Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So Long 2014, and No Thanks From All the Fish

I haven’t had the heart to put something in my blog since the elections. As Paul Krugman succinctly put it, the US elected a Congress that does not believe in climate change and will try to prevent anything being done about it.  Given the power of Congress to obstruct, that is a very bad sign for doing anything meaningful about climate change for the next few years – and that, to me, overshadows anything else that happened this year.

Still, I would like to take note of a few other things worth thinking about that happened this year.  In climate change, commentary on the issue in some print venues and some radio outlets, not to mention the cable-channel special Years of Living Dangerously, actually began to represent the facts of climate change and to treat them in a more serious manner. 

In computing, it seems to me that there was a bit of a technology-advancement slowdown this year.  Much of the impetus of the year was in things already pretty much in the works, like further exploration of hybrid clouds, wider application of IBM’s Watson, and the next generation of touch-screen smartphones and tablets.  I hope to do some searching for something, anything really new and potentially valuable come the New Year – yes, it’s a New Year’s Resolution.

If I had to give an epitaph for 2014, I would call it the year when people refused to admit that there were times when the needs of the future trump the needs of the present.  Playing games yet again with the full faith and credit of the US by holding the debt ceiling limit hostage to letting banks play games again with derivatives; cementing climate-change denial in our governance; attempts to stifle scientists in the US, Canada, and probably Australia, the so-called “free-speech democracies”; the EU shutting its ears to criticisms of austerity policies; Putin and his belief in realpolitik; Netanyahu and Israel’s onward push into what John Le Carre aptly called a “grubby little Spartan state”; the list goes on and on.

One of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books was called So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – in which the dolphins decide they’ve had enough of suckering stupid humans into giving them free fish and leave this Earth, leaving behind that message.  I doubt very much we will get thanks from future generations of humans for 2014’s accomplishments, nor from the animals or fish who are already bearing the brunt of them, as evidenced by the accelerated rate of species extinction and the increased acidification and fertilizer pollution of the oceans.  Hence:  So long 2014, and no thanks from all the fish.

In a Barney Miller TV series episode, the Hasidim and African-Americans of Brooklyn get into a spat, and after it’s over the local rabbi drops by for a chat.  Maybe it’ll turn out to all be for the best, the rabbi says.  Maybe, says Barney, but I sincerely doubt it.  That’s good, says the rabbi:  too much hope makes you crazy.  I hope I can be more cheerful about 2015.  So far, looking ahead, I sincerely doubt it.