Of course, there are many interesting changes as we age, and while many focus on the physical metamorphoses and the growing list of limitations of what we once could do but can no longer as each year rolls by, I’m also interested in the attitudinal changes as well.
Once upon a time, we used to snicker at our parents whose periodic lectures would so often begin with the intonation, “Now, back in MY day,” as they launched into all those stories that supposedly proved how much tougher their generation had it with all those 10-mile walks to school through three feet of snow, up hill, both ways.
However, as I age, I fear I’m forming some of those same opinions. I thought about that a while back as I was awaiting an early morning oil change while sipping coffee and watching some of “The Today Show.” The story involved Whole Foods, which began stocking peeled oranges packed in plastic containers.
Soon, there was a customer backlash, beginning with a tweet from a customer in a California Whole Foods, Nathalie Gordon, who shared a photo of the oranges in their plastic containers along with a terrific piece of environmentally conscious sarcasm when she said, “If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them.” As more people’s criticism rolled in, within three hours, Whole Foods pulled the product off its shelves.
As I sat watching the segment, I thought of how much my life has changed with more and more innovation that has made life easier. And, whenever I think of that, I wonder if, somehow, each time we remove a little more challenge, we also simultaneously remove a bit more self-reliance, that same self-reliance that strong-willed men and women once saw as a source of pride.
Of course, the list of what I no longer have to do for myself is long, thanks to the inroads technology has made. I remember vividly the angst I once felt as a St. Charles fourth-grader trying to master long division. While I eventually figured it out, if I were to have glimpsed the future and seen calculators, maybe I would have ceased the struggle to succeed and missed the thrill of accomplishment when I finally surmounted my mathematical problem. Some years later, the same can be said about my LCC times with the slide rule.
For me, one of the most pervasive topics about which people are talking and writing involves artificial intelligence, which encompasses computer advances that can exhibit the same type of intelligence once found only in humans. While the term, like many we think have come about only in the last few years, actually dates back to 1955, only recently, is it now on the tips of scientific tongues.
That’s especially true with self-driving cars, which Google introduced last June. In case you missed it, as reported by Kirsten Korosec of Fortune Magazine, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration has determined that it’s possible that AI systems that control self-driving cars can be considered legal drivers under federal law, which, according to Korosec, is an important step in commercializing self-driving cars, a goal Google would like to reach by 2020.
While there’s still much to be done, those lovable nerds at Google truly believe that the AI systems that they feel will one day be seen throughout the nation consistently will make the best and safest decisions for the occupants of cars.
While I applaud the self-braking systems now seen in some current cars, are we really ready for being passengers only in our own cars, fellow geezers? Don’t we remember the thrilling apprehension of learning to drive? For me, it was in driver’s ed on Saturday mornings with Bill Clark, the iconic LCC teacher, who would slide into the passenger seat with a steaming cup of joe from Dog ‘n Suds, look to his left, wink at me and say, “Grindrod, DON’T make me spill this on my lap!”
While I really would rather watch what life was like in more primitive times in movies like Robert Redford’s portrayal of Jeremiah Johnson in the flick of the same name, I have to wonder whether there are those out there whose innovations will one day drain too much of the challenge, sense of accomplishment and joy from our lives.
Now, back in MY day …
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.