Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical science fiction.


How Do You Feel About Learning?

Humans have learned so much since the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment two and a half centuries ago. We learned our universe was inconceivably larger and older than we had imagined. We learned life on earth began, not in a Mesopotamian garden with magic fruit trees and a talking snake, but in the ocean, only gradually crawling on land, diversifying and achieving self-awareness. We learned human beings are motivated, not by the breath of God or so-called free will, but by sexuality, kin selection and other instinctive processes we don't fully understand. We learned how to interact with people on the other side of the planet or even in orbit around it at the speed of light. Now we're interacting with machines that seem awfully like people, so maybe we'll also soon learn that personhood — what some people call the soul — is a function solely of a sufficiently complex neural network. My mom has experienced the advent of both black-and-white and color television, humanity's first steps on the moon, and the Oval Office in three-dimensional virtual reality. Learning is fun, but it can also be challenging. And generally speaking, adults know they can do hard things, but also they don't wanna.

I read a true story this morning: When my late father-in-law got his first smartphone, he said it "wasn't working for him" because it "couldn't make calls." Of course, the opposite was true: He wasn't working for it, and he couldn't make calls on it. Learning is hard and he was still being asked to do a lot of it. I'm old enough now that I can kinda relate.

As we always are, we humans are in a tug of war between the exciting adventure of acquiring new knowledge and the difficulty of adjusting to it. I know lots of people who tell themselves it's not they who are deficient now, it's the phone ... or the culture ... or the country ... and those folks will fight tooth and nail to regress the world back to something they thought they understood. We see it in everything from school board meetings to national elections to some people's visible anger when they're asked to get along with trans people or press 1 for English or accept that first-trimester embryos look nothing like babies.

But if I have anything resembling faith these days, it is this: Time is a one-way arrow. One cannot truly unsee what one has seen, nor unlearn what one has learned. (Sorry, Yoda.) There is no possible way of going back. So to me, it just makes more sense to keep learning and trying to know more about the world and my fellow terrestrials than I did the day before.

To quote Starship Troopers: Would you like to know more?

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