Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Miracles of Technology: The...Creeper Cam?

In our house, we have an office set up adjacent to the kitchen.  If we were using our house properly, it would be a breakfast room where we would eat most of our meals, reserving the formal dining room for the special occasions on which we would make broccoli salad (which I would refuse to eat).  But we use it for an office, and we eat all our  meals in the dining room...or in the sunroom, which has become my favorite room in the house since we redid it over the summer.

Note to self: don't work on outside rooms during the summer.

Additional note to self: summer basically lasts all year these days.

Anyway, I was working in the kitchen the other day when something Lisa was doing on the computer caught my eye.  It was bizarre looking, at least from a distance.  It looked like a picture, but it was also moving.

Closer inspection revealed this was one of my brand new nieces.  Lisa's sister gave birth to twins last week.  They arrived a little early, so they're in intensive care.  At the hospital they are using, there is a camera on every NICU bed, and if you have the proper login credentials, you can check in on your baby any time of the day or night.  Or, as the case may be, you can check in on your sister's baby any time of the day or night.  I have taken to calling this the "creeper cam" because it seems a little, well, creepy.  I mean, you don't give the login stuff to just anyone, but once you give it to someone, they can check out our baby any time.  This is some regular big brother stuff right here.  We're watching.  We're always watching.

Last night, while I was cleaning up some dishes, I looked over and saw the now familiar image of the precious bambina (one of the precious bambinas).

"Creeper cam again?"
"Yes.  She called and said I should go look at the camera now to see the baby doing something other than sleeping."
"Is she pooping?"
"Well she's moving around."
"So she's probably pooping.  I kinda thought if your sister told you to go look at the camera that you'd see her waving at you or passing a secret message or something."

I was thinking about that this morning, and I realized that the state of technology is officially off the chain.  We can, at any time, push a few buttons that allow us to see someone virtually anywhere in the world in real time.  Because electrons and digits.  And that's not the half of it.  We're talking about sending people to Mars.  Fairly soon.  SpaceX is landing reusable rockets reliably and claiming that they will soon be able to offer a commercial flight to anywhere in the world in less than an hour...for a price comparable to the current price of a conventional ticket.  We have a long way to go, but we are finally progressing enough in renewable energy that I can imagine a time when we have figured out how to power our world in a sustainable way.  Cars are driving themselves.  Drones may soon be delivering our lattes.  You can order something online and get it delivered the very same day.

Image result for dogs and cats living together

Look back 100 years and think about how far we have come.  100 years ago my nieces probably wouldn't have made it.  We have learned how to prepare their lungs for an early arrival.  We have learned how to keep them warm and feed them.  We have learned how to provide everything they need until their bodies can provide it for themselves.  We've learned how to monitor all their vitals constantly to watch for any signs of trouble.  And heck, now we've learned how to pipe video of those cute little faces all over the world if we want to.

And the pace of change is accelerating!  Star Trek is set in the 23rd century, and I'm starting to believe that in a couple hundred years we might actually be warping our way around the galaxy while Captain Kirk makes out with the girl aliens.

We are so smart.  We are so clever.

Or are we teenagers...so pleased with ourselves that we're blind to the ways we still haven't grown up?

If we're so smart and developed, why are there still people starving?

If we're so smart and developed, why are there still people homeless who don't want to be?

If we're so smart and developed, why are we still finding innovative ways to kill each other?

If we're so smart and developed, why can't we figure out how to help people on an island devasted by a hurricane?  (I mean, we could land a rocket there tomorrow, but we can't restore safe drinking water?)

That's the thing about Star Trek.  We're so amazed by the gadgets and gizmos (and beaming, because...beaming) that we miss the most remarkable thing.  In Star Trek's 23rd century, not only have we figured out how to live in peace on our own world, but we've managed to make peace with a number of other worlds, forming the United Federation of Planets.  Honestly a food replicator  looks a lot easier to figure out than interplanetary unity.  Like a teenager with a car, we have a lot more power than we really know what to do with, and more likely than not, we're going to abuse it.

Image result for traffic stop
I'm sorry, officer.  He always gets like this when he's been drinking.
With great power comes great responsibility.  We have unprecedented power at our fingertips.  We can use it to build up.  We can use it to communicate and keep in touch.  We can use it to check in on our sweet nieces too far away to visit or to look up the record of the 1953 Razorback football team (3-7...sigh).  We can also fail to use it for good or use it for ill.  Ultimately it is that choice that will propel us to the stars or to our own destruction.

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