Jim Dakin

Jim Dakin

Changes since 1967

Unfortunately, I am unable to be at our 55th reunion, where I would have loved to be part of this session in particular. I spend a lot of time pondering and reading about the changes that have taken place over time, and especially during my lifetime. Without question, my understanding is vastly more sophisticated now, than it was in 1967.

With regard to science, I am constantly struck by the law of unintended consequences. Certainly, modern technology, medicine, and public health have allowed many to live longer and more prosperous lives. An unintended consequence has been stress on our planet. The internet has become a fabulous tool, connecting most of us and making information available beyond our wildest dreams in 1967. An unintended consequence has been the internet’s role in dividing us in various ways. I do not subscribe to the view that science and technology will lead us to a “technotopia” in which all of our problems are solved by science and technology.

Anyone remember reference to the “War to End all Wars,” or our adolescent and college years when public confidence in the US Government was approaching 80%? How about Fukuyama’s 1992 “End of History” book in which democracy triumphs around the world? Our track record for predicting the future is not great.

I, personally, have spent much of my career in electric lighting technology. The LED electric light bulb of today, for the same amount of light, requires just 10% as much electricity as the 1967 light bulb, and 1% as much as Edison’s 1888 light bulb. LEDs have created the possibility of significantly reducing energy consumption for lighting going forward. It might actually work out that way, which is a good thing, a small step in a good direction, an intended consequence.

In spite of all the unintended consequences, I am guardedly optimistic that our civilization will muddle through in some form. But it is hard to predict what that form will be. Certainly, family and friends will remain important. Religion, in its many forms, will remain important also; different versions of religion need not be in conflict.

Perhaps some of my classmates will be more clairvoyant.

 

Jim Dakin '67