand is, though, that I don’t think we’re even to the top of the first hill yet.
We’re relatively new here. And in our short time, we have had an enormous impact, in both positive and negative ways. Humanity is, if nothing else, adaptable. In the last few thousand years we have grown and changed at a nearly ridiculous pace. Our numbers grew almost exponentially. We created new technologies in the blink of an eye. We learned to find resources, and how to exploit them to the fullest.  We’re bigger, faster, and live longer. We have climbed a mountain that, not all that far back in our history, probably looked insurmountable.Many would argue that we’re not to the peak yet. Others will say that we never will get there. A third segment will tell you we’re on top, we’ve claimed it, and we aren’t giving it up for anything. I believe that all of these viewpoints are wrong; and that, in their way, they’re also correct.We have come a very long way in a short time. No one can deny that. But that simply makes another observation more stark in comparison, and over an even shorter passage of time. My lifetime. I see too many things that concern me, to be honest, and I’m afraid those things are doing irreversible harm. We have technology that has, in the last two decades, expanded our world to the breaking point. There are manifold benefits that grow from this, absolutely, and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Even so…I honestly believe it’s hurting us at the same time it’s helping.

Since this period of discovery and creativity started, we have changed. It’s not all due to our plugged-in existence, and I’m not trying to state that it is, but the omnipresent tech is the single biggest change in our world. During this era (I am breaking the rules and generalizing, but I’ll take a slap for it if you feel the need), we have become increasingly narcissistic. We are less aware of the physical world we live in. No matter how many Facebook friends we have, we are more isolated, less intuitive, and exist in a smaller space. We have less empathy, less sense of community, and we anger much more quickly. We are also far more likely to let that anger be expressed through violence. We attack first and consider repercussions later. In general, people aren’t nice any more.

That bothers me. But what bother me more is this: We live in an age where information and knowledge is readily available to nearly everyone, there at a click, tap,  or voice command. Studies say that we’re smarter than ever. I simply don’t see it. Despite the availability and ease of access, my daily interactions show me a society that is less informed than ever. They mostly have very vague and ephemeral ideas about what is going on in the world, despite the facts above. That’s somewhat frightening.

The real thing to be afraid of, though, is that it seems they just don’t care. Sure, the data is there, the knowledge is free for the taking, but too many people just can’t be bothered. It takes an effort to find it, and we have no patience for anything that isn’t delivered to us, unasked for and sponsored by our favorite department store. We’ve become a society of the ten second attention span and the flashy distraction. We are force-fed things all day, every day, and it’s so insidious that we don’t even notice. If we’re worried about Justin Bieber’s pot plane, we don’t have time to even care about a vote on the debt ceiling. If our attention is consumed with an athletic competition, we can’t be bothered to realize that the NSA promised to discontinue spying on foreign nationals in their home countries…but didn’t say a word about citizens within our own borders.

Yes, this concerns me. It bothers me that we can’t pick out the things that really matter any more. I say that with the perceived smug air of superiority that an addict has the first day out of rehab, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I can’t change it. I don’t know if anyone can, unless it’s one mind changing at a time. It can’t be dictated. But it needs to happen, or everyone is going to wake up one morning and wonder where it all went wrong.

I don’t want to witness that.


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