Re: The pace of change

Date: Tue 19 Nov 2002 - 18:51:16 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: The religion meme"

    > An article I read about a year ago by a businessman who was selling to
    > the global economy said that the greatest problem he had today was the
    > pace of change. The world is changing so quickly that he couldn't use
    > methods he learned at Harvard Business School to solve his business
    > problems. They were obsolete before he graduated.
    > I don't know how many of you have heard about Ray Kurzweil and his
    > theory of the singularity, which he expounds upon in his book,
    > Spiritual Machines, but in it he shows that the world is changing
    > through technology at an exponential rate. Technologies capable of
    > changing the paradigms of our existence are being released at an
    > ever-increasing speed. At some time in the near future (he figures
    > between 2020 and 2030) the computer will become smarter than humans
    > and will start designing new machines that are beyond our
    > understanding.
    > The same pace of change is taking place in the fields of biology,
    > genomics, physics, economics and every other field that is affected by
    > the use of computers. This, to my mind, is the root cause of the
    > clash of cultures. We are moving into the future at something
    > approaching the speed of light and a lot of people in the world don't
    > want to go with us. Change scares people. They can't or don't want
    > to cope with it. It takes a lifetime just to adjust to the world we
    > already know, and it looks like the planet is spinning out of control.
    > In just a couple of decades, the crops we harvest have been changed
    > genetically in countries all over the world. Nearly 75% of the
    > soybeans grown in the world are GM products. China is training over
    > 200,000 biologists to try and catch up with the West in this field.
    > The country that is trying to become part of the new world doesn't
    > have time to fight long drawn-out wars with its neighbors nor to sit
    > around and let the infrastructure go to hell and its citizens remain
    > ignorant. As the Red Queen said to Alice, it will take all the
    > running they can do just to stay even.
    > That, to my mind, is the main reason some people are trying to stop
    > the world from running away from them. The 14th century seems like
    > something they can understand and live with. The 21st century
    > doesn't. There's more to Macdonalds and Wallmart than just hamburgers
    > and french fries. It is a way of controlling the market and driving
    > the little guy out of it. It is a technology that is more efficient
    > than the old mom and pop way of doing things. Cows slaughtered in
    > Chicago end up in hamburgers in Beijing a month or less later. The
    > golden arches use so much beef they can control prices all over the
    > world. I think this is the kind of domination the more backward and
    > slower moving countries resent.
    > I saw a show the other week on an African country trying to stave off
    > starvation by growing chocolate for the market in Europe. People were
    > processing the beans for chocolate with a wooden pestle in a hollowed
    > out tree stump. What they didn't realize is that no matter how much
    > more they get for their product, it won't be able to compete with
    > modern production and marketing methods. Someone in another country
    > will find a more efficient way to do it and the Africans will continue
    > to starve.
    > This is the kind of domination that is scaring the hell out of the
    > third world and the people being left behind by it. They see it as a
    > religious issue, but that's just a small part of it. It's the way we
    > in the west are changing the world and the rate at which we are
    > changing it for a people who want to keep it the same -- like
    > something they have grown accustomed to and feel like they can cope
    > with.
    > Customs that are based on the way the world was 500 or 1,000 years ago
    > don't serve us well today. Genetically modified foods must be driving
    > many of them crazy. Where in the Koran and Kosherdom to they fit in?
    > Before the spiritual leaders of the world can make decisions about
    > what is and is not kosher, the world is covered in crops that never
    > existed before. Rice now has vitamin A, fish are being farmed and
    > changed genetically to grow bigger and faster, corn contains its own
    > insecticide and cattle can contain the genes of pigs. How can an
    > old-world person know what they are putting in their bodies and how
    > can they reconcile the new world with their religious beliefs?
    > The short answer is that they can't. So they feel the new world is
    > being forced on them against their will and the U.S. is the primary
    > force driving the changes they can't accept. The people being
    > affected see it in terms of religion rather than commerce and
    > technology, but they feel they are being taken over by something
    > ungodly and they feel helpless to do anything about it. So they
    > strike out the only way they know how -- as their religion taught
    > them. Like the prophet led them to take over the West under Islam.
    > Like al Quaeda was able to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan.
    > And we in the West are too busy competing in the global market to pay
    > attention to their fears. We feel we have to move forward with all of
    > our technologies. We can't take the time to make technology conform
    > to religious belief. The culture that doesn't move forward will find
    > itself too far back to catch up in a short period of time. If you are
    > illiterate, you're locked out of the internet and the global market.
    > Cars are becoming too complex for a third-world, back-yard mechanic to
    > understand and fix. The whole world and the culture that underlies it
    > is becoming too complex for the people who aren't running fast enough
    > to keep up. And they resent it.
    > And that's the crux of the battle in my mind. It won't matter how we
    > try to appease the people in the countries that are being drowned in
    > the rushing river of change. We won't be able to do it. They will
    > resent the changes taking place and will blame us for them. They will
    > be frustrated because they can't understand what's going on or what to
    > do about it. They will see us as hegemonic invaders forcing our
    > culture on them. And in a sense we are. But the river doesn't stop
    > just because someone is drowning in it. And neither will we.
    > Cheers,
    > Grant
    A fine post.
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