January 27, 2013

On A Dinner Table

No. It's not about THAT.

Nothing HAPPENED on the dinner table. In fact, I don't have one. And that's the point.

It occurred to me out of the blue about the fact that I do not own a dinner table while most people do. (Of course, when one talks of India, probably it would be truer to say that most people in fact don't.)

But clearly the readers of this blog would likely belong to the dinner table owning class. So, the point is this: how essential is it to own a dinner table?

Does one's quality of life degrade in any noticeable manner (let alone significant manner) on account of not owning a dinner table? Clearly, the stark fact has to do with our sense of priorities. We make these choices and so many of them. Some of these choices are conscious and some are unconscious. There are individual choices made and societal ones too.

Individuals choose to worry over dresses or dining tables or door frames or dogs or whatever.

Individuals worry about choosing a school for their kids.

Individuals worry about how to eat excessively and sumptuously while at the same time hoping to maintain a figure that would suggest that they have not eaten excessively.

Individuals devote significant intellectual energies to somehow extend their own youth. Individuals seek to live as long as possible.

Individuals enjoy holidaying and travelling and so they go on tours of rural Italy or rural France or rural Germany or Greece or Egypt or India or whatever. People go on cruise liners and adventure holidays.

When all this and more is done, sometimes people worry about other issues or larger issues or societal issues. People might show concern about the ever lowering standards of their elected representatives or the state of bankruptcy (moral and financial) of their country. People show indignation at democracies turning into plutocracies. Corruption seems to be scaling new heights with the passing of time and people are concerned about that.

There is the situation of millions of babies dying every year from highly preventable causes. Global warming seems to be getting worse. Natural calamities seem to be getting worse.

Shakespearean scholars continue to ponder the mystery of the real Shakespeare. New research is going on to confirm the identity of the lady who was the model for the famous Mona Lisa painting by Picasso ... err da Vinci.

Scientific pursuits continue. Mars rovers continue to rove the planet. New rovers will reach the Red Planet. New Horizons will reach Pluto ... a Kuiper Belt Object.

New telescopes are being built even as Hubble continues to stun with the beauty of its imagery. The James Webb Space Telescope will reveal yet more marvels. The Kepler data will fundamentally alter the question of the number of planets in the universe. The Square Kilometer Array and other radio telescopes will extend the frontiers in the radio range.

Our understanding of the human genome grows and deepens. Our understanding of diseases such as cancer will keep improving. More and more diseases will be conquered ... including HIV AIDS and Alzheimer's.

Computers and artificial intelligence will make us smarter sentient creatures. And we will combine computer intelligence with biological intelligence to devise extraordinary creatures.

SETI might succeed or may fail — we might discover some technologically advanced civilization out in the vastness of the cosmos or we might not.

Once we meet an advanced technological civilization, may be we'll find a way to "communicate" with each other and "exchange notes" about each other's science & technology.

I wonder if there's anything "special" about the base 10 mathematics we use or whether that's just our "provincial" parochialism based on the fact that we have ten fingers on our hands and feet.

Though all of this might seem like a pointless rambling, there's a point to all of this.

The point is this: it's all about choices.

We make choices as individuals and as communities and as societies and as nations and as a species.

The outcomes in the future are contingent on those choices.

Are there wise choices and foolish choices? Who's to decide and define what is wise and what is foolish? What might appear wise might turn out to be stupid. Or vice versa.

What will the human species accomplish in a million years from now? Is the evolution of intelligence a commonplace occurrence across the universe?

Is the human species the only species in the Milky Way building a Large Hadron Collider to discover the Higgs boson?

Is time travel possible? May be, it will be possible to travel back in time one day. I for one look forward to a time travel machine that will let me travel to the future. I am not so hot about travelling back in time to be an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus. If I got hold of a time machine, I would put pedal to the metal and go to the farthest future that the machine allowed me to visit.

I don't see much fun in going back in time and killing my grandfather before he married my grandmother. It would be fun to travel a million years into the future.

Would it even be possible to recognize this planet as the good old Earth?

Our choices will determine our future.

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