Monday, June 30, 2008

Dangerous, Despicable Discoveries

Oh, these are exciting times, fellows and girls. Not even considering all that we (Baby Boomers) have seen already, or how much of what we labored to learn has become devalued if not actually wrong, or the shocking new realities that we have had to put up with, forget it y’all, the best/worst is yet to come.

With the actuaries telling us that we will live another twenty years so, until 2030 or thereabouts (how’s that for a number? I thought Buck Rogers would be dead of old age by then), we’ll be seeing some reality-stretching shit, that’s for sure.

One thing we’ll see, almost for sure, is one of the two things the discovery of which I have lived in the terror of for many decades now: the infallible lie detector. I like the way it is now, they are useless and everybody knows it. If applied to a naturally nervous person, it looks like lies all the time, even to the question: Is your name (fill in ______)? Any self-respecting sociopath, not to mention any pathological liar, beats them hands down, he or she can say any god-damned thing they want. Did you have dinner with Godzilla last night? Yep (straight lines, true). Have you ever used illegal drugs? (Breaking out of a nod) no.

I like the way it is now because now nobody pays attention to them. I’m the nervous type, and the last thing I want is to take a lie detector test. I’ve only taken one polygraph test in my life and thereafter they accused me of stealing money from previous employers and refused to hire me, which also alienated me from the friend who had recommended me for the job. Outside of a ten year one-man-crime-wave of shoplifting, I have never stolen anything. (I rode in those cars, but they’d already been stolen, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

But now, between the advances is brain science, and the ridiculous hyper-advances in computer science, they’re actually closing in on a foolproof system for detecting lies. Is there anyone who thinks that this would be a good thing? Besides the propeller-heads that idiotically work on such things? How long after discovery would it be before people trusted it completely? Five or ten years? And how long after that would it take before some bright boy in Congress, from Kansas, or Utah, suggested a law that as a requirement for voting everybody had to get a “pass” from the police stating that after a standard group of questions the prospective voter had proven that he wasn’t guilty of any previously unreported felonies. Why don’t we all just report to the station house every six months to prove our innocence? Oh, wise guy, you take the Fifth Amendment do you? Good luck, pal, the Constitution ain’t what she used to be. After all, what have you got to worry about unless you’re a criminal? Crime would disappear! At least among the straighto’s who’d never commit a crime in the first place, they’re the only ones who’d show up. All the criminals would avoid it and continue working in their chosen field.

Of course, when we were children they would have needed Probable Cause to even ask us questions like that. Remember probable cause? History now, like so many of our much vaunted rights. What do you care if we search you, unless you have something to hide.

How many pre-nuptial agreements would contain a clause requiring spouses, or one spouse in particular, to submit to lie-testing once a year or so? Freedom of contract.

The other thing I never wanted to see will definitely be discovered very soon, if it hasn’t already: life on other planets. In my nightmare world, the horror is the discovery of intelligent life, that would be the end of the world as we know it. Especially if they discovered it on the White House lawn. They’re about to find “life” somewhere though, and not just on Mars, they have hundreds of planetary prospects all over the place, and they are figuring out how to check them in more detail. The certainty of any verified life of any kind, anywhere but here, is going to be trouble enough, mark my words. People who believe that the Earth is the center of creation, and that everything we see in a starry sky is just part of “let there be light,” will be slightly bent out of shape to think that god created life just any old place, or, as seems more likely, every old place, all billions and billions of them. Some bacteria somewhere is at least cheerfully abstract; some arachnid somewhere responds to our signals and you’ll be afraid to leave the house for a month.

I try not to look for more modern conveniences to be afraid of. Nano-technology, anti-matter, quantum computers, where’s my drink? I put it down somewhere. Shit! I’m out of ice! I try to keep life simple.


Anonymous said...

You know, Fred, you do have good points. Still, one of my main reasons for dreading death is all the things I won't get to see happen, good and bad... the things you mention, but also my yet-unborn grandchildren, and their children's children. I loved following the "First man on the moon" saga in the 60's, and am sorry I won't be around for the next step, even the discovery of extraterrestrial life. I wanted to live in a time when religion and superstition were, if not gone, at least diminished in their influence in man's actions. I realize I don't bemoan all the millennia I was "dead" before my birth. I just think sometimes I was born a few thousand years too soon. But on second though, considering what is happening to planet Earth, maybe it's good I won't be around...

fred c said...

I'm not so worried about being dead, I expect to make quite a success of it. I do worry about the dying part, that is almost certainly a hassle.

I distinctly remember the moon landing myself. We were watching on TV and we had to go check Flippy every couple of minutes to make sure he was still breathing.