I turned 25 yesterday. A quarter century. I have to admit that when I woke up in the morning I felt a bit let down that cars still don’t fly, but, all in all I am pretty impressed by what human kind has achieved in some areas during my lifetime. Of course, other areas still require some work.
Recent advances include, for example, the pictures the Mars probe Spirit has been sending back to Earth for the last couple of days.
Think about that for a moment: A rocket is propelled out of our planet’s orbit with the force of several hydrogen bombs, flinging a capsule containing a rover out into the empty reaches between Earth and Mars, traveling for millions of miles to hone in on the red planet, entering its atmosphere and landing safely on its surface. Then a little camera pops out and snaps photos to transmit them back to its home planet.
What makes this even more impressive is that this was only done to satisfy humankinds’ curiosity about the great unknown. Hundreds of scientists have worked for years simply to get a glimpse of what the Mars surface is like. A massive undertaking purely intended for the pursuit of knowledge and a better understanding of our place in the universe.
Then of course there is the Internet. Last week I found a copy of Time Magazine from 1994 that heralded the arrival of the “amazing world of the Internet” on it’s front cover. Its article had such gems as a description of the “World Wide Web” as a “by subject organized encyclopedia” and such state of the art technologies as “Usenet Message Boards,” that since then have gone the way of the 8-Track.
What our generation, often nicknamed iGeneration, now takes for granted was very new and impressive technology only ten years ago. Since then we have become accustomed to the almost instantaneous stream of information we so readily have access to, and the fact that we can exercise our free speech by posting to our blogs.
Of course people still pursue advances in technology in order to kill each other more efficiently.
I distinctly remember overhearing a conversation between two students when the war in Iraq was about to start, expressing eagerness to see “them use weapon X, fighter Y or bomb Z” because they wanted to see how cool they would look on TV.
There are also such instances where leaders of prosperous nations bicker amongst themselves while other nations are left out in the cold. The United States, for example, accuses the European Union of causing the starvation in Africa by not allowing genetically manipulated foods into their market while piles of corn and grain are rotting on U.S. soil, you have to wonder how much money human lives go for these days.
The trend of globalization that the Clinton era ushered in did not bring about the instant fix of peace and prosperity that some analysts had claimed it would bring. If recent events at the United Nations have been any indication, constructive criticism is still not always understood as such. Even the leaders of major industrialized nations have yet to understand that a good friend is the one that gives you the brutal truth when you ask them for it, rather than telling you what they think you want to hear.
But even in such gloomy times where corporate scandals and conspiracies reign, I am optimistic that the human race will not go the way of the Dodo. (Then again, didn’t humans eradicate the Dodo?) All in all things seem to go forward rather than backward, even if the occasional setback may make it seem that this is not the case.
So how about that flying car? I’ll take two in green please.
Sebastian Meyer is majoring in Environmental Science firstname.lastname@example.org