The Wheels of Progress

Doesn’t it seem like everyone is in such a rush? Obviously during the holidays everyone was keen to shop to buy presents for family and friends. It is a sanctioned shopping feeding frenzy. Every year, there is some new device that will supposedly fill some gap in our existence. Electronics of every kind (digital cameras, iPods, video game consoles, DVD players) flood into our homes in the hopes of attaining some kind of happiness or joy.

The observation is that for every step forward, there ensues the need to make something else obsolete. It is not so much some kind of attachment to an older technology, it is lack of understanding that bring protest to my mind. The real question is whether the new device really brought about any increased form of lasting happiness. Our souls seek so much more than what we can deliver. Our hunger for more drives not only the need for continuing progress but also our sense of being unhappy with where we are.

The point is that our hunger for more will never be satisfied and will often drive us to find ways to be completely distracted from the problems at hand. I would argue that much of the gadgets are designed to give us personal space more than any form of shared experiences. This is a bit of a generalization since obviously sharing media would be a shared experience but things like video/audio entertainment (obviously the iPod) is meant to be a solo experience. It is like we are trying to remold the world in our image based on these devices. We aren’t happy with how the real world is so we need to create our own. It’s a mixture of escapism and being egocentric. Also it is obvious that people think it is okay to spend thousands of dollars in pursuing this identity through devices. If there was no demand, there would be no devices.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. I’ve been focusing on computers since 1980. In the beginning, my goal was to work with computers since I found it easier to work with machines than with other people. Early in my career this quickly changed due to the lack of depth in any electronic device. You can focus solely on technology but it becomes a very lonely venture. All these things are supposed to be tools, not crutches for certain weaknesses.

It is time to return to the point of this post. The wheels of progress move ahead but often what seems like a step forward is actually just a step sideways or backwards. Technology is not going to solve our deepest issues. It might distract us, and even please us, but essentially these technologies are not going to help us become more aware or even understand why we think we need it in the first place.

I’m not advocating the withdrawal from technology. I’m just saying that wild advancement doesn’t mean that we are going to be better off. It would be wise to consider that there is nothing wrong with being happy with where we are now. It is especially important if we find it annoying to stand still.

The cost of unhappiness is constant upgrades. These upgrades equate to working harder to pay for them. Working harder leads to wanting more upgrades. It’s a cycle, not an upwards sloping line. This cycle is more like a wheel :). Please excuse my obvious tie in the title.

Another observation is that people’s intelligence stays about the same or goes down slightly over time. In other words, the people of the past were not dumb. They invented the best they could at the time. Most times they did amazing things with what they had. Given today’s tools, they too could create amazing things from our time. We take most of this granted and often discredit the work of our ancestors as being primitive or unworthy of respect.

The real question is what drives progress? What causes us to want to move forward?

My theory is that we are unhappy with where we are and also that we think that in the future all our problems will be solved.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If all our problems where solved, there would be reason to experience life. The assumptions flaw is that all our problems are well defined and the problem set will remain constant. This is obviously wrong since there are unlimited issues waiting to face us. It is our own discontent that leads us to believe in something that can never be.

New problems always appear. New faults are created. Thank goodness for that.

Our character already has the power to overcome any issue. It is all about understanding that we already have all that we need. We are all a part of this.


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Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

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2 comments on “The Wheels of Progress
  1. hught says:

    I’ll cite George Bernard Shaw’s famous quotation in response:

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

    So the next time anyone thinks I’m being unreasonable, remember it’s the price of progress!

  2. jeffreymuir says:

    Very clever. It makes sense that someone that needs to adjust the world is doing so out of frustration and discomfort. Perhaps unreasonable is a good word for this.

    The more we try to change, the less we actually do.

    Thanks for the witty quote and reply.

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