/m/e/t/a/ on Thu, 23 Mar 2000 16:59:49 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> shift

As the old barriers separating work and home life dissolve, work gets
diffused throughout the whole of life. New cultural trends reflecting this
fact are already emerging, and something else may be beginning, too: a
different way of thinking, one that doesn't require long uninterrupted
periods of time but instead mirrors the quicksilver shift of the images on
a computer screen. 

History might look back at something called 'Silicon Valley Human' and
recognize it as the prototype for a slightly but distinctly different
human being, one that uses its brain in an entirely new way and whose
cultural habits reflect a fundamental environmental shift. 

Any time a species evolves, something is gained and something is lost. The
question is, what are those things, and how will they change the way
people live? 


Maybe, like a nation of absent-minded professors who've finally found the
perfect assistants to mind the details, we'll dump all our petty concerns
into a Palm Pilot (or something like it) and, free at last to pursue
poetry, philosophy and higher math, get down to the serious business of
thinking. The computer will alert us when it's time to address one of the
petty concerns, and humankind will evolve into a nobler version of itself. 

OK, maybe that's optimistic. But here's the sad truth about the matter: 
whatever it is that will arrive in the coming generations is not really
worth fearing, because it will be cloaked in normalcy soon enough. And
whatever it is that will be lost in the coming generations is not really
worth lamenting, because shortly no one will miss it, and one may as well
not be too precious about something doomed. 

The anthropologists know how to put it into perspective. 

"We're in a time of transition," says Chuck Darrah. "We don't know how
it's going to shake out yet. How long does it take for things to change?
The simple answer to that is 'however long it takes the last generation to
die out.'" 


Research presented at the conference predicted that between one-third and
two-thirds of all plants and animals -- most of them in the tropics --
will die during the second half of this century. If current trends
continue, only 5 percent of the earth's tropical forests will remain by
the year 2050, the data showed. 

The loss would equal that of the last major extinction at the end of the
Cretaceous Period and the Mesozoic Era, when the last of the dinosaurs
died off. 


Perhaps it's the malleability of code that makes some programmers,
especially free software programmers, so optimistic that they can fix
things, that problems are solvable, that a solution is always waiting to
be found. Software can be fixed. Programmers live in a world where reality
can be shaped according to their will -- all they have to do is write
another line of code. 


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