Toward Perpetual Progress

According to the Forbes 400, the net worth of the richest Americans has decreased $300 billion over the past year. The ten richest Americans lost $39.2 billion. Bill Gates alone lost $7 billion and is now only worth a paltry $50 billion.

On the one hand, this is an obvious indication of the economic slump that has occurred over the past year.

On the other hand, I cut my own hair because I can’t afford to shell out $12 (+ tip) at Mastercuts.[1]

I could lament about the obscene gap between rich and poor in this world.[2] One needn’t leave this country to find people living in abject poverty and working people at that.

But what interests me more is the following question: What would human beings do if our notion of “progress” didn’t include “profit” as in its current conception?

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A Contradiction on Wheels

The perfect car for the philosopher has to be the Chevrolet El Camino.

It’s a paradox.

74_El_Camino
Is it a truck? Is it a car? No! It’s both.

Even though it is classified as a truck and titled as such, its body type is classified as a “coupe utility.” That is, it uses a unibody automobile platform rather than a pickup truck’s body-on-frame construction. It is not built with the separate cab and body construction of a pickup truck, even though it does have a cargo bed behind the cabin.

Somewhere Aristotle’s head just exploded.

So my plan to save the General Motors is this:

Bring back the Chevy El Camino, but rename it the Chevy Paradox.

They can even turn it into a hybrid if they must.

I know I’d buy one.

Wouldn’t you?

You Know, We’re Living in a Society!

There is one thing that sets us apart from animals. No, it’s not our ability to reason, or laugh, or use tools.

It’s our ability to make and obey traffic laws.

Most people fail at obeying traffic laws.  In every city I’ve ever driven, I have heard someone say that this particular city has the worst drivers.  And the funny thing is, they’re probably all correct.

I was on foot attempting to cross a street with no crosswalk yesterday, and there was a car approaching from my left who slowed and waved for me to go ahead.  They thought they were being courteous to me, and grew annoyed when I waved them on and refused to cross the street.  You see, there was a car coming from the opposite direction. So waving me across would have meant that I would have had to stop in the middle of the road and wait for the second car to pass.

This demonstrates the problem quite nicely.

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Past Light

Suppose there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.  The odds, of course, are greatly in favor of this assumption.

Now suppose that there is a planet containing life that is close enough to be able to see the light being reflected off of Earth with whatever telescopic powers these lifeforms have available to them.Andromeda_Galaxy

Suppose, even, that this planet is in the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest to the Milky Way, approximately 2.5 million light years away.

This means that the light that these intelligent creatures are viewing is old. Very old.

They are seeing light from an earth that is nothing but distant history to us – the first appearance of the genus Homo.

They are seeing history.

They are seeing Earth’s past.

They won’t see today’s light for another 2.5 million years.

Kind of makes you feel insignificant, doesn’t it?