Steampunk and the Future of Technology

My readers here might have noticed my new mask which is kind of Steampunkish and likely wondered what the deal with it was. Well, I was shopping with my family in the famous Charleston City Market which has been around since 1804. One of the booths had kind of a Steampunk theme which my kids are into. I haven’t paid much attention to the movement because to me it represented a time that never occurred and was rooted in “what ifs” instead of factual observation and an understanding of history. Steampunk however has turned out to be very aligned with what I want to do with my new book, The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business so through buying this mask it gave me several good ideas to build off of, so I started using it on my social media platforms because I think its pretty cool.

Death and life have very much been a part of my thinking lately, I’ve had some sick family, my own aging process and all this constant news about artificial intelligence taking over the human race–becoming actually a terminator type of conflict that seems much more possible today than it did when that popular movie first came out—has been on my mind. The mask to me is a clear indication that we can enhance our own flesh now, and the future looks to be even more of a case for it. So even when our flesh dies of natural causes we can continue to live on through various mechanical means, and this new mask of mind makes me think of those potentials and consequences, so I was very excited to get it. And in talking with my kids about Steampunk as an art movement that’s when it became clear that my argument for going back into the Wild West period to look at our value systems, which is key to my own efforts, was the same in bridging those values with the technology of the future.

As kind of a prerequisite to buying that mask my wife and I spent some time in Gatlinburg, Tennessee looking at grandfather clocks, which have always been on my radar. There is a very nice store on the main strip there that we have always gone in and contemplated. Even though these days a digital display clock is often better and far, far cheaper, there has always been a charm for me in the craftsmanship that goes into a grandfather clock that I crave. And at the height of the Victorian era for which the Wild West period was a part of that is why the stylized outfits and fonts looked the way they did. It was a very exciting time where guns became very reliable and could be used to shape a culture as the Victorian designs immigrated from Europe and moved with the expanding train system into the wild frontier of western expansion. These days many of our smartest people, people who enjoy thinking, are finding that they enjoy the values of that period and would like to see a return to those values. But we are all on the technological frontier of so many other positive elements that we must find a way to bridge these values, which is how Steampunk came to be as an art form.

Its not at all a mainstream thing yet, or if it ever will be. But one thing is quite clear, it was mainstream enough to have that mask I bought displayed at the very popular Charleston City Market and people walking by all stopped to look at the crafts displayed at that booth, so there is some very obvious curiosity by most people about this type of art, whether they understand it consciously or not. I suspect that subconsciously most people are thinking the same thing, they don’t want to lose themselves as individuals in the technology of the future, and they very much want to be in command of that relationship. We don’t want to lose our lives to technology, but rather want to see humans continue to set the agenda—but one way or the other, tech is here, and we must find our way with it. So suddenly, I’m quite a fan of Steampunk.

This mask is appropriate for me because honestly, I have no intentions of every dying. Now the nature of life may change, but my essence I suspect will live on in various forms forever, and as I get older, I am quite open into whatever enhancements I need to utilize to continue enjoying life. After all think about it, I have written so much that it will float around in cyberspace or whatever form of that space exists well into the future, that it will likely go on forever as defined by universal life spans. Even if all that is left is a skull, I will get all I can out of life because that is how I approach these kinds of things. While I do advocate for the values of the past, of the Victorian era Wild West values of pure capitalism and frontier justice, I think very much that those values not only work here on earth, but will work as we colonize space whether it is the moon, Mars or the moons of Jupiter. If I could live 20,000 years to see all those advancements happen or to help them along, I’ll do it whether the form is a living entity, legacy memories, or as a variation of that mask, a biological entity more machine than traditional life that exists without losing the basics of humanity.

Coming back from Charleston I had been listening to Rush Limbaugh while staying in the very nice Mt. Pleasant area and looking at all the sites and thinking about how Google was being thought of as evil, and that Facebook was capturing so much of us to build an artificial intelligence that it was forcing tough political and economic decisions for the future. For me the solution was in Steampunk, or at least the first doors to solving those complex problems and that mask gave me a reference point. But when it came time to come back home and I punched in my address to my Google Map app on my phone it stated at 5:30 AM in the morning that I would arrive back at my home in 10 hrs. and 16 minutes. Thinking about Rush Limbaugh’s radio shows and some by Alex Jones that I had been listening to online when everyone else had gone to bed I wanted to try an experiment knowing that Google had a profile of my habits that it had been collecting about me for many years. I decided to leave my phone plugged in so that I wouldn’t reset my destination forcing Google to recalculate my destination time.

On the way home I traveled with one of my daughters, her kids and my wife so there were lots of variables. We didn’t leave at 5:30 but the time really didn’t change from when we actually did so the Google Maps had figured out all our stops, our pace of driving and the traffic conditions from Mt Pleasant to our home address and all the surprises that can happen along the way. Outside of Columbia, South Carolina we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. At the North Carolina line we switched around some drivers. Just outside of Ashville we stopped to let the kids use the restroom. In the heart of the mountains near the tunnels just before the Tennessee border we stopped to get some more food. In Knoxville we stopped to get more gas. Ahead of Jellico Mountain we stopped by McDonalds just to stretch and get a snack. On the other side of the mountain from Jellico to London, KY we had lots of single lane traffic and some serious traffic delays. We pulled off the highway to use the restroom yet again and we fiddled around for an additional 15 minutes because we were all tired of driving and didn’t want to rush only to sit in traffic again. We stopped just north of Lexington just to stretch because we were tired and wanted to get home but were getting impatient. Then we hit traffic in Florence that lasted all the way through the city of Cincinnati. By the time we got to our driveway the time on the trip back was 10 hrs. and 17 minutes. One minute longer than Google Maps had predicted originally, which I thought was astonishing.

Technology can be our friends or our enemies, what it becomes will largely be up to the values we bring to it. I for one plan to embrace it with an eye toward longevity and accomplishing more in a lifetime than typical biological existence would otherwise allow. And even the sad stories of family sicknesses prove that technology is on the cusp of solving many of those problems. But then what? Well, that is up to us to figure out, and that is my focus in helping to shape. And for me, that is a very exciting prospect and what I think about when I see that new mask found at the Charleston City Market. To me its not a scary thing, but something that will help us live beyond the terminal existence of yesteryear, but if we hold the values from the past that worked best and combined them with the future, we wouldn’t just get Steampunk art, but perhaps a new reality that matches what Jesus said when he walked the earth, “heaven is all around us, only men do not see it.” Well, maybe its time that we start looking at it.

Rich Hoffman

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