As the world whirls in technology

Published 1:10 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

By TJ Ray

An interesting poster caught my eye recently. In very nice calligraphy, it said, “Look not back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

Ah, how easy to say it, but difficult to do it. A new year might be a good point in time to look at those three suggestions.

TJ Ray

TJ Ray

Email newsletter signup

Consider how much time we devote to planning, deciding things that might not happen for years — or might not happen at all. Think of how much time we devote to looking back at what has gone before, worrying if proper decisions were made, dreading the consequences of wrong predictions. And as we’re so busy doing “things” that we may miss what’s occurring all around us.

Recently I came upon a piece of writing that offers a glimpse of our probable future.

Even in reading about things that may indeed come about, no comment was offered as to the consequences of those events. For example, the article suggested that 70-80 percent of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. No suggestion of what people will then do with their time was presented.

Another forecast related to 3D printing, which is already available. Shoe companies might 3D print shoes. An individual might use a smartphone to do a 3D scan of his foot and then print a shoe. Whither goest show companies? Whence cometh the raw material to 3D print? Has China actually 3D printed a six-story building?

While folks are entertaining themselves in the future, they might monitor their own health, thanks to a medical device called the Tricorder. It will do a retina scan, take a blood sample and sample one’s breath. Then it will analyze 54 biomarkers and suggest what one must do with the results. That’s more ambitious than current software called “moodies” that can tell which mood a person is in. By 2020 there may be an app that can tell by one’s facial expression if he or she is lying. Ah, the impact of that on politics!

One can only marvel at possibilities. Did the folks at Eastman Kodak, which had 170,000 employees and sold 85 percent of all photo supplies worldwide in 1998, foresee going bankrupt within a decade?

This all may presage a world ahead of us that seems frightening. If we look at our current culture and realize that the study of history has almost disappeared from the public school, it may be possible to conclude there is no reason the worry about the past. Heck, we’ll just have a generation that is wholly ignorant of it. But pausing to consider the trap that ignoring the past and not planning for the future may land us in, the conclusion must be that of the fatalist, muttering “Que sera, sera!” What will be, will be.

As early as the 1930s some thinkers were already anxious about the high-tech world being created following the Great Depression. In 1934, T. S. Eliot penned a sadly prophetic bit of poetry about the Information Age. Consider his lines and ask yourself if we’re not in that rut today:

The endless cycle of idea and action, endless invention, endless experiment, brings knowledge of motion but not of stillness; knowledge of speech but not of silence; knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to death, but nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.