Machan’s Archives: Thanks to Technology (updated)

Machan’s Archives: Thanks for the technology (updated)!

Tibor R. Machan

In 1972 I bought a Volvo P1800 off the Chevy used car lot in Santa Barbara, California. I owned that car for 20 years and am still sad to have had to sell it in 1992, after putting 250,000 miles on it and driving it back and forth over the USA about 17 times.

I recall this now because with all the praise heaped upon “green,” it is largely those in the field of practical science, technology, who have to endure a great deal of finger wagging. Yet, we should often extend warm thanks to the engineers who designed and produced our various technologies? I certainly did, silently but often, extend thanks to the engineers who designed my wonderful car and all sorts of gadgets that have made my life better since.

Today, instead of dissing scientists and technologists, I would like to thank the designers, engineers, and doctors. The latter, for example, have helped me regain the use of my eyes. And some are working hard to improve my back which has been operated on a few times but is still functioning pretty well, thanks to science and technology.

I often think about those people who invent the various useful gadgets we nearly take for granted these days – like the central air conditioning system in my house that makes it less of a chore for me to work at my computer, take good care of my house, and read the fine novels I love so much during the hot spells of our summers in Southern California. Or the central heat – which I rarely use because after all, I can put clothes on nearly endlessly, whereas even going about buck naked is no relief when the heat gets very high up there. I think, also, of the people who made the pain-relievers I and millions of others take when we have serious aches and pains, or those who make the supplementary vitamins or… well, you name it. Few among the elite commentators around the country appear to pay them heed other than to lament all the technology they have produced.

All you need to call up feelings of gratitude is to notice how one’s ordinary life is improved when one has the great variety of products available from the market place. Yes, sometimes I am overcome with a powerful feeling of gratitude and wish I actually knew more of those who make such things so I could thank them personally.

Moreover, I feel very protective of these folks when I hear various critics of modern technology. Today nearly all efforts to make things better for us – be it based in biology, chemistry, physics, electronics or what have you – tend to be lambasted by some high and mighty sounding Luddite. Indeed, I have resolved never to be complacent about such attacks, to rise to the defense of these folks who often simply go about the work diligently and competently but do not prepare well enough for being chided by the Luddites of the world.

Greens, in the main, and their kin across the globe tend to be thoughtlessly hostile to those who are devoted to improving our lives. Such critics give voice to an asceticism that no one who has ever had the benefit of microsurgery or ambulance transport could consider warranted.

Take as an example the folks at Oregon State University, who follow the ideas of “Simply Beautiful,” a program developed by Sam Quick and Robert Flashman, whose motto is “To be content with what we have at this moment, to bloom where we are planted – this is the wisdom of gratitude, this is the very foundation of a simply beautiful life.” They want everything to be simple again (as if things ever were simple). They need not preach to me their reactionary notions. This is like that time when a device was invited that restored hearing to some of those who are deaf and some outfit threw a fit about this, claiming that such an invention implies that there is something wrong with being deaf. What perversity!

Of course, we pay for these inventions and creations and those who design them mostly make a pretty decent living, so they do not go unrewarded. But few are actually thanked much. Nor are the middlemen who invest in their work and take financial risks with these designers, engineers, and inventors. They tend to be overlooked, yet they ought to be honored more often. (Now and then I think the Nobel Prize is misdirected to the pure scientists, who are having so much fun already, leaving the practical implementers less prominently acknowledged.)

There’s of course the great benefit produced by all those implements that enable us to keep in touch with parents, children, friends, colleagues and others by electronic means, by email, texting, cell phones (hands free and not), and the rest. (I personally manage to contact my new grandson via Skype and instant message with my three grown children on Google! Then there are my family members who live abroad and whom I used to have to wait for months to be in touch with, via a regular mail and an occasional very expensive phone call!)

Anyway, here is a toast to those who try to figure out ways to make our lives better for us in those more or less small ways by which someone like me, for example, can continue to read and write and drive about safely. Thank you all! The fact that everything can be abused or corrupted, isn’t their fault!

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