Thursday, October 23, 2008

Plants are getting lazy

I've ruminated before on a common discussion point in our household around the technological takeover of humanity. While Ken & I are both quite fascinated by technological breakthroughs and experiencing new gadgets, software and innovations, we do have different motives. I tend to look at what technology can do to minimize the mundane aspects of life or what it can do to bring people together, like the Wii, blogs, the Google phone & Facebook. What I perceive of Ken's motives is that where ever possible implanting technology is preferable. Even when something can be done without the aid of computers or software, "wouldn't it be neat" to do it anyway? (Ken is welcome to dispute and clarify this position--at time of publish, he was not available for comment.) For example, take a look at this invention to help a plant get sunlight.

It's pretty neat and it's thoughtful to want to help our plants get the most sunlight they need but think about it... Plants can grow in the direction of the best sunlight and their leaves have evolved to make the most of the light they get. So while this is helping the plant in one way, it's circumventing adaptation and basic function in another. Over time, it stunts the plants ability to do what it does naturally. And how much "energy" is used to operate this contraption? Does it even net out?

Our cousin Thomas made a point when we were out visiting awhile ago that the Internet (and specifically Google) makes us lazy because as search becomes more and more optimized, it will start to anticipate and think for us. In trying to bring up the best correlations to a search term, it will make assumptions and apply its own logic--leaving us to hit enter, wait and drool.
I think like any powerful tool, there is a fine line between it helping advance our society and it crippling us. When I think about the major paradigm-shifting advances in the last 10 years, I only hope that in our exuberance to embrace technology, that we not only ask "can we?" but "should we?". The tenants of curiosity, practicality, efficiency and simplicity are the cornerstones of thoughtful people and they were around long before the Internet age. Sometimes I worry in the current atmosphere that these ideals may seem passe or quaint to the over-stimulated youth of today. But technology can't make moral decisions or value judgements nor can it take the place of thoughtful introspection. For all our sakes, I hope that will never go out of style.


Sean said...

Or you can look at technological innovations as freeing us from the mundane tasks thereby allowing our brains to be used processing loftier goals.

A computer can perform calculations in seconds what used to take days by hand.

I could talk at length about the shape of my industry (ship design) and how much more (exponentially) efficient I am compared to my colleague of, say 1900 (or even 1980 for that matter).

Anonymous said...

Heavens to Betsy! I am so glad that you were not talking about MY plants getting lazy! We can't have that! I do fear for the front garden tho..some of those plants might be considered really lazy.


Danny V. said...

Resistance is futile. You will join the collective... it is inevitable. Or not. You humans have an annoying tendency to think for yourselves.