The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

I never thought I would never think

As the digital clock clicked 10 p.m. last night, one of my African-American colleagues stared at the screen in open wonder.

Clyde Bentley in another life

Clyde Bentley in another life

“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.”

Many of us shared that emotion when the networks declared it was all over and Barrack Obama would become America’s first president of color. But strangely, what flashed through my mind was how often I had heard that phrase.

I think the first time was when as a first-grader sat before a wood-cabineted-but-fuzzy B&W TV to watch the inauguration of the Boeing 707. I still remember a man who had traveled by covered wagon telling a reporter how amazed he was at what had happened in his lifetime.

And since then I’ve heard it again and again. Pocket-sized transistor radios. Man on the moon. Color TV. Cure for polio. A global communicator in every pocket or purse.

Technology moves so quickly now that we say “I never thought I would see that in my lifetime” with a grin and a perfunctory shake of the head. We simply expect technology to amaze.

But I’m saddened that people seldom realize that the breakthroughs in the social world spawn those technological wonders. We instead think of technology molding our society.

Would jet travel have become common without a commercial airline system in both executives and factory workers could share traveler’s impatience? Would we have put a man on the moon without universal education that freed the intellect of even the mechanic’s son? And that special drive to be so human – to be in constant contact with others. Gene Roddenberry recognized it; the cell phone pioneers made it so.
In my lifetime, the power of American justice gave Black students the right to study among people who looked like me. And often to show they were both brighter than me and better suited to lead. My soldier father – raised in a family of bigots — expressed his new norm – “All soldiers are just green.”
And that’s the beauty of today. Obama was not elected because or despite his color but because King’s dream that people will be judge by the content of their character is finally a normal expectation of American life.

Our “breakthroughs” will continue – changes in the definition of “private,” a re-evaluation of what constitutes “home” or “family” or “that one,” a new sense of “now.”

We tech watchers will follow with accolades with the resulting inventions. I may never have thought it would happen in my lifetime, but I certainly will not be surprised if it does.


November 5, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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