The reader may want to skip down to the examples in the middle of this wu, but just so you know, this wu was stimulated by a criticism I got about my wu in "weight-gain epidemic", which someone thought might be rather anti-technology - the wu mentions that the high heat microwave ovens create may be destroying more nutrients than more traditional cooking methods, amongst other things.

So I thought maybe I should explain. I love technology, I do, and I have lots of it. I'm even saving up to buy an Orgasmatron to keep me happy in my old age. I want to be one of the first adopters. I'm not one of those people who complains about every new technology from video games to pagers to whatever and then six months later is hooked on it. BUT - I've also lived for a long while, and I know that the fault lies not within technology, but within ourselves. Every generation has to learn anew that there is a law of unintended consequences, and that new technology always triggers plenty of the latter. Technological product 3.0 is usually pretty easy to use, and safe; but version 1.0 of that same technology, maybe not so much.

Of course there's good stuff that techno-Santa has brought us. I might well not be alive now except for antibiotics, central heating, being part of a very rich society, and more. But there's that other, darker side of technology, too, as Mrs. Claus could probably tell you, and living a long while exposes you to a fair bit of it; enough to make a person wary. Not enough to make you want a divorce from technology, of course, or even separate beds - but, let's say, enough to make you think separate bank accounts could be a good idea, especially if you already know what the old guy can blow on toys for kids he doesn't even know.

So here's a bit of what my generation learned along the way, in the form of a series of examples from my own life - no doubt there are plenty more that I could add to this list, too, including my brother's death, but here's the list for now:

When my Grandfather died, largely of Parkinson's disease (probably not a coincidence), his house became an official environmental cleanup site. It turned out that when he retired from the farm to the city he'd hauled in with him some of the most toxic agricultural sprays ever created "because they worked better". No doubt they did, and his yard always looked real nice. Lots of black soil between the flowers. But insecticides are nerve agents, just as the most deadly agents of chemical warfare are: hence my suspicion about his Parkinson's. The progress of which slowed down once his being paralyzed cut down on his gardening. After a few years of being remarkably still at the dinner table, he suddenly got better and may even have been up to doing a bit more gardening, I rather suspect. After which he was down for the count, again, permanently paralyzed.

My father used to bring home from work phonograph disks full of songs singing the praises for nuclear power in the early nineteen-sixties (he was an electrical engineer). Bright voices in harmony telling us how clean and dirt cheap and gosh darn friendly nuclear power was going to be. Ah, that long lost Shangri-la.

In grade three, we all got to mold cute little animal figures out of water mixed with... wait for this one... raw industrial asbestos fiber! They had our parents go out to hardware stores to by this for each of us: it was sold as bulk powder just dumped into a paper bag by the store clerk. Then our craft project was to take this smelly powder and mix it with our hands and try to get it to hold together in a clump that look vaguely like an animal. And I do mean vaguely - not only was this material hard to work with, but you know, it's funny but I don't see any of those kids, anymore.

When I participated in my local high school science fair in the nineteen-seventies I, and everyone else who came, got to hold my hand over a big chunk of recently mined uranium mounted on a pedestal "so we could feel the radiation going through our hand". I did, and I did. Sure enough, if something is really *&%! radioactive, you can actually feel the damage being done to your appendages while it's happening. Totally cool. I'm still waiting for huge ugly tumors to pop up on my left hand, but they haven't yet.

At another exhibit at the same science fair, any kid who came by one exhibit got to roll a huge chunk of raw mercury from one bare hand to another. Again, it was really cool to feel this against your skin, but you might be able restock a few city blocks with the IQ points lost to that generation of schoolkids at that one booth, at that one school fair, not to mention nerve damage, and more. My arms now are weak enough from nerve damage now that it's awkward carrying a cane around, but there are probably other reasons for that. Probably.

All these examples are true: don't let my fondness for the literary technique of hyperbole tempt you to think otherwise. Human beings really are that foolish, and very possibly foolish enough to kill off the planet.

Now, my point isn't that technology is evil, or even that human nature is. It's simpler than that: we are all innocents and don't like to admit that we're ignorant as sticks. So every generation laughs at the technological follies of the last and then blunders into their own remarkably similar ones because they aren't looking where they're going, either. I only counsel, on those rare occasions when I'm asked, a little more prudence than we think is at all necessary, because every previous generation thought they were being more than prudent, too. (A sort of "Brooks' Law" for technology.)

So, dear young ones, remember: a very large number of tombstones, including my brother's, should really say "Surprise!" where "R.I.P." is chiseled.

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