March ’22: Hamster Wheels
This is cross posted from my monthly newsletter which is built from my semi-daily newsletter, which is just full of hot-takes and profanity and you have to pay money for it sooooo…maybe just read the cleaned up monthlies?
There is a deeply human urge to have things go back to the way they were. Which is fine. We are creatures of habit and stability and risk-aversion.
So, how far back do you want to go? Odds are, you want things to be like they were when you were happiest. When you were safest. When the world seemed the most stable to you.
You know, when you were ignorant.
“You want a good job? Then go to college!” only applied when the cost of college was low enough and rare enough that a degree was a differentiator. Now? Yeah, not so much.
“Back in my day, we didn’t have immigrants taking our jobs!” was also, literally, never, ever true. If anything, it was your company outsourcing your job to another country that took away your job, but let’s not get into the weeds of globalization, shall we?
In fact, it’s highly likely that countries who don’t open their borders will be outcompeted by ones that do. For example, people from a tropical climate might immigrate to a currently temperate climate. Which will become more tropical, sooner than you think.
Seriously though, most ‘developed’ countries have a zero to negative population growth if you remove immigration from their census calculations.
The urge to “go back” is the safety of the hamster wheel. In its cage, the hamster is safe. It can run on that wheel to its heart’s content. Outside the cage, running in a straight line is a sure way to get eaten by a predator. And the shivering ape in our heads just doesn’t want to risk it.
But humans are beyond predation. In fact, just calling us an apex predator diminishes our impact. We have reshaped the paper-thin skin of the planet at a rate that boggles the mind. Not that we did it as some huge plan or anything. We’re basically going by the seat of our pants, generation by generation. I mean, after reaching the point where those chemicals allowed us to grow more food than we needed, we might go back to earthworms.
The illusion of safety is just one of the many illusions we rid ourselves of as we become less ignorant. And running towards supernatural explanations is just choosing another illusion that makes us feel safe.
There’s a tension that comes from becoming less ignorant. You pull away from the safe, the secure, the easy. You push towards shadowed horrors beyond your comprehension and for what? To continue into the unknown? Why would you bother learning anything that could disrupt your sense of stability?
You do it because some quirk of evolution led our species to this point in time. You do it because as you walk into that fear, when the hamster wheel is just a distant squeak, you find wonders beyond your reckoning.
- Flexible diamond nanothread jewelry with optical biosensors built from two dimensional semiconductors
- Supermassive black hole collisions that took 45 years to detect
- Hyperspectral sensing tools to grow information wrapped in edible plastic
- Multinational farming communities built for equality and equity
- Breathing on the moon using dormant genes or brand new ones
So yes, it’s terrifying that things change. And yes, it would be nicer if things were predictable again.
But I would rather be a hamster in a field than a hamster on a wheel.