25 March 2010

The Jetsons

OK, so I'm reading Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel right now, and quickly. I'm going to Merkel's retreat tomorrow for the weekend and I'm crash course reading his book. So far so good, it's a good read and he takes into account a lot of different perspectives; very positive. However, I can't shake an image from my head. Ergo this blog entry, so I can clear my head and get back to the book.

Here's the image that is imprinted on my brain:

I think I mentioned in an earlier entry the notion that in our urbanized high-income part of the world it seems like we could be living in spaceships. Given our disconnect with the natural world, we're as in tune and in touch with the planet as much as an astronaut in space would be...well...with less of a big-picture view (chuckle :-).

And that thought made me wonder about the imagery I was shown when I was a kid - to envision the future. You know what? I was given the Jetsons.

Sure, I also watched other animations such as Hercules and the Flintstones but these cartoons weren't intended to be a snapshot of the future for a kid in the 70's, the Jetsons was just that. The Jetsons was a fantastical look at what family life might be like in the future, with flying space pods, robots and space cities. Looking back I think how true it really might be. Notice how 'spaceship' the Jetsons lifestyle is portrayed? What condition is the planet in? Can they breathe the air in their sealed off house and car pods? Where are the plants and trees?

I copied this from Wikipedia about the Jetsons:

Daily life is characterized as being comically leisurely because of the incredible sophistication and number of labor saving devices, which occasionally break down with humorous results. George's work day consists of pressing a single computer button. Despite this, characters often complain of exhausting hard labor and difficulties of living with the remaining inconveniences.

And earlier in the week I watched a video about cognitive surplus by a great presenter, Clay Shirky who likened the social pacifier of this age to the sitcom. Brilliant.

So, what's cognitive surplus got to do with the Jetsons? Expectations. Somehow I think that this futuristic world of ease fueled by technology, where the globe is our playground, is the expectation of the future...of progress. I'm not sure why. Could it be that spaceship living is the desired future? Could further removal from the environment be seen as a sign of progress by the 'developed world'?

This is scary. Now, I'm just starting to get my head around this and of course I'm talking about a cartoon so it's not realistic. But, the danger of thinking that 'progress' means a life of ease and luxury is that it also means more destruction, more greed, more suffering. So instead of losing the cognitive surplus to further mind-numbing pacifiers, let's explore ways to get back to work. If development means more pacification, it's time to ween and wean.

Back to my book...

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