Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The future is... disturbing.

I grew up in a world where science was believed to be the best way we had towards understanding everything around us, maybe even ourselves. I even had dreams of becoming an astronaut, working in space and contributing to the embetterment of our species as we began to spread around the neighborhood of our homeworld.

However, things didn't turn up exactly as many expected.
During the 70's, the interest on sending people to space and establishing a permanent residence on the moon simply faded. Governments changed their agendas, the public shifted its attention to more mundane matters... funds were cut almost without mercy. We still explore space with automated probes though, and that's not bad because they are relatively cheap, easier to manufacture and more resilient to the hazards of space. But I still find our present efforts lacking: all the expertise we managed to create during the late 60's to the mid 70's will soon be lost; practically everyone involved in the manned exploration of the moon has died (or at least retired). Training a new generation of experts shall be costly. But maybe, just maybe, we'll do it correctly this time.

My worries now are focused on the social phenomena that slowly, but firmly, seem to have taken ahold of key positions in governments and media around the planet:

- Mysticism is showing its ugly head everywhere, posing as pseudo-science and making everything it can to discredit real science, even in schools.

- People are more concerned about the latest misadventure of some famous fool instead of the impending global climate change.

- Strong line conservatives abound and have taken leadership of several countries around the planet, blindly and simply ignoring criticism against their manifest destiny. Oh, and in the meantime, why not make some profit too by staging a war here and there?

The world was complex enough before we arrived to it, so we created technology and science to make it easier for us. Now we have become very dependent upon technology, but only a small fraction of the population has a deep understanding of it. Trouble is just around the corner.

The late Carl Sagan foresaw this situation more than 20 years ago, and even was able to predict its outcome to a certain degree. People fear what they don't understand, so they retreat from it and instead take comfort on the easier and more readily available junk data. But at the same time they become more dependent on technology (they can't help it, it's an everyday's requirement of the world we live in).

Slowly, they become users and consumers of magic.

Most industries know this, and even rely upon it. How else can one explain things such as the infamous DMCA and heavily encrypted HDMI signals between media receivers/players and displays, presented to the uninformed as "essential for their own benefit"?

Lies... Lies!

Ah well, I feel a little better now.
On the next installment I'll comment on the joys of hacking and bending to MY will an interesting item of consumer electronics.

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