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Wanted: Visionary Wisdom

| 12/16/2013 10:57:00 AM

horse carriage

I enjoyed Bryan Welch’s article about Elon Musk’s creations.  Initially, I was caught up in the techno-wizardry of the Tesla car, Space-X, Solar City, and the Vacuum Transporter. After that spell passed, however, I found myself deeply troubled by what I read and, to a much lesser extent, the fact that it was in Mother Earth News.

When our greatest visionaries and social commentators are touting luxury cars as solutions to our greatest problems, then yes, we are doomed. No doubt Mr. Musk is an accomplished genius and businessman, but he, like most of us, is trapped in a paradigm which limits his visionary capacity.  Fancy cars are within the box.  A Solar City that merely allows us to buy more iphones is in the box.  The box is the problem!  Until that is addressed we are still racing for the cliff at 0-60 miles per hour in four seconds or, even worse, at rocket speed.  Yes, they are small steps in a better direction but no, not really visionary to me.  (An aside:  Electric cars are touted for their enhanced efficiency – mpg in a way.  But don’t bicycles get really great gas mileage? And keep us fit? And what about horses?  And horses with buggies or carts? They’ve been around forever and don’t need much gas or wars for oil.)

Humanity's love of technology — be it fire, steel, atomic energy, or computers — usually dangerously outpaces our capacity to use that technology wisely. Our innovation curve is way ahead of our wisdom curve. And it’s only gotten more exacerbated as the pace of innovation along with the growth of population has quickened. We need visionary, out-of-the-box wisdom to confront and solve our greatest challenges.

Here’s a fun story: For a while I lived in Missouri around an Amish community. While there a friend shared a story about a decision one community made about their barns. Turns out this particular Amish group decided to remove the lightning rods from their barns because the rods were adversely affecting their community. Without the occasional fire, they were losing one of the most important traditions, some of the strongest glue, of their community – barn-raisings. If I were in that community, I might ask how we could have both the rods and the benefits of the barn-raisings without so much fire and destruction. But the overall point I take from the story is that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something.

Consequences of Elon Musk's High-Tech Creations

So how do Mr. Musk’s creations affect us and our community? I see four very relevant consequences not touched upon in the article:

1. They share the common thread that they further separate people from place, often at great speed.

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