Old and Irrelevant.

The Clowns are giving up. Some people might be quite happy about this, ironic or not, the clowns are giving up. Some say it’s due to the recent remake of IT based on Stephen King’s book, some say because clowns are scary full stop. If you look at the London Clown Festival, there’s very little that resembles the traditional clown look. Clowning is a method of performance, of entertainment and not necessarily about a white face, red nose and big shoes. Some in the clown world blame IT, but maybe clowning is just out of favour, maybe kids aren’t that bothered and maybe kids are naturally scared (a fear of clowns is called Coulrophobia) Maybe that’s harsh, I’m sure kids would rather watch a clown than play with their iPads… According to the Clowning official body, Clowns International, less people are choosing it as a career. Is it a part of culture we should save or just accept its demise?

Since humans invented tools we’ve been constantly trying to make better and new tools, things to help us complete tasks to a greater level and faster and also things to do tasks for us. This constant search for better and newer has lead us to research all manner of things which have been both beneficial and harmful to people and the planet.  One negative example would be food processing, we’ve learned how to mass produce food by processing it to the point that the nutrients are now gone. This might be beneficial to the shareholders of the companies who make it, but this technological advance is not good for people. It does mean it’s easier and cheaper for people in poverty to get food but it’s a false economy because it makes them less healthy, eating is eating but surely we should have ensured people have good quality food.


A positive advancement would be the internet, despite all the problems it has, essentially it helps us to share information, communicate more easily and basically to learn. There is a vast amount of false information and we have seen the rise of a new modern form of bullying but I feel the benefits outweigh those. The internet is very new in the sense of our existence and we’re still learning how to best use it.


It may be that agriculture in its origins wasn’t that bad, but humans have taken it to a point where it’s damaging the environment by over farming land and knocking down natural environments to do this.


Another positive technological advancement would be medicine, we’ve found ways to save lives, stop pain, and help people but along with that is the pharmaceutical industry which has created vast problems with addiction and dependency.


Sometimes we didn’t know that people looking for something to help the world would also be used for the wrong purposes. Physics lead to the atomic bomb after all. Most scientists are likely searching for knowledge but there will be unscrupulous people who use knowledge for harmful purposes.


I was very interested in computers and electronics as a child, I thought robotics was fascinating and read books about it. Although I still find it interesting it was never something I pursued in any real way, but I also wanted to be superman so not all dreams need following.

Despite that early interest I am often quite slow to get into the new tech that other people love, I was slow in getting a mobile phone, owned a laptop long after most of my friends did, I stubbornly kept using film to take photographs before finally succumbing and buying a digital camera. I’m no Luddite but it just takes me a while to accept that something new is better. I like technology and what it can do. We do tend to stick with what I know and I still prefer film but it’s not cost effective, I like records but I can hold hundreds of albums on my phone in mp3 form, often it’s about what will improve life.

For kids now, not having the up to date tech can be stigmatising, so they expect everything to be up to date always. The idea of carrying a phone worth £1000 on me as a kid is bizarre, that used to be a few months’ rent. Every young person with access to these technologies will have access to social media, many think this is dangerous which it can be. In the future our existence will be ethereal, we’ll leave a data imprint for ever but the days of being known because you wrote a book or made a record are changing. Even with that imprint most people will eventually be forgotten. People have very successful careers on social media, not doing anything but posting photos and videos, I thought this ridiculous at first but it’s a way of living vicariously through others and seeing something to aspire to, unfortunately many of those people who are the icons of social media are idiots, showing off material possessions most people will never have, but is that any worse than me idolising drunk womanising rock stars when I was young?


This is the way of the world and people who refuse to accept technology will often be left behind in some way. This is entirely up to them but it is often just stubbornness that stops people.


I recently watched a film called Alpha Go which was about the ancient Chinese game of Go. Go is a simple and complex game, simple because all you do is place black and white pebbles on a board against one other person, complex because to win there is millions of possible combinations and Go masters study their entire lives.

The film looked at the team creating a computer program that could beat a human player at Go, it was the holy grail of Artificial Intelligence and they achieved it. The computer faced off against the world’s top Go player and beat him. He was distraught, his life had suddenly changed because his meaning (being the greatest Go player) had been destroyed. This made me sad, in way it was taking something very human, a game, a puzzle, a challenge of strategy and wit and making it pointless with an artificial brain. Those traditionalists will feel for the Go master, but many people believe that technology is our greatest asset and is the way humans have and will continue to advance. He did eventually beat the computer, which was a victory for humanity in a way but the end of the story was that ultimately the computer was better and more able to adapt.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is yet to be perfected and if you enjoy science fiction you’ll understand the risks, do we want computers deciding things for us? Is that better than people? People cause wars, people feel hate, people kill. Will a computer make better decisions? AI isn’t quite there yet, but it is already changing our world. Industry is changing because of AI and robotics because people are no longer needed in some tasks, meaning jobs are being lost. You might ask, do we need this?

Can a robot make art or great music? Can a robot give you more love than a person?


Those in the industries of robotics or AI would argue that the development of these new technologies will create jobs even if they remove the need for people to do other things. When you lose your job to a robot you won’t be happy about that concept. People will always mourn the change of an old way, but think about a job like mining. Many people have died mining, if we need minerals we need mining and surely it’s better for a robot to do this rather than a person dying? Whether or not that’s true we do need to address those towns that become decimated when an industry disappears. It’s hard to let go when you don’t have a better future alternative.


Some might think that even asking these questions makes someone old fashioned, no longer relevant, get with the times. But humanity is important, maintaining this is important to me.


Dolly the Sheep was the first successful cloning experiment which Dolly was cloned and lived. Well, she lived around half the normal life expectancy of her non-cloned peers, she eventually succumbed to diseases. Is cloning even necessary? Creating life was one of the great unachieved elements of scientific research, it’s the moral point of Frankenstein. Do we need to create life? Is this just being done so someone can say that they did it? I fail to see any benefit to human kind that cloning could have.


The scientific, psychological and philosophical desire to demystify the world is inherently good and beneficial to us providing that what is learned is applied to do positive things. It’s fair enough that when we started digging and sucking fossil fuels out of the earth we didn’t know the consequences, but we know now and still use them, that’s stupid.


Just recently Elon Musk’s Tesla Corporation launched its first rocket to space, they wish to make space travel as easy as taking a holiday to another country. Many, particularly those working on space programs would argue that interplanetary exploration will help the human race survive, we’ll be able to populate new planets and spread. Humans will spread, like a disease. I love science fiction and the idea of seeing new planets, new life forms but our reputation for colonising isn’t great.


Is the billions spent of this research worth it when people are homeless and starving, when people are displaced by war? Humans need to make a shift towards community here on earth before we even think about plaguing another planet. Living in London I often get asked for change from people begging, often I don’t have change on me so there’s little decision to be made. Recently I got asked and I had no change and started to think about becoming a cashless society. How will people make a bit of change if we literally don’t have change? This problem bothers me more than space travel. Being cashless has many virtues and we’re still far from it happening, but we need to think about all the connotations. Will we see more homeless people starve to death when we no longer use cash? We will if we don’t address it[1].


Young people now should be smarter than the previous generation, they should have more skills, newer and relevant skills. I expect people half my age to know things I don’t because they are the future. When I’m too old to contribute another generation will be in charge and I hope they do a better job than I did, this is the essence of evolution to me.


I have seen children program computers, build machines and come up with ideas that do make me feel old and irrelevant. Each generation thinks differently if they are supported and nurtured in the right way. Many children in the world don’t live in nurturing environments, which should be our first point of concern, certainly before cloning or space travel.


The world is currently going through a big shift in human rights around the treatment of women, sexual harassment is being taken more seriously and men in positions of power are being threatened, this is a phase we need and anyone who thinks in modern terms knows it’s the right thing, the right move to make.


I can’t predict the next cultural social shift that will happen but this has been happening throughout our existence, remember when it was illegal to be gay, or women couldn’t vote or disabled people were put in hospitals? Many young people now will be shocked that life was like this not so long ago.


Another shift will be around gun control in the USA, young people are speaking up, and young people are saying they want change and the old men who profit from firearms should be scared, these young people are future leaders.


Should anyone over 40 just give up now and leave the world to the 16 year olds? No, there is something that older people have that young people don’t, wisdom.


What is wisdom? It’s not knowledge itself, its applying knowledge, having problem solving skills around how people function, how systems work and can be improved. Something that people have lived a bit longer have that young people don’t is a having made a series of mistakes and learned from them, have had relationships and loved and lost, have experienced different types of pain and loss and success. These are experiences that come with time and what they create is advanced coping and problem solving tools. Clearly there are people who have gone through life and not developed these same skills but I put that down to environment and nurture, everyone needs support.


I am very aware of who has inspired and mentored me, I can’t claim that my successes are entirely my own, whatever has happened in my life has had others involved. The best leaders in the world are most often people with quite a bit of living behind them.


Something that I always think is enriching for a person is experiencing different cultures, travelling and being among people, new experiences in foreign places. Not many young people have this. Maybe with the internet and the ability to learn about others from afar makes this a less necessary ingredient in wisdom, but nothing can replace being out of your comfort zone experiencing a new culture. The people in my life who have been most influential and given me the most guidance have always been well travelled.


You view other people based on your own experience, and if you have been sheltered from other cultures you will have a narrow view of others, to influence the world you must understand it.

It is the job of the older generation to guide and support the younger smarter generation, to teach wisdom and how to attain it, to be parental. We shouldn’t fear the changes that young people will bring. I can’t imagine some of the things that the next few generations will bring to the world, I look forward to it. Most people become more rigid with age, rigid in the way we think and view the world and this quite normal, but it’s important we resist this when it comes to new concepts.

Young people, particularly the very smart ones can have a great deal of arrogance about their views and may not know how interact with people in the best way. You can have the greatest idea in the world but if you piss everyone off in the process of presenting it no one will take you seriously. Or you get young people who suffer from a great lack of confidence and won’t bring their ideas forward. These are both social problems that good support can help with, good teaching and positive parenting, older people mentoring to facilitate these ideas to come forth.

Many may think young people are more resilient than they are. It can often take very little to discourage someone, don’t tell someone they have a bad idea, tell someone their idea has merit but it needs work. There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism.

Eventually in your life, you realise that you are behind the times. Young people think faster and differently, you don’t understand the latest slang or music but you can’t decide what people should like. Great art and music will transcend generations but each generation likes to have their contemporary cultural icons, things they can own as theirs.

People will continue to do things that are not remotely beneficial to the world, sometimes just knowing something is what people want. I do question the value of some research and billions spent doing it when we really should help each other in a much more social terrestrial way, hopefully the next generation will sort it out, I’m happy to help them do it, I’m happy to teach what I know. The clowns may be disappearing but when another generation see’s their value they will bring it back in a new way, that’s just the way of things.

[1] I’m aware not all people begging are homeless, or want food but if you need to ask strangers for money for food you’ve probably run out of options as far as you can see.


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