Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Growth of High Technology:
Part II: What's More Important In Life

Possible spoilers from the third Pokémon movie, Spell of the Unown.

I asserted at the end of Part I of The Growth of High Technology that we already have the tools to create happy, satisfied lives. And I believe that the answer to creating such lives cannot be found merely in the pursuit of technology, but rather in the many, varied activities that make up human life today. I believe, really, that the activities that people enjoy are far more important than the pursuit of the high technology, convenience, and ease that would destroy those activities.

In the third Pokémon movie, one of the major driving forces in the plot is a five-year-old girl named Molly Hale. Molly’s father is partially an archaeologist, but is also an authority, as much as anyone is, on legendary Pokémon. And his studies keep him away from home and finally lead to his disappearance early in the movie. Of course, Molly is devastated by her father’s disappearance, especially since she seemed to be a very lonely child to begin with.

However, the point of this story is not entirely what effect the elder Hale’s pursuit of knowledge had on his daughter. The message, I think, is best shared in the ending theme song, To Know the Unknown: “I don’t want all the answers, ‘cause one thing is true: as long as my heart beats, I’ll always love you. So I don’t need to know the unknown.”

As ephemeral as human emotion can be, it is also integral to being human. Love, friendship, anger, and all of the numerous other emotions that one can feel are part of life. The path towards creating a future that all humans can find happiness in includes, along its journey, accepting that the human body and the nature of humanity is as good as it needs to be. We do not need to improve the capabilities of the human body; we do not need to spend our time decoding all of the secrets of the universe.

I will not try to argue that humanity is perfect in nature; the atrocities that humans have committed and still are committing in all corners of the world cannot be denied. However, these problems are not ones to solve by changing or upgrading the human mind. Unfortunately, there will always be those people without respect for their fellow man, either in today’s world or in a future of high technology. And for all of the atrocities that are held up as evidence of humanity’s faults, I can gladly point to even more things that humanity has done for good. I refuse to believe that humans are essentially evil or destructive, not in a world that shows no small amount of respect for the ideals of justice, freedom, and equality.

And I will gladly argue that humans are as perfect in form as we need to be. The human body is not a perfect machine from an engineering standpoint, to be sure. There are so many ways that humans can be damaged, and so many things that we can’t do. The problem with that standpoint is that humans are not cars, to be made as safe and reliable as possible with a bunch of features besides. Humanity has existed for no small amount of time, and become the dominant creature of this planet, so I hardly think we could need that much improvement.

When it comes down to the essential point, focusing on humanity’s faults is no way to create a happy future. As clichéd as it sounds, we need to focus on the positive things of human life in order to create such a future for humanity. What do you enjoy in life? Some, like myself, find joy in the work we put into personal improvement. As I commented in Part I, I’m a runner, and I’d like to believe that I work reasonably hard to improve my running ability. I enjoy that; it’s one of the things that I can take pride in.

And yet, in a future of high technology, I wouldn’t have that joy. After all, it will only take one genetically-engineered runner to make the rest of us completely obsolete. If these technologies come to fruition, I’ll have the choice between upgrading myself or being unable to compete. The ability I have to try to improve myself and work for personal pride will be gone, and unrecoverable besides.

I know there are those people that take pride in teaching, or scientific research, or any number of other activities. Composing music, writing books (or a blog like this one), playing chess… the list goes on and on. And yet, in a technological future where efficiency is the goal, people probably wouldn’t be doing any of them. After all, computers can teach, conduct research, create music, write, and play chess far more effectively than slow, weak human minds can.

Yet happiness lies in those activities. People vastly enjoy many of those, and in a future of high technology, such sources of happiness would disappear. How can we create a happier future in such a manner? Creating a happier future must necessarily be based in embracing such activities as uniquely human, and encouraging the pursuit of those activities that people enjoy.

Going back to the movie, in Spell of the Unown the lives of the Hale family were not significantly improved when the elder Hale discovered more about the Unown, the rare Pokémon that was his particular concern. However, at the conclusion of the movie, the elder Hale returns to his daughter, and the scenes playing during the credits also show the return of Molly’s mother as well. When the elder Hale backed off from his research and came back to his family, their lives improved dramatically.

That is what’s more important in life: not the endless quest for greater power, in the mistaken belief that humanity, either as an organism or as a race, is seriously flawed. Rather, the pursuit of human life, in whatever form. The pursuit of greater understanding, a quest to improve oneself through one’s own hard work, the effort put into a hobby or task that one enjoys…… all of those are what will truly bring happiness to human lives, and those are goals that we do not need the power of high technology to find.

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