Friday, April 2, 2010
Monday, May 25, 2009
Just as we were on the precipice of progress in the 19th century at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, we are now on the brink of the Green Revolution. Soon, our "need" for green technologies will surpass our "need" for our perceived "modernization" and "industrialization."
What are we waiting for? Why are we letting the industries of the past dictate our future? We must put our efforts into our two most readily renewable resources: our people and their ideas and ambition. We must no longer reward the few who control the fate of the many. Rather, we will reward those make this whole human comedy more efficient. We can and we must march ahead with our eyes forward. Do not dwell on the loss of our manufacturing plant, but instead look at a group of highly skilled and dedicated citizens who can be the roots of a new and greener tree of liberty. Either get ahead of it or fall behind it. If we are not leaning forward, we are falling backwards. Capitalism will speak. And she will declare dead the old ways we are hesitant to break away from. She will lead us hand-in-hand towards a goal which we cannot see, yet the existence of which we must never doubt. The blindfolded lady may wander astray at times, but she always seems to find her destination. No matter what, there is always a conspicuous absence at the requiem. Reason flees before the arrival of hope. In the vacuum of human nature, a dangerous social virus often infects our better judgment.
So how does this supposed "green revolution"(GR) compare to previous economic and social "revolutions?" Let's take a look at the Agricultural Revolution (AR), Industrial Revolution (IR) and what I like to call the recent Technological Revolution (TR) (of the late 20th and early 21st centuries).
First of all, I believe the GR will rival all aforementioned Revolutions in size, scope and impact on our increasingly globalized society. An important facet of each "revolution" involves the driving force (s) behind them. The AR was the simplest one to understand. It was mostly a product born out of survival. By learning how to better control our food resources, we were able to better control our food supplies. This gave us more time and energy to focus on other things, such as warfare and feudalism. Two great inventions of our complex thought processes. Too bad that pushed out such trivial concepts like compassion and community.
The IR was driven primarily by our natural need to progress. The assembly line. The internal combustion engine. Fossil fuels. Efficiency, productivity, electricity. All were intended to help make the acquisition of basic necessities of survival more easily obtained. This allowed humans to focus more on expanding our reach and making life easier. We spent decades building this industrial monster that brought us much wealth and power. Nukes, space flight, automation, Twinkies. We spent so much energy and utilized so many resources because we were concerned with how we could do it. We never thought about whether or not we should do it. Granted, the concepts of global warming, pollution or the rape of the natural world were just as unknown as black holes or quasars at the time. Keep in mind this was an era when uranium was considered junk and thrown away. So, this movement was driven by greed and curiosity (and tragically, ignorance).
Next comes the TR. This had a driving force that was much more intrinsic to human nature. Why were computers and the Internet conceived? These had no direct effect on meeting our basic biological needs. Those had already been taken care of by our previous advancements. We had long ago transitioned from the hunter/gatherer to the agrarian to the industrial. We no longer needed to work for our sustenance. Survival was expected. Without this common task laid before us on a daily basis, our minds and efforts were left to pursue other more frivolous things. Our natural urge to share knowledge and information came to the forefront. Our focus shifted from the tangible to the intangible. We no longer coveted the wealthy gentry's lands and privileges. Instead we lusted after their information and knowledge. We were also willing to exchange it for our dignity if need be. Yet we needed an infrastructure to facilitate this new mercantile exchange.
Thank God Al Gore invented the Internet. Once we figured out how to use electricity to communicate at the speed of light across our world, we entered the next phase of human evolution: Infophilia. Just as early sailors figured out how to use newly discovered shipping routes to move precious commodities such as spice and gold quickly (relatively speaking) across long distances, we discovered with the 1st telegraph that we don't have to wait six months to tell someone in Europe about a new scientific discovery in America. We learned how to turn this seemingly beneficial exchange of ideas into something much more sinister and destructive. The more we developed and advanced these informational exchange technologies, the more our everyday lives became dependent upon them. We let our everyday lives become more dependent on their effective operation. Case in point: How badly would a massive power outage have effected everyday life in America 100 years ago? Not very much. How about today? Catastrophe. Traffic accidents. Business shutdowns. Looting. Riots. NO Facebook. Use your imagination. Not only that, but we have also become more and more susceptible to rogue threats of this increasingly automated and technologically-dependent infrastructure. It is not far-fetched to imagine a pubeless Russian teenage hacker infiltrating our critical systems and causing widespread havoc just because he's got nothing better to do on a Saturday night (he is a teenager in Russia after all).
So, both "Revolutions" discussed thus far have both their benefits and their pitfalls. This IR gave us progress, while also causing irreparable damage to our environment. The TR gave us an unparalleled spread of knowledge while also leaving us vulnerable to those who wish to use said knowledge for ill intent. Where does that leave us with my purported and impending "Green Revolution?" What driving factor will be behind it? The simplicity is so poetic it hurts: survival. We will make these changes out of necessity. We will be left with no choice. And if evolution has taught us anything, it has taught us that the most elegant and creative solutions are conceived when our very existence is at stake. Humans will always find a way. That's what got us to the top of the food chain. We're not the strongest or the fastest or the biggest. We're the smartest. This fact can be our salvation or our Armageddon. Like a weapon, our intellect can be used to protect or to destroy. So far, we've only used it for one of these. We've invented and modified technologies that would have amazed the best minds of western civilization, only to use them for texting and Twittering. We conceived an information superhighway with a speed limit of stupid. There is traffic up ahead. Better go around. Who knows where that country road may lead us? Hopefully we will reach our destination. Much is at stake. Time is short. I look forward to the end of this tragically comical and scary journey.