Science and Technology

old radio

I can remember my family gathering in the dining room on Saturday nights to listen to a series of radio shows, from Suspense to Gunsmoke. This wasn't as nourishing as telling stories around the campfire, or reading aloud, but better than TV or the internet.

I have mixed feelings about science and technology. Seems like for each step forward we gain something and lose something. And we forget what we lost. We once sat around the fire and told stories. When we learned to read and write the storytelling was largely lost, but we gained a lot (and families could read aloud). But when we got radio, that took the place of reading aloud. But it could still gather the family, and kept our imaginations alive. When we got TV we didn't need to use our imaginations anymore, and stopped gathering together to watch. And now, with internet, family gatherings and conversation are becoming even more rare. Again: we give up something for every advance in technology — but we don't realize what we lost.

Gathering Round the Fire

One of my distinct memories from childhood is that when the power would go out, the family would gather in the living room around the fireplace to keep warm and cook dinner. As a child, these were the times I loved the best: the whole family gathered together. After the power came back on, everybody would disperse back to their own rooms, which made me sad. So it has always seemed to me that each step we take away from our roots as hunter-gatherers, huddled around campfires, both improves our lives and also makes them more lonely, and takes us away from who we really are.

Seeing It in Africa

While on my one big trip to Africa to see and photograph the mythical animals I came upon a large, extended family of baboons, out foraging. There were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, and probably grand parents. They were travelling together as a troupe. baboons on the road

Everywhere the young baboons looked, they could see their family, they knew exactly who everyone was, and how to relate to them. I had an overwhelming sense that this is what people are meant to do: to live in small tribes, where everything is understandable to everyone, particularly the children.

I'm not giving up any technology, mind you. I am told that the internet is creating the kind of intimacy we lost when we started living in more isolated, modern ways. I think the internet is great, but I don't quite buy that we will ever have the kind of warmth that those baby baboons experience in their extended family.

Hey, Give Me Back My Mac.

Of course, I am not considering living without my digital cameras, computers, not mention indoor plumbing, heat, and electricity. And my car. But from time to time I do think about what these advances have done for that that is not all that great.