Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whither we goest?

The title of a Vanity Fair article, Lazy-Ass Nation, intrigued me enough to peruse it online (hard also to not peruse pictures of Tom Cruise's ex-better half). But I digress. This was an amusing piece, which notes the extents to which modern society has succumbed to the allure of gadgetry, e.g.,
  • a motorized ice-cream cone twirler
  • battery operated self-heating jackets
  • cars that park themselves (better than you, no doubt)
  • peanut butter and jelly (in the same jar)
  • remote-control switch for a clapper
  • motorized, remote-controlled duck decoys (I want one!)
One interesting and distressing point is a quote from Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. I have read this, but I probably banished the detail from my mind:
"Hunter-gatherers really do have more free time." He points to studies showing that Kalahari Desert Bushmen, a hunter-gatherer tribe that has survived to this day, "have leisure time, sleep a lot, and work no harder than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food has been reported to be only twelve to nineteen hours for Bushmen: how many [of us] can boast of such a short work week?"
From here, we go to the near future, where information might successfully be implanted into live neurons and bioengineering will cure us of everything. You've got to love the conclusion:
And once the goods and services we come up with are advanced enough to eradicate every last annoyance from our lives, we'll finally achieve that state of bliss known both to yogis of the East and Homer Simpson on the couch.

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