The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Earth Is Large and Our Control Is Limited

Before I begin, let me say my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the nearly 240 missing passengers and crew of MH370. I cannot imagine the depth of your suffering, but I stand by you as the mystery continues to unfold.

Now, I heard two stories back to back this morning on NPR that drove home the points that the earth is far larger than we like to imagine and our control over everything is more limited than we like to think. The stories were about the continuing mystery of Flight MH370's disappearance and how the search for debris off Australia is turning up nothing. The second was about DARPA's search for robots of war. From the first, it became quickly and abundantly clear to me that despite all our globe trotting technology that lets us declare the "world is getting smaller every day," it really isn't. When technology or humanity directing that technology fails and disappears somewhere in the world, it is extremely difficult to find the missing equipment and people once again. Especially over the vast and churning oceans. This is a humbling thought and one we don't much like to face. Of course, a much more common and somewhat unnerving example of how big the world really is happens anytime you end up with a flat tire or run out of gas on the highway. Suddenly, the hour long trip home becomes something you could not accomplish in a day, most likely. The world expands and it is spooky!

From the DARPA story, the question arose that if a robot is programmed to recognize and kill a person targeted, but kills the wrong person, who is responsible? Is it the programmer, the manufacturer, or the leader who sent the robot on the killing mission? This reminds me that we are not nearly as much in control of our lives as we like to believe. When technology fails us, we howl. We do so, at least in part, because that mechanical minion's failure reminds us once again that we are not the masters of the universe. We are far more humble creatures than that.

In the end, I'm hoping that taste of humility we are getting will help draw us closer together. I want to believe this might just help drive home the point of how much we really do need each other, one human standing with another and another to face the unknowns and the tragedies of life together. That would be a wonderful thing to come out of all this. Having lost a friend yesterday to cancer, I know how much I need to comforting community of others in dark and difficult times. Perhaps these failures and mysteries will help us to put aside our ridiculous, petty fights and try to help one another along life's difficult road. 

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