If your first response to the question is “but uh, the world didn’t stop, it’s still spinning like everr!! duhh!!” then this question is not for you. In fact, questions in general are probably not for you and you should probably go back to just getting answers from Faux News.
Now that we’ve gotten all the ignoramus out of the way, we can tackle what really makes this question important to me. First of all, it’s from a song I like – “F(r)iend” by the metal band “In Flames.” A scratchy voice in the intro says, “Some might think the most daunting question is, why did the world stop?”
And I think that is the most daunting question. Let me explain what I mean by the world stopping. Think back to the Industrial Revolution, and all the inventions/advances in technology that made the world a better place in the 19th and early 20th century. Lightbulbs, cheap electricity, the assembly line and cars, cheap plumbing, airplanes, (mostly) easily available food… So the list goes on. Until we reach World War 2, right? We invented nuclear energy, and turned it into a destructive force. We tried to harness it for energy, and didn’t think about whether we could control it or not (the reactors will be safe on fault lines, right?!) and it’s ended up really doing more harm than good. You could say the same about cars and the agricultural system…
But those arguments aside, what do we have to show for ourselves since the end of WW2? Cell phones, color TV, Computers, Video Games, the Internet.. Great communication tools, yea.. Then think about Smart bombs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles… Deep sea oil drills.. Ecstasy and other “club drugs..” I can’t think of many things we’ve created that actually help to make the world a better place. Well, actually, I went to a presentation last year about newly invented ceramic water filters, that are easy to make for folks in developing countries and provide potable water for the town. But, cmon, in the 21st century couldn’t we invent robots that find and filter water? And, sure, we’ve made great progress in eliminating certain diseases, we’ve invented retro-virals for HIV/AIDS and vaccines for malaria… But then why are these diseases still devastating rural nations? I mean come on, diarrhea is responsible for over 3% of ALL the deaths per year in the world. We don’t even think about that here in the US.
Thus my assertion: the world has stopped. Progress to make the world a better place has all but halted. If you want to argue about medicine, then my proof in the medical world is the ratio of money spent to develop and spread (not to mention provide free on insurance policies) drugs like Viagra vs. the money spent to spread the HIV/AIDS retrovirals. Think about the money spent on new weapons vs. the money spent on training community leaders in conflict resolution. The list goes on.
Why has our species’ brilliance and innovation seemingly been commandeered by people who don’t care about progress? Why did the world stop? Well, the simple answer is money. But there is no answer to this question right now – mine is, I don’t know. If I knew the answer, then I wouldn’t have to spend my life driven by this question. If anyone can tell me, I’m all ears to an answer. But I don’t think there’s a simple answer, and my life’s project is to explore this question.