Envisioning the Present

Warren Ellis has a fascinating essay up detailing the need to improve reality by seeing the present. This is simplifying things significantly, hence why I recommend giving the entire piece a read.

The bit I want to emphasize here is the power of perspective. Go back fifty years and describe our “mundane” everyday experiences of smartphones, exploration, medicine and scientific discoveries to the average citizen and I doubt he or she would believe you. Actually, I can imagine the exact words my grandfather would use to describe me (and no, they’re not quite fit to print). Here’s a video to prove my point:

That’s a solar eclipse on Mars. We have robots there exploring the planet for us.

Let me repeat that: We’ve successfully sent multiple robots to another planet in order to explore our solar system. The amount of innovation, development, and skill that allowed this accomplishment is simply astounding.

Typically when our technological development we take a stance similar to the following blase attitude: for all its might, the internet is mostly full of cats:

But here’s the thing: I watched that video on a tablet computer. Not only that, I watched it while I was feeling incredibly sick in the midst of 95+ degree LA heat. I was miserable, yet a cat video (apparently from someone in Japan that I’ve never met) managed to cheer me up. Again, if you break down the steps that it took to make that video, get it up on the web, and delivered on demand to my tablet, well even cat videos become pretty impressive.

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2 responses to “Envisioning the Present

  1. Josh M September 16, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for highlighting the Ellis essay, I hadn’t read it.

    This “power of perspective” angle is one I often play up in my Shakespeare classes. When I need to help students realize how differently they see the world than Shakespeare and his contemporaries did (students often want to universalize their experiences), I point out that they have always known what the earth looks like from space — and that there are still many people alive today who did *not* always have that knowledge. That one usually gets them to pause and think for a moment.

  2. Nick September 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    The Earth from space tactic is one I hadn’t considered. I’ll have to use that one in class soon!

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