Ever since the first of the pandemic lockdowns, I’ve been experiencing this free-floating sense of unease that I can’t shake. Some moments are worse than others. Most of the time I’m completely functional. But there’s this underlying feeling of being totally creeped out that seems to have become part of my status quo.
I’m sure it has a lot to do with having to look at my fellow human beings as disease vectors. That’s a shift in reality that I hadn’t anticipated. And I don’t think that will ever go away completely, pandemic or no pandemic. I was so innocent, once.
But I’m really beginning to think it’s much more than that. Things are changing so quickly. It feels as though the future is barreling toward us at such an insane rate of speed that we can’t get a proper focus on it. For the first time in my life I can’t even speculate as to what life will be like even 15 years from now. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it will be exceedingly strange.
I mean, self-driving cars? Who is responsible if an accident occurs? Can the cars prioritize risk based on passengers? If two driverless cars are speeding toward each other, and one contains a family with three small children and the other contains a 78 year old man, should the cars be able to decide which group gets to live? (Read more about this ethical dilemma here.)
And scientists have created bunnies that glow in black light. It doesn’t seem to harm them, and somehow this breakthrough is supposed to make it easier to create affordable medicines. But maybe me might want to consider not fiddling with the natural order of things too much, for fear of unintended consequences. (They created these bunnies by injecting jellyfish DNA into a rabbit embryo.)
Now it’s possible to create chicken meat in a lab, without chickens involved, except for the single cell. There’s something unsettling about that. It puts me in mind of a book by Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, in which she talks about a chicken-like thing that’s kind of a blob that grows spores with bulbous ends (that in retrospect look a lot like a coronavirus). These spores get chopped off and are chicken meat. They’re called ChickieNobs. Shudder.
And there are weird environmental things happening that no one can explain, such as starfish wasting disease, in which the starfish’s legs basically crawl away from their body, and then the central disk dissolves into this white, gelatinous muck. What a way to go.
Then there’s human behavior, which is becoming increasingly unexplainable. There are still people out there, wandering amongst us, who think the Capitol Building Insurrection was no big deal at all, and/or something to be proud of. There are people denying climate change, and others, heaven help us all, who think the Republicans have their best interests at heart. It boggles the mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe, strongly, that we need to make scientific advances. I also believe that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. But how far is too far, and how fast is too fast?
The fact is, we have no idea what the world will be like in even the very near future. Things are changing. It’s impossible to keep up. It’s utterly unpredictable. Even the positive improvements are hopeless to divine at this point.
And that gives me the creeps.
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