Aug 13, 2009

Have Your High-Tech & Longevity Too

I saw Bill Gates speak once. Barack Obama, he ain't. Still, it was an electrifying experience to be in the same room with the richest man on the planet.

He talked about how computers & software could enhance our daily lives. TV could be interactive like the web, tailoring programming to our preferences. Dry erase white boards could be equipped to drill down into a network to pull data you want to present in a multimedia format during a meeting in your office. Workstation desktops could collect information about how we work & make recommendations to help us streamline.

When you're there, you catch the vision. You believe with technology, we have the ability to make ordinary humans better than we were before. Better, stronger, faster. Hell, let's all be bionic!

No offense Mr. Gates - I think you're amazing, I love the work you & your wife are doing through your foundation. But frankly, I don't want my couch telling me I gained 6 pounds over Thanksgiving & autotuning my TV to Denise Austin's workout because I need to get off my oversized arse.

I try so hard these days not to be a cynic, but I don't think we can ever have all the benefits of a high-tech society without the drawback of a high-speed, high-intensity, high-pressure, instant gratification culture that goes along with it. Be honest. Does anyone really think the benefits of technology can ever outweigh good old capitalist greed it's attached to? and how can technology help us dial back a puritan work ethic that drives American employees into burnout? If it exists, I'd like to see it.

It's a fundamentally optimistic way of seeing things - that we can live better, longer, overcome our dis/inabilities. This optimism was best captured by the dean of a local school of public health who facilitated a discussion in a class I took last year. He was so enthusiastic about how so many of the world's health problems could be solved with a public health approach and the right use of technology.

But look at the cultures we want to emulate because they live the longest ( The lives of these people tend to be the simplest. They tend to rely the least on technological advances. They do things like walk everyday. Grow their own food. Eat diets loaded with fresh vegetables and fruit. Hang out with their family, go to church on a regular basis & talk to their neighbors. They're embedded in a community with many sources of social support. As a result, they live longer.

High-tech industry & culture is driven toward growth, always increasing, always plunging forward to get the jump on the next great thing. There is a season for working at that rate. But it's not something that should last forever. Endless growth. What in nature grows endlessly? Cancer cells. Cancer is the proliferation of cells that just keep dividing endlessly. They no longer function, they just keep dividing & growing.

Can you have it both ways? Can you have your high-tech and longevity too? This would mean living simultaneously at both ends of the technology spectrum. If this "magical" universal "shift in consciousness" actually takes place in 2012, and sustainable agriculture, economics, communities really takes hold... sure. It could happen.

But at this very moment, (to quote NuNu from one of my all-time fav flicks "ATL") "not gon' happen... neva".

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