Causality is one of the central tenets of life on earth because here we live in linear time, one second ticking forward after another, year to year, lifetime to lifetime from the Big Bang (and before) and on to infinity. Even though we know from Einstein and physics that time as a construct is not linear, on Earth we experience it as such. That’s why causality plays such an important role in our lives.
Cause and effect. You do one thing that brings about a series of others. You can see it in your life where, as a child, your interest in frogs led you to a career as a biologist or your obsession with building Lego cities fostered your decision to become an architect. In these instances, the cause and effect could have been years, even decades apart, but since good things came to pass, it was an acceptable part of our history.
But what about the causes that lead to disastrous effects, the ones where we should have proceeded with more caution, but we charged ahead in the interest of human development, ease and convenience, or just making money? How will these events be judged on the scales of history?
Throughout time, there have been plenty of instances where, for the sake of any of the above, we’ve put the health risks to the population aside. A few things come to mind like: nuclear power — we still don’t have a safe way to deal with the waste; teflon — the chemical components of teflon have permeated the bloodstreams and waterways of the nation; pesticides — providing abundant amounts of food, but is it safe? And how much nutritive value is left in that carrot?; and plastic, ubiquitous, necessary to modern life, durable and reliable, yet so detrimental to wildlife and oceans (and humans when ingested as dioxin) that we are building ships just to clean up the mess.
In the distant past, companies have had plausible deniability because we were all still learning and the time lag between cause and effect gave them an out. People died from lung cancer after they smoked for 30 years, not 30 minutes, so the tobacco companies pointed to just about everything else they could think of to be at the root of an individual’s demise — he didn’t eat well or get enough rest or his stress levels were just really high — until the courts finally shot them down and told them to pay up. But what about all the lives lost to smoking, terrible deaths that could have been prevented if we only knew it caused cancer? Granted, no matter what you tell them, some people are still going to do what they want, but shouldn’t they be able to make a well-informed choice?
We never really stop to look at the environmental effects of each new technology or educate ourselves on ways to deal with them. If we didn’t know, now we do as we watch the degradation and declining populations across almost all spectrums on earth: insects, soils, air, water, species, birds, even humans if you look at declining fertility rates. Why? Because it’s easier, and cheaper, for a company to say it didn’t know and to clean up the mess afterwards than it is to make sure they didn’t make a mess in the first place. I’ll never stop thinking about the Ford Pinto as an example of a company knowing it was putting a dangerous product on the market but doing it anyway because paying the penalties associated with the lawsuits was cheaper than recalling the product.
Today’s New Frontier is technology, a shiny new gem of a toy we can’t get enough of. Here we are again on the precipice of a new era, but with each new development comes the possibility of derailment from our inability to study all sides and do our homework first. The latest development — 5G — may be just the thing that undoes us all. There’s a laundry-list of health risks and abuses that comes with 5G making the run-of-the-mill dystopian novel look like a day at the beach. If any one of use were shown this list and then asked to put a receiver that spews radiation all day long in our kitchen, would we do it? Just for convenience? I know I wouldn’t, but what if we don’t have a choice?
Equally as distressing is the ability of the provider (i.e., eventually, government because what government can resist the chance to spy on its citizenship?) to listen in on your life. You know it’s happening now. You are having a conversation with a friend. Your cellphone is in your back pocket. You casually mention you are looking for a new bike for your son for his birthday. The next time you check your phone, ads for new bikes appear everywhere. You don’t remember ever even seeing an ad for a new bike before. Coincidence? Ha! Now I don’t know about you, but I took what George Orwell said in his dystopian novel 1984 seriously and if all that doesn’t make you want to run from 5G like your hair is on fire, then you’ve got a higher threshold for pain than I do.
I’m no expert on 5G. Sometimes, I can’t even work my iPhone. But given our history, shouldn’t we be doing a wee bit more research before we run, full-out, arms wide, to the next shiny object and embrace this new, possibly humanity-decimating technology? An ounce of prevention and all that? This kicking the can thing down the road has brought us to the brink of an uncertain and possibly disastrous future. Do we want to leave anything for our grandkids that doesn’t suck?
Can we even unwind the clock?