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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Perspective-

When I was growing up images like this one appeared in news reels, movies and other film formats to serve as icons of progress and prosperity. By the time I completed high school images like this represented the rape of the Earth and destruction of the environment.

That is not a huge span of time. Two decades, perhaps a bit less. The period of industrialization was much longer, of course. I just happened to come into being around the time of transition. I have the benefit of experiencing two different states of being. Two different ways of thinking.

I had the benefit of seeing things from two different perspectives.

I have also had the opportunity to see the coming of what might be called the digital era. I recall a time when electronic computers were just coming into being. Computing machines had existed a bit longer, but the computer as we know it (more or less) came into being about the same time I did.

In high school we had a very early computer to experiment with. The available memory was measured in bits, not bytes. We fed in our programs and data with switches or paper tapes on a teletype machine. Additionally, we had access to a remote data processing machine. We attached the phone to cups on the modem, and fed our programs and data into the remote machine by using punch cards.

My cell phone is smarter than any of those machines.

I recall seeing a central processor made of wires and little magnetic rings. It was as big as a Volkswagen van. It weighed as much as a Volkswagen van. It was noisy when it operated, those thousands of little metal rings flipping and flopping between states.

I sit here, communicating with the whole world using my personal computer. I have two, a desk top and a netbook. I have a home network sharing the Internet and other resources between six computers. I have over a terabyte of storage. I take it for granted and at the same time live in constant amazement.

We are probably on the dividing line between major world views right now. Perhaps the transition from fossil fuels to (?). I suspect that (?) will prove to by hydrogen, but I may not live long enough to see the full transition. Lots of other things are going on. Change often appears to be the only constant.

My grandfather, Carl Laatz, was for many years a television repair man. Yep. In ancient days they actually fixed those things. They didn't just throw them out (and recycle, of course). He was there in the era of radio, when enthusiasts were really into that technology. He saw television come into being. Grandpa Laatz had his own shop, and fixing radios and televisions was a decent way to make a living. He saw television go main stream.

I grew up always having a television. Oh, I saw changes. However, I did not experience the transition. I have only one perspective with regard to television, though I have a lot of different opinions about it as a medium.

These are just examples of how our perspective impacts not only the way we think about things, but what we think about. The limits of perspective can often influence our judgement regarding other people in other places and other times. We can sometimes draw false conclusions due to our perspective, and as a consequence never really understand other people and other eras.

In mathematics there exists "perspectives," or frameworks of reference. There are mathematical tools to allow for transforming mathematical perspectives. To transform our perspectives relative to other people and other times we have to use another set of tools. The art of research and more importantly imagination.

I have known people who cherished their own perspectives so greatly as to never allow for any other. I am sure they have their reasons, but I have preferred to expand my learning and apply my imagination for the sake of better understanding people, places and times. Most of the time it has simply been an enrichment of my own life. I live with the hope, however, that on occasion it has made a real difference to someone, somewhere, sometime.

Perspective. It is all in how you look at it.

2 comments:

willow said...

Gosh, I remember those TV repairmen. There was always some kind of tube in the back that needed replacing.

I always appreciate the kind comments you leave at WM. x

Jerry said...

I don't know how growing up with the technology as we know skews my perspective on the world. As a young type I remember the first TV brought in by my Dad. As a teenager I built crystal radios. I guess I was in my thirties when I used punch cards to feed the computer.

I wonder if that has something to do with my touch of disdain for the fanciest of cell phones and their rabid users -- for Facebook and Twitter and all the rest.

I guess I resist a dependence on this stuff. Yet here I am pretending to blog. Perhaps it all creeps up on me slower than most.

I figure I search for the middle road -- appreciating those that are unabashedly disdainful of it all, and admiring the ability of youngsters who can cruise through this cyberworld with nary a thought.

Yes, our history molds our perspective. And yes, one should recognize that and open oneself to what is happening.

I try.

I enjoyed and appreciated your commentary.

Jerry