The Jester has has his time for long enough. Once he crosses the line into flagrant paranoia, I have to step in.
It’s a new year and a new decade. The decade might have been better for Science (still no flying cars) but all-in-all, I’m pretty happy. We’ve seen tissue engineering come a long way including grow-your-own skin and grow-your-own hearts. We’ve seen metamaterials with negative index of refraction and a lower thermal conductivity than vacuum, both of which I grew up believing were physically impossible. We seen bona fide proof of evolution (as if we needed more).
Basically I can’t even begin to touch on all the cool things in that happened in the last ten years. It’s enough to have give me a glimmer of faith in the vision of the futurists’ utopia: we may conquer death and scarcity and create a world of never-ending exploration. But maybe human nature needs scarcity and death to be whole. Maybe ten years is a good time for reflection on what we all want for ourselves and for each other. Facile suggestions that ‘happiness’ is what we want miss the point: If we knew what would make us happy, we would have it by now.
Ultimately, and strangely, I’m not sure that conquering death and scarcity will make us any kinder. I think we’ve made some real progress toward doing those things, and I’m not alone in that thought.
Yet, even so, I think a lot of otherwise crazy-seeming people might be sane in the light of this statement: abundance does not necessarily engender generosity. People who think we’re better off without public healthcare may be right up to a point: the threat of true suffering can be motivation for good. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hold with people who would sell others’ welfare for the sake of an abstraction. The Free Market is all well and good until Henry Frick has you killed because you want fair pay. Yet, we only have the opportunity to be truly charitable in the face of true misfortune. Would we cheat ourselves of this sorrow?
If we could truly alleviate human suffering on a large scale, would we be neutering humanity?