I stayed with a Couchsurfing host in Albuquerque, New Mexico who was a farmer. We got into talking about technology and he told a story of a Native American chief, a Pawnee, meeting a white guy. The white guy was showing off his gun, and the Pawnee said: why do I need that when I have my knife? He then used the knife to butcher an animal very efficiently.
The Pawnee was not quick to adopt a new technology because the old technology was plenty good, and the effects of a simple technology like a knife are much easier to predict than the effects of a complicated technology like a gun. Western culture is interested in the “what” of technology. We introduce new tech super-fast and call it progress. Other cultures are more interested the effects of technology. They are slower to let new technology in.
A few hours after this conversation, another Couchsurfer came. This guy was driving across country to move to the Bay area. He wanted to make it as an entrepreneur, and he was filled with a bright excitement that technology will change the world.
He told a story of how someone broke into his car and stole his backpack from his trunk. His solution was innovative: he wrote a script that scoured craigslist for the stolen backpack. Amazingly, he found it, and then used his script to recover other things this guy had stolen.
Technology can do neat things, but it doesn’t change the basic facts: we’re humans, we live, and we die. Our molecules go into the ground and become other things.
My host had a composting toilet, which I thought was a cool reminder of the circle of life. It’s easy to forget about the circle of life when you live in the modern world and spend years without touching the earth.
I drew this comic as an imaginary conversation between the farmer and entrepreneur. The farmer is on an escalator, which symbolizes the creation and destruction of life as it goes up and goes down.
Two Modest Mouse quotes:
- Someday you will die and someone or something will steal your carbon. (Parting of the Sensory.)
- So we carried all the groceries in while hauling out the trash and if this doesn’t make us motionless I do not know what can. (Spitting Venom.)
Well, motionless for a while, but we age and we die. The high we get from technology is cool, but life is interconnected and circular and, despite what the transhumanists say, I think will stay that way for a long, long time.