What a strange age we live in.



The folks who brought us Google and the guy who brought us “Titanic” now want to put up spacecraft to mine nearby asteroids for precious metals and minerals. Well, they’re probably the best ones for it. They have the money, the drive and the vision, which leaves out the government, which up now has had a monopoly on these things.

What a strange age we live in.

The folks who brought us Google and the guy who brought us “Titanic” now want to put up spacecraft to mine nearby asteroids for precious metals and minerals. Well, they’re probably the best ones for it. They have the money, the drive and the vision, which leaves out the government, which up now has had a monopoly on these things.

Meanwhile, on Earth, we are distracted by YouTube videos of 30-pound cats, karaoke singers without talent or shame, and dangerous stunts by young people who should have made a better choice than to skip school, set something on fire and shout “Lights! Camera! Action!”

We are told – old promise – that commercial spaceflight for the masses is just a few years off, despite the lack of any truly desirable destinations. There are no condos or beaches on the moon, at least not yet.

Meanwhile, on Earth, we are nearly four decades past the first “energy crisis” – ah, the ’70s, when we really knew what a crisis was and we had plenty – and yet today automakers beat their chests if they spit out a model that gets anything north of 30 mph. Seriously, folks?

We walk around with phones, stereos and encyclopedias in our pockets and purses – big steps in one generation – but you have to ask if we are really any smarter or happier. Do the instant microconnections of text, Twitter and Facebook really amount to relationship? Or dialogue? Or meaning?

Computers of course get faster, more complex and, in a word, smarter all the time, approaching what might be called intelligence. I’m sure that happy day of truly intelligent and helpful mechanical companions will come – again, old promise – but what I see around me is just the opposite.  Our fancy electronics are essentially dumb, literal-minded things. They can do impressive things, but they do exactly as they are told. They cannot connect the dots.

I think that spills over into the maddening literal-mindedness that seems so rampant in our time. You say “Look at that beautiful sunset” almost expect a response of “Why?,” as if a sunset doesn’t compute.

The companion attitude lies in the scary notion that all needed or potentially needed knowledge is a few mouse clicks away – and always will be – so why bother with knowing things, let alone knowing how things connect with other things?

We have been sold the promise that each new labor-saving device would herald an age or leisure and enlightenment. That’s only true to a certain extent. Anyone here doing an less labor? Life of leisure? No? Me either.

It’s a funny planet, full of contradictions. We reach for the stars – or at least asteroids full of riches – yet we scuttle through our days, mesmerized by our clever toys, but where are we really headed?