TANSTAAFL. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” * Remember this whenever you get offered something slick, wonderful, and almost too good to be true. People pushing for the future are always offering something better than the stuff shown in the 1910 Sears Roebuck catalog. This isn’t to say we should hesitate or declare a technological moratorium. It seems that we can’t afford to. Our Red Queen’s race to destroy our world almost guarantees that we have no choice now but to get genuinely radical with our innovations. Before taking that graceful plunge into the future, I suggest we check how much water is beneath us. So TANSTAAFL.
We are all plunging into a world of turbines, solar cells, batteries, and “green” hydrogen. While criticizing our old tech for its flaws is politically correct, doing a similar exercise on our new tech is not. That worries me. Lithium and cobalt mining have their drawbacks too. And a big part of our societal problem is hiding consequences under the proverbial carpet until we stumble and fall over those issues. We refused to see them or stubbornly hoped they would resolve themselves.
The potential of the new biomedical, energy, and materials technologies excite me. But if all we are doing is awkwardly splicing them to the same old societal model that has gotten us into trouble, don’t expect things to get better. We’ll still have substantial social inequity, institutionalized racism, issues with how we distribute healthcare, problems with education, and pollution issues.
Don’t give me the old routine that the new tech will ease or eliminate the old problems. I’ve heard those promises with the Green Revolution, computers, globalization, and robots in manufacturing. I’ve listened to politicians spout that people will be freer and able to pursue more exciting jobs. I’ve also seen the same politicians walk away after the sound bites and forget about the programs needed to help those people attain those objectives. It gave the United States the Rust Belt and vulnerable people who lost good-paying jobs and little or no future. I wonder if we’d fail a thorough test for sentience based on our repeatedly non-sentient behavior.
So definitely, let’s move forward. But let’s remember that there is no free lunch.
- A good example of free lunch is going to a bar paying for a drink and getting access to the “free lunch” bar – an assortment of cheap appetizers. The idea is that you pay a regular price for the cheap hooch, eat the salty foods, and drink more. You lose on the transaction because the hooch is cheap and watered, and the food is cheaper and well-salted. TANSTAAFL.