Sunday, February 22, 2015

Modern Times

This morning as I was drinking my coffee and finishing my oatmeal (before the sun gets up),  I turned on the TV for a few minutes.  The movie channel was showing the classic "Time Machine" by H.G. Wells.  As a small boy I read every book I could find about science fiction.  My imagination was fed enormous amounts of fantastic visions of the future.  I easily anticipated flying cars, space travel, living in giant underwater cities, and time travel.

These visions were further reinforced by all the original Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Lost in Space (we all knew who the villain was), Star Trek, Time Tunnel, and even the Jetsons, who combined to provide a weekly dose of extra terrestial reality.

The movies were even better and Robbie the Robot became my iconic friend.  Forbidden Planet is still one of the most important movies I have ever seen, as it deals with the essential struggle between the ego and the id.  I must admit that when I see Robbie I see Freud.  What does that say about my early years?

My passion for science was fed directly by The Day the Earth Stood Still, the Blob, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and most significantly, the Incredible Shrinking Man.  After all, didn't the exposure to radiation cause him to continue to shrink to the size of an atom?  Of course I would study particle physics!

However, the more I studied physics and worked in the highly specialized field of technology the more I wondered about my place in the universe.  In college I spend a lot of time in philosophy classes trying to determine my cosmology and the "meaning of life."   Fortunately, that was in the 60's and there was a wide selection of "stimulants" which could be used to test reality.

At some point, a few years out of college, I decided to abandon my chosen career and consciously turn away from technology.  Instead of working to smash atoms and search for "strange" particles (pun intended), I looked to history to understand how we ended up in this situation.

I became a modern Luddite.

Furniture and craft provided me with the tangible objects of that search.  I wondered what furniture Jefferson used tin his daily life, how the Kings of Europe lived, how Napoleon influenced a global style of design and what emerging technology did to the Victorians and their furniture.

These were the thoughts in my head as I walked to work, inspired by the movie this morning.  What would I do if I had a time machine?  Backward or Forward?

(Did I mention how I loved Dr. Who??)  "It's bigger on the inside!"

Tonight is Oscar Night and last night CNN ran a long special on the history of the Academy.  During that show I saw Charlie Chaplin as he was awarded honors for his contribution to film.  Thinking about his generation and what technology has changed during the 20th century, I did some searching on the computer and found this clip.

It summarizes perfectly my belief that technology for technologies' sake is a troubling waste of time and intellect.  We need solutions to serious global issues, starting with clean water and air.  We need to focus on easing human suffering and natural food.  The time and money the world spends on weapons of destruction is about as necessary as this machine which "feeds men".

As they said in the Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man", it's a cookbook!


Anonymous said...

Return to the past? With which status, that of a slave or of an emperor?
With your current knowledge you might end up on the stake for witchcraft.
I would hesitate.
I have a question about your press which uses pipes. I see nothing to stop the upper beam to glide down when the screws are untightened. Are the hole oblique and/or is the distance between the holes in the lower beam different then the distance between the holes in the upper beam? Does the pipe stick in the hole like a holdfast?

W. Patrick Edwards said...

I am quite sure that I would be considered a heretic in any century that I visited. However, in my mind and actions I can adopt elements of past lifestyles and philosophies to craft a personal cosmology in the current age which works for me.

About the press, you are very perceptive. In fact I used the most direct and simple approach to keep the upper clamps from falling down. I drilled a hole through the maple and pipe and stuck a nail in to hold everything. When I change the lengths of the pipes for larger jobs I can easily remove the nail and install the new pipes.