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Progress has its drawbacks

By Don Farmer

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One of life’s great frustrations for those of us who either have, or like to think we have, an enquiring mind is knowing you are never going to gather as much information as you want on many, many subjects.

That’s because the Grim Reaper is going to scythe us all down long before all the secrets of science and nature are uncovered for us.

That is an absolute given.

Take space for example.

In the context of the universe our life span is far less than a blink, the eyelid hardly has time to quiver let alone touch base with the bottom of the eye, and return, before it’s all over.

We rejoiced when after several million years of human existence man finally stepped on the moon, a great achievement indeed until you turn your attention to what is left out there untouched, billions of galaxies, a parallel universe perhaps.

A baby born today would be on the old-age pension long before a state-of-the-art spacecraft managed to even reach the back fence of our own cosmic backyard let alone do the round trip of all those unknown worlds.

So, watching re-runs of Star Trek is realistically the closest we will ever get to satisfying our thirst for space.

Scaling things down it’s more than most of us can hope to achieve just to get about our own world to anything like the extent we would like to do because travel is fabulous, and it’s also expensive.

Away from the problems of solving the mysteries of the universe there are much more mundane frustrations that come into play and which we individually face and grapple with.

For example I ask myself will I be able to afford and enjoy the luxury of a driverless car.

We are told the day is fast approaching when we will be able to settle into the driver’s seat – should it still be called that -whack some information into a computer then sit back, or doze off, and leave the rest to our programmed hunk of metal to safely get us to our destination

Sounds like science fiction I know but the experts say it is on its way.

Will those driverless cars be electrically powered?

I guess they will be so the petrol companies face doing a starve and risk losing their economic clout unless they concentrate solely on supplying marine and aviation fuels.

Then again the relentless march of progress may even rule that out.

A battery powered, pilotless passenger jet plane, now there’s a scary thought.

Long range pundits tell us the workforce is ultimately doomed, destined to shrink to anything but a force as technology takes over the reins.

Work, they say, will become the domain of all sort of robotic creatures and superfluous humans who once trudged off to work will have all day to sit by the fire dreaming up ways to fill out their day.

Sounds idyllic, but I am not so sure.

Catching a pilotless plane to fly to Aussie to see the kids, being served your in-flight meal by an unsmiling, unattractive robot and landing in Sydney to hire a driverless car only to find your loved ones idly standing by no longer gainfully employed and bored shirtless has very little appeal.

No, on reflection I will settle for retaining the mysteries of the universe, happy to pit my wits and driving skills against all the other human road users and to work happily on until I reach my self-imposed retirement date of April 1, 2045.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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