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Hans Decoz

Limitations and Blessings of a Finite World

Technology is evolving so fast that we have a difficult time keeping up. Computer chips double in speed and power every year. Some inventions and breakthroughs are obsolete before they can even be manufactured. In a way, the evolution of technology seems to mirror the evolution of mankind; both are heading toward critical mass, and no one knows how to put on the brakes.

It used to be a given that technological innovations improved our quality of life (except when used for military purposes, of course, where the opposite is true). Now, many of us are realizing that some of today's exciting inventions are actually detrimental to our quality of life. Are texting and other forms of social networking improving the way we relate to each other, or making all our relationships more superficial and disposable?

A few days ago, I was on a plane for several hours. A person sitting across the aisle from me was surrounded by gadgets: a laptop, an iPod, an iPhone, some kind of DVD player, a Kindle-like e-reader I was not familiar with, and a pair of headphones that could be plugged into any of those devices. First he was watching a DVD while texting and checking his iPhone regularly, then he switched to his laptop to move around some Facebook pages while checking his iPhone regularly, then he read a few pages on his imitation Kindle while checking his iPhone regularly. Over a span of several hours this poor fellow never lifted his head, never acknowledged his surroundings and never experienced a nanosecond of freedom. No daydreaming, no staring at some other person's head and wondering what his or her story is, nothing but streams of useless digital content entertaining his brain. And what will that person be doing ten years from now? He will have even more gadgets, or more gadgets merged into each other (an iTopPhonePod-eReaderWirelessHeadfillingThingamajig, perhaps?), while the transfer of useless information will have grown exponentially, accumulating into his brain and eventually turning this man of the future into a zombie. After all, zombie-like signs were already obvious in his blank looks, distant, non-seeing eyes and some drool that had escaped his notice.

Could it be that this is how we finally enter an age of peace, when all men and women are plugged into all-knowing, all-communicating, all-fulfilling doohickeys, without time or energy to do anything else? That would be the proverbial silver lining, but no, that is not what I expect to happen. I think, and I admit this may be an example of the wish being the father of the thought, that perhaps we will re-discover the tranquility and satisfaction that comes from laying in the grass watching the clouds move. Or having a face-to-face conversation with someone you just met and enjoying the heck out of that. Or perhaps there will be a Second Coming, and when His feet become visible through the clouds for all to see (kind of difficult considering that the earth is round, the unfortunate souls on the other side of the planet won't be able to see that happening), and when His feet slowly and gently touch the earth, His voice booms through the atmosphere to deliver that old, old, old message found in every scripture, and I quote: "The answer you seek can be found within! Toss aside your iThis and your iThat, and find your true joy and happiness within!"

And then it struck me like a bolt of lightning. The true purpose of all those technological innovations are to prepare us for the Second Coming. The idea of some huge feet being lowered through the sky is a bit silly, but how about airplanes? He comes through the clouds. Well, sure, in a jet as He hops from place to place visiting those lucky folks who welcome Him. And it is said that "everyone's eye will see Him." Sure, that is what TV is for. And so forth. That's got to be it. If and when He (or She?) comes to bring inner peace and such, all those technological widgets finally become useful. We can Twitter each other to spread the message that He will be in Copenhagen this weekend. Or we turn on the news and the anchor person in a genuinely excited voice lets us know that He visited Boise, Idaho, today, and so many people cried and danced and had a fantastic experience. Or you stick those tiny earphones into your ears and listen to a talk He gave last month in Barcelona. Or stick a DVD into your player and watch a two-hour video of Him arriving in London in His aeroplane, greeting a few local officials and joking with baggage handlers.

So, to all the good people involved in the creation of better, faster, smaller and more powerful gadgets, hurry up, will you! We need that stuff ASAP. Our future depends on it. And we don't want to keep Him waiting, do we?