History is replete with good ideas and bad outcomes.
Nuclear energy had great promise as an idea. Boundless electricity from rocks. No smoke and relatively quiet. Yet, one would be hard-pressed to find a room full of people who would say it was a great idea. With Fukushima spreading radiation planet-wide, British nuclear waster poisoning the North Sea and a No Man's Land around Chernobyl, it's safe to say that maybe that technology was not such a great idea.
There was a time when TeeVee seemed like a God-send. Great literature and drama could be democratized. Debates among the best and brightest could be brought live to our homes. People could vicariously experience history as it happens. Yet, in hindsight, it probably wasn't such a great idea. The vast majority of TeeVee content is mindless rubbish. Marketers have learned to manipulate people's behavior and opinions without most knowing it is being done. Instead of elevating humanity to new heights, it has rather debased the masses with vile pablum.
At one time, cell phones seemed like a great idea. One could contact just about anyone from just about anywhere. Yet the result has been social gatherings where people do nothing but tap or talk into their phones completely oblivious to those around them. Employers can contact and track employees around the clock and around the globe. Government agencies can record our most inane conversations and activate our phone cameras and microphones at will to listen in on our lives.
Great promises. Lousy results.
The problem is, humanity has this really bad habit of diving off cliffs without checking the waters below. By the time we see the rocks, we're already balled up on top of them. The only consideration with new technologies is how fast one can generate a profit, not what the short- and long-term consequences of the techology will be.
And that brings us to the latest Big Deal: genetics and transhumanism.
If someone came to me tomorrow and said they could not only restore my eyesight, but give me greatly enhanced senses by mucking around with my DNA, it would be very tempting to accept. If they could also cure multiple sclerosis and regenerate my knees, ending decades of pain in weeks, I'd probably jump at the chance. Just a couple of questions, though:
What effect will tinkering with my DNA have on any potential progeny? Could viruses that invade my body at the cellular level be mutated by any exposure to my upgraded DNA? And what about the environment? After all, I shed skin and hair, leave behind saliva, oils and other bodily fluids, and intermix with my environment in any number of very intimate ways.
We are well into new technologies now that have and will continue to have very profound consequences, far beyong just giving a few folks cancer or causing their hair to fall out. We're talking generations and possibly permanent changes that could cause the species to cease. Yet, we are amazingly nonchalant and unconcerned about such matters.
At the root of all our problems is the culture of immediate gratification that we have built our society around. We have been trained like show dogs to herd in the direction of anything new with lots of bells and flashy lights. Like addicts, we crave a fix of novelty without any thought to tomorrow, much less to long-term survival. We casually toss away our iFad5 for iFad6 without considering the materials and resources that went into creating something that is still viable and usable.
Oh sure, it sounds like such a great idea to tinker with food crops and increase yields or resistance to disease, but what is it doing to the human race and to the entire biosphere of the planet? Nothing exists here in isolation. A change to even the smallest part will have greatly multiplied effects in the future.
If you believe in evolution, as a great many people do (out of ignorance), then you believe that all extant life is the result of billions of years of mutations in DNA, one at a time, with some mutations causing death and others adding advantages. Yet, here we are purposefully mutating entire genomes in dozens of species with no concern whatsoever to what happens millions of years from now. After all, we will have made our profit and long since passed on, so who cares, right?
Who cares if we add spider silk to goat's milk or bio-luminescence to spinach? It serves our purpose right now. Who cares if we add shut-off genes to corn to increase profits? It won't harm humans, even though we eat the corn and absorb its very essence into our physical beings, and it keeps investors happy.
We have become such selfish and myopic people. We have no concern for anything past our next pleasure fix. We marvel at our technological achievements and yet use them for such inane and ridiculous things. What good is global instantaneous communications if all we have to say is, "At the mall," or "Prado makes me gag...BARF!" What good is high-yield corn this year if next year the field is barren because the anti-biotic genes in the corn killed all the beneficial bacteria in the soil? What good is smoke-free energy from rocks if we poison the entire planet for the next 50,000 years?
We are all suffering from a kind of self-destructive insanity. Our culture is so infused with the idea that someone or something will come along to save us from ourselves that we happily shit in our nest because it gives us instant relief, not thinking that at some point we will get E. Coli.
In the collective, we are like a giant child, completely unable to control our impulses and ready to pitch a mighty fit if we don't receive every demand on the instant. And perhaps that is by design. Perhaps a pernicious few have decided to sacrifice all of humanity so that they can live rich and lavish lifestyles.
It seems that General Jack D. Ripper was on to something. Maybe we are victims, but in claiming victimhood, we are in danger of laying down and doing nothing to stop it. In any event, it can't hurt to listen to the General's reasoning:
General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream.Just because something is NEW doesn't mean it is necessarily IMPROVED. A little circumspection on the part of our species is long past due.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: [very nervous] Lord, Jack.
General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
After all, how much more free time do you have now with all those labor-saving devices in your home? And if you conclude that you have more now, then what are you doing with that extra time? Texting your bathroom habits? Watching TeeVee? Have you used any other it to improve your or anyone else's life?
It's probably the fluoride. Seemed like such a great idea back in the day.