Shanghai, China. (Unsplash photo by Li Yang.)
Notes on Chapter 7
Chapter 7 of Prometheus Rising seemed rich and interesting to me when I re-read it. Here are some comments; I get one more blog posting about the chapter, so perhaps in that other posting I can cover some of the points I missed here.
It's important to remember that the book dates to 1983; many of the observations it makes seem prescient to me.
Let me give a personal observation on an example of the acceleration of information in my own life.
I got interested in music pretty early. In the 1970s, when I was a teen and really started to work on building up my music collection, I started buying albums. It took up a lot of the income I got from allowances, working at fast food places, etc., but eventually through time I accumulated dozens of albums. The technology of LPs was replaced by a superior technology, CDs. In turn, CDs were replaced by MP3 downloads, which made it easier to expand my music collection.
All of that has now been replaced by music streaming, which puts thousands of albums in everyone's hands. Many people simply pay $10 a month for Spotify or another music streaming service and are done with the whole business of having to "collect" music. I have a Spotify account and I've subscribed to it sometimes but I usually don't pay the $10 a month, because I've become an expert in the public library streaming services; between Hoopla Digital, Freegal, and Naxos Music Library (a classical music streaming service) and my own music collection (much of it stored the cloud) I just don't need Spotify.
When I was a teen, one of the family LPs was a recording of three well-known Beethoven sonatas. I probably read somewhere that there were actually 32 Beethoven sonatas, but it would be have expensive and difficult in my teens and my 20s to actually accumulate them and listen to all of them. Eventually cheap CDs came out and I was able to get a collection of early Alfred Brendel recordings. Now, thanks to streaming, I have various full sets bookmarked, which I can listen to without having to pay any money at all. And of course it isn't just the full 32 Beethoven sonatas; there are many modern classical composers, and I can explore them much more easily that I could two or three decades ago.
The same acceleration of information RAW wrote about in the 1980s applies in other ways. In 1983, I was still scouring bookstores and making physical searches for more titles by RAW, Jack Vance and other favorite authors. Now, except for a few particular titles that have gone out of print and are prohibitively expensive, if I want a book I can download it instantly to my Kindle, or order it and have it show up at my house within a few days.
RAW discusses the westward movement of capital; when he wrote those words, China was not the rapidly expanding economic powerhouse that it is now. He wrote (this is apparently a passage from a revised edition), "As of 1997, it looks like the Cowboys [i.e. wealth in the western U.S.] are winning; which is what one would expect if there were a real 'law' behind Adams' East-West migration of capital." This was written before the rise of Google, Facebook, cryptocurrencies, etc.
Referring to modern heirs of the 1960s consciousness revolution, RAW writes, "The same group is now leading the computer revolution; spearheading the drive toward Space Migration;supporting the Hunger Project, which will abolish starvation in our lifetimes; leading the Longevity revolution and the search for immortality, etc." This was written before the rise of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc.
As I write this, my blood has mRNA antibodies in it. I have to go the store later, but thanks to the mRNA medical breakthrough, I'm not likely to wind up in the hospital even if I catch the latest variant of COVID-19.
I'll write more about this chapter, but now it's time to hit "Publish" on the blog post that will make these words instantly available to anyone all over the world who wants to read them.