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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blossom or Wilt


9th grade. Science class. My teacher brought out a box of empty toothpicks to begin the lesson. He explained that before class he had spread the 2000 toothpicks all over the school grounds but that they were not toothpicks, they were fish. Each of the 25 or so class members were divided into fishing teams instructed that they needed to find at least 10 per team to meet their needs and stay in business. He explained that the quantity caught would be subtracted from the original total, and the surviving fish would double in number up to a certain carrying capacity in a simple equation. Each 3 minute scramble for fish represented one year of business in the fishery.
I will never forget the outcome. Even though there was no reward system explained, no prize for finding the most, the strongest personalities in the classroom created a competitive atmosphere that led to an initial catch of about 90%. By the third year, the fish were gone and the points weren't even tallied.
I had a long discussion with a coworker the other night about human 'nature versus nurture' and I admit that I am of the persuasion that the human animal untempered by reason, logic, education is not a democratic sensible being but a competitive and destructive albeit caring creature prone to many illogical primal impulses. The world is changing though. The toothpicks are running out and there is no longer an undiscovered frontier on the Earth. If humans are to progress without a horrible calamity that will end the lives of millions or even billions in the century to come, we have only a few options. We can revolutionize our thought processes, social and monetary systems (probably impossible without a catastrophic inciting event). We can find a new frontier, through space travel and terraforming technology (also likely impossible in a limited time-frame). We can develop new Star-Trek-like technology to create abundance great enough to support the whole of humanity sufficient to eliminate competition. Somehow finding a way to create a sustained cornucopia of energy, food and water sources so abundant that every human could afford to live without the necessity of competition (also unlikely, but probably the most possible). Most of America is so saturated with obsolete but working technology for instance that where a criminal might break into a car to steal a CD player 15 years ago, it would be pointless to do the same today. The technology is not exclusive enough to be profitable. If we read in the paper that a grocery store in suburbia was robbed, it isn't assumed that the thief took bread and cheese, but money from the safe or register, because food is (still (for now)) so abundant and inexpensive in America that its theft would be of little consequence.
If technology can make essentially free the basic warmth, shelter, clothes, food and water of every citizen easily accessible by even the uneducated regardless of their qualification and the competitive race is relegated to the world of luxury and not animal necessity, and that can be done without increasingly sapping more resources from the earth and diminishing its supplies, then we may survive. Unlikely.
It's bleak but humans are capable of really anything if we have to be, and we do. 
Big businesses donate large sums of money to charity and much of it is useful but much too is also wasted in slow bureaucratic inefficiencies and is much more concerned with redistribution of limited supplies than the creation of more supplies.
I pledge that the Lunar Island will, rather than dumping money on nebulous organizations, be devoted to sincerely improving the future, and not simply its public image. Build solar farms and windmills which add to the Orem city power grid and encourage others to do the same toward the eventual goal of a power bill of 0 dollars and 0 cents. Use technology to transform our barren Utah deserts into forests with the use of gel packets http://www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcglobal/8dripla9.html. Create farms and organize charitable grocery stores. And donate money to those on the forefront of nanotechnology and space exploration wherever they may be toward the future instead of a frantic search for the past.

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