Is it just me, or has the world become ridiculously complicated?
Now, I’m a huge fan of the complex: I studied fluid mechanics, whose differential equations are almost as complicated as those fascinating constructions used in physics (my other love). Math was always my favorite subject, especially when it zoomed off into infinite series and tortured integrals and mated with physics to produce understandings of the world that could only exist in numerical form.
I know. Me = geek.
But something has changed from those simple, ancient days in the 80’s and 90’s when I was in graduate school. The world has become more complicated than any one single human can hold in their minds at the same time.
The world has always been complicated, but it used to be that one could understand how the phone worked – I mean actually worked, not just how to make a call – without needing advanced degrees in microelectronics. Now the manual to use the phone resembles a miniature phone book, and the phone books themselves exist mostly on the interwebs.
My husband spent the weekend recreationally writing code to print out rocket designs, because the boy is serious about his rocket building hobby. (I know. Hubby = geek, too.) He commented how it was fun because it was challenging, yet simple compared to his work at the office designing software to run the latest high tech water softener. He was lamenting that the code had gotten so complex he could no longer hold all the options for it in his head at the same time. We’re not talking Windows 7 here, people. We’re talking code for a household appliance.
The idea that sufficiently advanced technology is the same as magic, is not new (thank you, Arthur C. Clarke). However, I never expected to be one of the peasants, in awe of the latest gift from the gods. And when the technorati themselves are baffled by their own creations … well, it starts to sound like one of those sci-fi dystopias that sent shivers down my back as a youngster.
How does this relate to books? I wonder if the profusion of magic and the fantastic in the last 20 years or so is less a result of the Harry Potter/Twilight fandoms and more an acknowledgement of the reality of our world: the place is freaking amazing! And kind of terrifying. And books have swallowed whole the idea that science is magic, to most of us anyway. So, why bother with the details?
Makes me want to turn luddite and hide in my cave. But there’s no internet there, and I wouldn’t be able to blog, so I guess that’s out.
What do you think, cats and kittens?