Paul - who brings friendly nonsense (blur_kiwi) wrote,
Paul - who brings friendly nonsense

Invention has become the mother of necessity – a column

When I was young, admittedly quite a long time ago now, there was a saying that had been around for a very long time. It was a saying that rang true and had a meaning, it was, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not complicated or far-fetched. If there’s a need for something, someone will invent it and make sure it does the job.

Since then, in those far-off, simplistic, innocent days, the world seems to have turned on its own head. It has become a more complex place with an ever more escalating desire for the next thing and the next, and probably the next. No one has time any more, no one has patience or anticipation. Everything must be now, and fast, and ultimately disappointing. The ‘wait’ has gone out of the world.

It seems now that scientists, who I generally have great respect for and some of whom number among my personal heroes, huddle in rooms – no longer smoke-filled, I’m told, and therefore they’re not scribbling on the backs of fag packets and talk long and hard about what they can invent next, what is possible. Irrespective of whether there is a need for it, or not. They then scuttle off to their labs, or underground bunkers, or evil lairs in mountain-top castles and invent away, with the 'If we build it, they will come' mentality.

They come up with things that no real person has asked for. Then they set the real villains of the piece, the marketing men and women, advertising agencies and the like, off on a mission to persuade everyone else that the thing that’s been invented is something they can’t do without.

And they’re really clever at doing that. They pay an awful lot of money to people who are generally admired by the public at large (though probably not by me) to say how wonderful they think the newly invented thing is and how much fuller life is now that it’s come along. How did they ever manage without it? How close would they have come to ending it all if it hadn’t been thought up? Who cares?

Then the public of the world, or at least those living in what used to be known as decadent countries, who can afford the new thing, think, ‘I can identify with that person, my life must be just like theirs (or at least, I’d like to think so), somehow I can’t do without this thing either, I must have one’. They seem to forget that the person doing the persuading is probably, or usually a famous actor, someone whose whole job is to dress up and pretend. And, astonishingly, it all works.

I have seen a gadget, a small thing that you can carry around with you wherever you go. You can take it on short journeys or long ones, on any mode of transport you like. You can forget you’ve got it with you for a while, or you can attend to its every whim. When you feel like it, you can take it out of your pocket or bag and plug it into your computer. Then a small miracle happens, it shows you where you’ve been, or more accurately, where it’s been.

Now, I don’t think I’m a stranger to technology, or advancement, or for that matter technological advancement, but if it was me doing that the information would be pointless, I bloody know where I’ve been, because I was there. I understand that it might be just a little useful, though probably more embarrassing than anything else, if I’d been blind drunk for the previous few days and had no coherent idea where I’d got to. But in those unlikely circumstances, I think I’d actually prefer not to know.

To me, someone’s just cobbled together existing technology, stuff that helps people find places they’re looking for, turned it on its head and then tried to get the world to believe they want it. That it will, in some way, actually be of use. It won't. It isn’t. It’s pointless.

Take the news story that broke last week about a beef burger, grown from cow stem cells in a lab rather than within a cow itself, over five years at a cost of more than 250,000 Euros. I understand the need to make better use of the resources we, collectively, have. I understand the need to produce food more economically and thoughtfully. After all, I’m vegetarian for lots of reasons, not just because I don’t like meat. But, is this The Answer?

I don’t think so. I think it’s more because scientists managed to get funding based on spurious arguments and skewed science. They did it because they could rather than because they should; because the technology that allowed them to do so was there rather than because anyone actually wanted the resulting mock flesh pattie.

The media here was gripped by the idea. For a day, they touted it as a ‘cure’ for vegetarianism, guilt-free meat for veggies. How little they understand the world, how little the media care about the people who consume their prattlings. How wasteful it’s all been, both in the short and longer-term. It seems we never learn, and neither can we go back to those innocent days when invention actually meant something.

Tags: columns

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