Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keeping pace with change


My partner and I recently terminated our landline, that is, we cancelled our wired telephone service opting to rely exclusively on wireless telecommunication.

That sentence actually contains references to two changes, one good and one bad. The bad change was North Carolina voting last month to adopt an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I find this blatant discrimination egregiously immoral. My Ethical Musings post on NC Amendment One explains my objections.

However, the voters passed the amendment. I briefly considered divorcing my wife (whom I love deeply and with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life) to put us on an equal footing with people who cannot obtain the legal advantages of a marriage contract. Denying my partner and myself the benefits of that contract, which as a military retiree are considerable, will do nothing to end unjust discrimination or to advance the cause of equality.

Words are powerful. So I have chosen to stop using the language of marriage in order to identify with people against whom a secular government discriminates based upon religious bigotry. I encourage other people to do the same.

The good change is that technology offers the potential to simplify our lives and to reduce our dependence upon material possessions. My cell phone has more capabilities than any phone I have previously owned. It is also the smallest phone I have ever owned.

Similarly, the Kindle that I’ve owned for a couple of years now contains hundreds of books. Because these books are in an electronic format, I’ve reduced my environmental footprint at no cost to myself, i.e., I’ve avoided purchasing additional shelving not to mention the horrendous pollution associated with papermaking. These tomes cost less than the print version (some are even free), raising my standard of living without requiring me to increase my income; the author, if alive, earns more. The Kindle is also highly transportable. Furthermore, my partner and I share a Kindle account, enabling us to read one another’s books at no cost, exactly as we would do with a printed book.

Technology has revolutionized modern life. No longer are the tasks of ordinary living – cleaning, cooking, caring for clothes, etc. – arduous, time consuming endeavors. Additionally, technology has often improved the result. Cooking on a gas or electronic appliance generally trumps a wood or coal fired cooker (unless one seeks a particular flavor). Washing machines generally clean clothes better, more quickly, and with less effort than does hand washing. Personal hygiene is vastly superior because of modern plumbing and products. The advent of 3-D printers offers the prospect of manufacturing on demand, potentially eliminating the need to stockpile items never used as well as the preferred square footage of dwellings.

Technology is assuredly no panacea for our problems. Technology does offer a means to reduce per capita consumption of many of earth’s resources without a commensurate reduction in the quality of life. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome will be obtaining sustainable and abundant energy with which to fuel the technology at a reasonable price. The other major obstacle may be persuading people to adopt technology without committing to a never ending cycle of non-essential, producer driven product upgrades.

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