The Long Arc of Time
A few days back, I watched with wonder and awe as a copter flew on the Red Planet. Witnessing Ingenuity take off from the Mars Perseverance Rover and send images all the way back to us humans filled me with an immense sense of joy and tremendous gratitude for technology and science. These are feelings we all could and should enjoy more regularly, and maybe we would if it weren’t increasingly difficult to recognize and appreciate our own reality.
So much of human progress takes place in increments, and the most meaningful strides rarely get much attention. In roughly the same length of time that we have gone from flying gliders to flying solar-powered copters on Mars, the average human life span has doubled — and we have hardly noticed as it was happening.
“The story of our extra life span almost never appears on the front page of our actual daily newspapers, because the drama and heroism that have given us those additional years are far more evident in hindsight than they are in the moment,” writes Steven Johnson, in an excellent piece in The New York Times Magazine. (It is an excerpt from his 13th book, “Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer,” which will also be a four-part television series on PBS and BBC. I’m looking forward to both, the series and the book.)
Yet, even as our progress accelerates, appreciating it becomes increasingly difficult. We live in a world increasingly informed by memes, (Read more...)