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June 1, 2005
As Thin As a Soap Bubble
Words of wisdom from Jane Galt over at Asymmetrical Information:
"The appalling povery of Sri Lanka or Mozambique is not some bizarre aberration that can be tracked to a cause we can cure. We are the aberration; Sri Lanka and Mozambique are the normal state of human history."
Very sad, and very true. I've often had the same thought with respect to my work as a scientist. This is the only time in all of human history that I could have done some of the things that I've done. The human race has had capable and expanding technology for only a short time compared to the millennia spent hacking our living from the ground and running for our lives. The average snapshot of a person my age, taken any time over the last couple of hundred thousand years, has been of someone nervously gnawing on a bone while the wind howls around their shelter of rocks and branches. Well, that would be the scene only if I'm not already over the average male lifespan over that period, which I may well be.
No, my situation (and yours, too, if you're reading this at all) is a crazy outlier out on the right-hand edge of the curve: a nice climate-controlled roof over my head, a recent meal and no worries about the next one, no fear of wild animals or bands of club-wielding scavengers, no smallpox or polio to carry me off. And instead of grunting out a subsistence living, I get to sit in a well-appointed room and get paid for thinking up new ideas and trying them out with rare and expensive equipment.
Francis Bacon had it right: our trade is "the effecting of all things possible." We should never forget to enjoy it as much as possible, and do everything we can to keep it alive.
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