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Author Topic: Things are better... but also dimmer  (Read 935 times)
rovingjack
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« on: April 14, 2016, 01:28:32 am »

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/02/america-in-1915/462360/?utm_source=nl__link8_021216

A bit of Data from 1915 about the way america lived.

The argument is made and rightly so that in most measures we live extravogant and amazing lives today; and that's even before you take into account that for anybody who isn't a white male you could pretty much chalk up anytime before 1980 and off the list of places or times to visit.

But I gotta say that there is something missing too. Going back 150 years, it really seems like the world itself has had all the wonder domesticated. Things are more regimented and the lives of people are pipelines, or cattle chutes.

Stowing away on a steamship and showing up in another place to start over new, joining a circus, inventing or being an amateur scientist.

And yes I'm romanticising things a bit. Then as now life was a struggle and almoist without question you would have worked from age 5 til death, fairly needed to get into a marriage out of need for more workers to support the family and eventually children to live with as you aged and died. And you likely lost at least one child along the way. Those were all facts about life and the living of it.

I think more for me is the sense of mindset that was lost. But maybe that's through rose colored glasses too. Maybe the vast majority of peoples lives didn't have wonder and or pioneering tones.

But where is the ambition that saw the railways built, and the great towering architecture, fury and frenzy of a world Discovering steam power, and electricity, gas lamps, explorations and independant scholars. It feels like we don't make discoveries as much as we make products now. We don't explore so much as we tourist. And worst of all we don't have awe, we expect things.
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Dr.B.Goodall
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2016, 03:00:38 am »

Regardless of the reality of those times, where the "average" age of death was 25-30 years old (though this average could have been dragged down due to high infant mortality rates), there are a few things back then which they didn't have compared to today:

- The blame and claim culture ... "Oh my Son tripped on that loose cobblestone, fell and grazed a knee, I want compensation!"
- "Health and Safety" personnel, dictating that basically you weren't allowed to use any common sense.
- "Top Heavy" company structures (i.e. companies with lots of managers, and as many workers [or less]).
- Having the majority of the population to be able to access a large wealth of information (i.e. computers and the internet) ... Mind you, that hasn't stopped people being idiots - it's just made them faster, better ones!

I could go on, but those are my main bug-bears of "Today's world" Roll Eyes
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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2016, 04:55:17 am »

- Having the majority of the population to be able to access a large wealth of information (i.e. computers and the internet) ... Mind you, that hasn't stopped people being idiots - it's just made them faster, better ones!
People then still got quack medical advice, they just had to get it by word-of-mouth or newspaper adverts.
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2016, 11:44:45 pm »

One can still become an amateur scientist. You won't get as much respect as you used to, but then again, it's open to a lot more people, rather than just the gentry (it's funny, the first modern scientists were from the lower ranks of the upper class [the gentry], whilst the first engineers were from the upper ranks of the lower class [blacksmiths] - now they're both solidly middle class professions). Maybe there's a conservation of respect thing going on.

I doubt most people had adventurous lives back then, either. You generally have to search for it - if it has to find you instead, it's probably not going to be pleasant. What do you want to do?
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cossoft
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2016, 01:19:18 am »

I totally emphasize with you, rovingjack.  I myself suffer from a touch of weltschmerz on rainy days.  But consider the following examples illustrating that it's not ubiquitous rosiness for all Americans:-

“The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.”

“As of December 23, a total of 12,942 people had been killed in the United States in 2015 in a gun homicide, unintentional shooting, or murder/suicide.”  This is a non partisan statement, simply statistics.

The pubic disgrace that is Flint City in Michigan.

You have to accept that we can't reinvent thing like coal (I'm excluding carbon sequestration in this argument).  By definition, you have to invent new things.  The Arduino has been a game changer for makers the world over, probably including this readership.  We've just achieved nuclear fusion with a net energy gain over the course of the experiment.  When  do we do these thingsthat is commercialised, we can all have those jet packs you've been building models of.  And 800 exoplanets have thus so far been discovered.  Finally as a cultural example, Warhorse has been successful in China.  Why?  Because.
I remember lying on a sand dune in the Sahara Desert drinking Jack Daniels and looking up at a clear night sky.  I saw the Milky Way for the first time.  It's beautiful and wondrous, and the experience was one of the pinnacle moments of my life.
People simply decide to do these things. Cheer up, ambition and awe do still thrive.
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rovingjack
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2016, 09:00:42 am »

I think it's just a hard thing to articulate, but I'll try.

Those exoplanets are found by incremental processes performed by groups of people in shifts. It's the assembly line model of discovery.

I find that ultimately dissatisfying. When we step back to a time slightly before, when discovery was done by obsessed and passionate individuals savoring the answers they teased out for the sake of the cracking of mystery, not to secure grants or get a good placement in a firm after getting a good grade.

Yes as a maker myself the access to things is great for enabling me to do things, and I'm waiting for many a great thing that most people don't expect are right around the corner and will change the very fabric of our lives for the better.

But there is sort of a stupid domestication to it all, on top as well as a parceled out role in things. Monkeys pushing buttons and flipping switches in a machine that changes by the actions of a billion button pushes and switch flips.

I long for a time or place of the craftsman who makes the whole thing because it's damn important that the pieces be made for each other and in the end the product has a personality that has touches of it's creator in it. Where the hunger for an answer would have one chasing clues like a detective, not sending samples to some other person to sequence and then send you data which you then run through an algorythm. You learn to sequence because it's a part of the discovery you need to do, you figure out how to crunch the data because you are so fascinated by the topic that you know it through and through enough to see the patterns you are playing with.

I don't use the term domesticated loosely, I use it intentionally because there is a wild craftiness that has slipped away from us. People have gotten used to the dinner bell ringing when their portioned and prepared orders are ready. They don't hunt or forage for meaning, like trained chimps they push buttons because that's what makes the grapes appear.

even the poor person with little education and no station in life was crafty and wielded ingenuity as a frequently used tool. We got here by applying creativity and passion, only to become passive participants in something that feels increasingly hollow and meaningless the more I see it.

I feel like I want to scream at people shuffling around on a minute by minute schedule to do things that only matter in $ earned, and it rules their day from waking to sleep, "Create something! Art, tools, recipes, jokes, whatever. Just pour yourself into something that when it's done, owes it's existence to you and speaks to others in a way that they cannot help but see you in the work. Every one of us is dying a little more each moment and when the last moment comes, what will the story you've written through your life of actions say? What would you rather it say? And why are you not writing that story each day?"

and heres where I get the sense that things have gotten dimmer. I think that such a call would have rallied a great many to adventure over a century ago, but that now it would confuse those around today, as they try to figure out which brands to buy to assemble the best story. They want to buy the parts from which they assemble their self identity, rather than craft themselves.
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cossoft
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« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2016, 01:26:05 am »

... and people craft too.  Read http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35884856 about what's happening your side of the pond. Read especially Ms Facciola's comment vis a vis  "the artfulness of things."  I like fixing things as well.
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Alexis Voltaire
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Shàlle We Dànce?


« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2016, 01:15:57 pm »

Philosophically, I think all things come with a price, or downsides if you will. On one hand, you have a world open to adventure, invention, and discovery. The downside being that it was unequal, expensive, dirty, and dangerous. If someone caught you and set you on your feet again when your life fell apart it was luck rather than design. Perhaps a world of shorter, riskier lives encourages adventure and innovation because moments are valued more, and the ending of life is a more visible possibility. Do today, for tomorrow may be too late.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2016, 01:36:50 pm by Alexis Voltaire » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2016, 08:13:23 am »

There are wonders yet in the world: Quebec teen uses stars to locate possible lost Mayan city in Mexican jungle

The short version is that this kid had the idea to compare the locations of known Mayan cities to maps of Mayan constellations, and recognized that a city seemed to be missing. This won him first prize in his school's science fair and drew the attention of the Canadian Space Agency (yes, we have one!) who provided him with RadarSat images of something that looks very much like a lost Mayan city.

It remains for a ground expedition to confirm the existence of the city, but if it does exist this kid will have his PhD thesis half-written before he finishes 10th Grade.
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lingarn
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« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2016, 12:13:10 am »

- The blame and claim culture ... "Oh my Son tripped on that loose cobblestone, fell and grazed a knee, I want compensation!"

This isn't exactly true.  In the winter of 1851 an officer in the military fell on a sidewalk and sued a man because he claimed the man hadn't properly cleared the sidewalk of ice and snow.

The man's defense in front of the jury was, in essence, "If you soldiers would keep sober, perhaps you would not fall on people's pavements and hurt your legs."

This argument damaged the officer's reputation, and apparently persuaded the jury:  although the officer succeeded in his lawsuit, the man was only charged six cents (plus $8 in court costs).

Why do I remember an obscure incident from 1851?  Because that military officer was Ulysses S. Grant, well known drunk, future leader of the Union army, and eventual President of the United States.
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cossoft
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2016, 02:02:08 am »

Perhaps a world of shorter, riskier lives encourages adventure and innovation because moments are valued more, and the ending of life is a more visible possibility...

Are you quoting Brad Pitt from Troy about being mortal?
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Hez
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aka Miss Primrose C Leigh


« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2016, 12:07:15 am »

Regardless of the reality of those times, where the "average" age of death was 25-30 years old (though this average could have been dragged down due to high infant mortality rates), there are a few things back then which they didn't have compared to today:

- The blame and claim culture ... "Oh my Son tripped on that loose cobblestone, fell and grazed a knee, I want compensation!"
- "Health and Safety" personnel, dictating that basically you weren't allowed to use any common sense.
- "Top Heavy" company structures (i.e. companies with lots of managers, and as many workers [or less]).
- Having the majority of the population to be able to access a large wealth of information (i.e. computers and the internet) ... Mind you, that hasn't stopped people being idiots - it's just made them faster, better ones!

I could go on, but those are my main bug-bears of "Today's world" Roll Eyes

Health and safety regulations often go overboard.  I have watched them take a disk sander in my department and put so many safety guards around it that it was unusable for intended product.  On the other hand, Health and safety regulations came about because employers did not bother to protect their workers in any way.  Toxic chemicals, dangerous machinery, ridiculous heights - why worry, it is cheaper to find more workers.

The problem of course is that the pendulum tends to swing too far before gravity draws it back to the centre.
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Alexis Voltaire
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Shàlle We Dànce?


« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2016, 11:06:39 am »

Perhaps a world of shorter, riskier lives encourages adventure and innovation because moments are valued more, and the ending of life is a more visible possibility...

Are you quoting Brad Pitt from Troy about being mortal?

Not intentionally, just some philosophical rambling.
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