By G. E. Shuman
I remember, as a child and as a young man, being fairly astonished at new things. New scientific discoveries, new gadgets, and electronic gizmos amazed me. Believe it or not, I was already married when I got my first ‘pocket calculator’, (I’m from the Jurassic era.) What a marvel that thing was, way back then.
All these years later, new things just don’t interest me much or astonish any of us much. You very likely have a miniature computer in your pocket, right now, that will connect you with any information the world has to offer, immediately, and for free. That’s somewhat better than my first pocket calculator, I would say. But that iPhone really doesn’t astound you, or me, or the ten-year-old boy you know that also has one in his pocket and knows its abilities better than we do. “There is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9.) Have you felt that way too? Or, is it just me? I’m not amazed at much of anything anymore, other than the faces of my young grandkids and my new great-granddaughter.
To me, the old arguments, the old conflicts seem tired and boring. If you don’t agree with me, turn on the news for a few moments. Washington D.C., our nation’s prime example of the inmates taking over the asylum, is the same old mud-slinging town it always was, but now seems worse than ever. I find myself turning the news off shortly after turning it on lately.
Not to rain on any humanist parade, but to me even our scientific advances, although they are ever-greater and are coming faster than at any other time in history, just don’t thrill me much, anymore. When I was a child, twelve American men landed on and walked on the moon. Yes, doubters, they really did. Those amazing astronauts actually did some of their landing calculations with a slide rule and a stopwatch. These days, with computers doing the planning, guiding, and landing, I think that even traveling to Mars will become routine soon after it is first done. Also, cars will someday drive themselves. Oh, right. They’re already doing that. Are we really that impressed?
Nano-technology, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence are all being hatched in our labs, even as I write these words. It is being claimed now that these advances will do much to improve our world. They may help solve world hunger, bring peace, and even cure cancer. I hope that they do, but if they do, such things will soon be expected of them, and they will not amaze us for long.
Something just feels different these days, to me. I may simply be jaded by all the years I have seen, but I don’t think that is it. It feels to me that something very big is about to happen. Have you felt it too? Or, is it just me?