Saturday, November 23, 2019

Making a Better Human

After his time in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp and his common-law wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus, set out for Alaska, where they ran the Dexter Saloon. What intrigues me about this photo of their saloon is the humor, a hundred years after the fact, which still holds up.

Humor is an integral part of human nature, and though we are a civilization centuries old with many differences in customs, languages, and shared experiences, I'm amazed when jokes manage to transcend the ages. One of my favorites is from ancient China and discusses the origins of the house cat. The story is that cats had been sent by the Gods to watch over us, but the cats don't do a very good job of it because they sleep so much.

This interest about human character stems from panels at science-fiction conferences where we discussed future developments involving humans and high-technology. One favorite topic addressed the human-computer interface and potential changes to human biology. For example, connecting our brains directly to computers would allow us to access information from vast libraries and process that data at incredible speeds. The eventual goal would be "singularity," where every mind would be wired to the Internet to create one global super brain. What a schizophrentic mess that would be. Who would set the agenda? Proponents of that technology argue in purple prose that such a development should be hailed as the next step in human evolution. Homo-Google.

That ability would surely make us smarter. Right? And by extension, better. What's missing in this talk of becoming more advanced humans is any discussion about what truly makes us better. I've yet to see a software app that'll make anyone more honest. Or more empathetic. Or wiser. Conversely, I haven't seen an app that would prevent dishonesty, theft, treachery, or even murder. Human nature as expressed through humor, or doing good, or doing bad, won't change. To that end, here's one of my favorite quotes from Scripture, Job 5:7 Man was born into trouble just as surely as sparks fly upward. 

And that trouble is what keeps us crime writers busy.


Sara E Johnson said...

Lots to think about here, Mario. Thanks. I am intrigued by the term 'purple prose' and Googled it: Prose that is too elaborate or ornate.Then I watched a YouTube on how to avoid it.Then I realized purple prose wasn't the point of your passage- but I enjoyed the detour.

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