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Brave New World

If you never read the above novel, perhaps it's time to read it; or go back and read it again. We are now over the threshold of that new way of living. More and more we are interacting and living in that world, and we need to be brave to decide what to accept and what not to. Much of that scenario is good; saving lives and more. But much of it comes with unforeseen consequences.

Take, for example, Facebook. I made a page a couple of years ago or so. At first it was a marvel. I located and shared in the lives of cousins, nieces, nephews, and grand- and even great-grand relatives I'd otherwise never have known what they were doing or what kind of people they had turned out to be. It was fascinating - to be able to share in their lives. I was in turn contacted by many relatives and former neighbors I hadn't heard from in five, six or more decades. The upside was that many thanked me for the influence I'd had on their lives - the difference I had made in shaping their futures. It was a great thing to know, heading towards eight decades of living, that I had made a impact. What a great turn-around from a few generations ago when immigrating to the west meant that perhaps you would never again see your parents, children, your grandchildren, brothers, sisters and more. You wouldn't even know if they were alive and well; you just waved goodbye and fare-thee-well as the travelers rode off in a Conestoga wagon into the dangerous unknown.

Even as a child, I remember the excitement when a relative called long distance, and often speaking loudly if they were many states away; we touched long-divergent bases. Christmas cards were treasured as a way of knowing "We are still here - we remember you!" and assurance they were still alive and well. Gifts, even small ones, were a token of "We still love and remember you."

What about Facebook? At first it was wonderful - I could follow the lives of relatives long uncontacted. I found descendents of many that I didn't know existed and was able to share in their lives. But over the past few months, most of my contacts have taken to posting links, jokes, recipes, articles, etc. to the point it is overwhelming. Some post a recipe, picture, link, etc. twenty or forty or more times a day. Or just how they are feeling at that moment. They must live on a computer or smart phone. Don't they have a life other than texting? I get tags on my email, and simply erase most of them without opening them; I have other things to do. I am sure I miss a lot of important stuff, but that can't be helped.

A year or so ago Google warned us that if our websites couldn't be viewed on smart phones and tablets we would be pretty much cut out of the ratings and search results. So with disgust I arranged to buy an IPhone to replace my plain little cell phone, to redo my website. I mentioned this to someone in Switzerland that has a large server and a market basket program; I did work for him, testing the database as he wrote it, checking for errors, and editing the help screens for clients, which were in English. I still do the English checking from time to time as he makes changes or does videos. I mentioned to him about the smart phone/tablet subject, and asked if he thought they would continue to replace desktops except for professionals, and if they would continue to rise in popularity.

"Let me tell you something," he replied. "I have to travel all over Switzerland and sometimes outside the country promoting my market basket and attending seminars. I go by train, usually. A few years ago, young people would be chattering, flirting, getting together... now they just sit silently poking and viewing their phones. If things keep going this way, perhaps the human race will die out....."

He has a point. So far hormones keep the population growing, but will it continue? Will our brains and bodies eventually change too? So many things are now suspect - obesity because of lack of physical activity; the increases in autism, dementia, diabetes and some kinds of cancer, allergies, lung problems - how many are caused by changes in our environment and our living habits?

Cars now have the ability to sense articles in their paths and hit the brakes. We have seatbelts, airbags (many of them defective or life threatening), baby seats (often confusing to use correctly), vaccines that save lives but may have their price, antibiotics that cure horrid diseases but have their downside too - and more. Each new miracle drug is soon followed by lawsuits and warnings if not outright banning. School is one example; the educational process is longer and more inactive and electronic that ever. That's good in some ways but is often used in a counterproductive manner as restless kids stare at screens, sit all day, take numerous tests and still graduate often knowing little, including how to think.

In the past few months grocery ads have changed radically. In most large chain stores, the ads are mostly for artificial, processed or ready to eat food. I have problems finding actual vittles sometimes to cook with, and actually have to order some online.

Think of all the marvelous things in progress or foreseen in the near future - cars that drive themselves, food that cooks itself, merchandise delivered in an hour or so by drone, illnesses that can be diagnosed and often treated without any human contact - the list is endless. Some things scare me - for instance the suggestion to tear up all the highways and install chargers in each lane to keep our electric cars charged an ready for street use. What effect will this have on our brains and bodies? Darwin - and subsequent researchers - have verified that animals either die out or adapt to changing conditions, changing their form, their brains, everything that makes them what they are. If we keep going, unchecked, in a cocooned world of instant gratification, leading sedentary lives, almost everything disposable, eschewing face to face contact, relying on science and electronics to keep us alive, will we too either perish as a race, or eventually have to learn to live in that brave new world?

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