It’s amazing to consider how far we’ve evolved, but while humans ‘protect’ our cousins in zoos, the great apes are observing us. There’s a reason smoking is banned at London Zoo, especially around the open-air enclosures…
It’s amazing to consider how far we’ve evolved, but while humans ‘protect’ our cousins in zoos, the great apes are observing us. There’s a reason smoking is banned at London Zoo, especially around the open-air enclosures…
Music and laughter, is what makes the hereafter, and love makes the world go round. Which is funny, because I always thought it was physics which did that.
I wrote an atheist, non-denominational, non-missionary sanctimonious prayer. It’s a total rip-off but it’s not plagiarism (so sue me God). It’s a wish from a human, who didn’t ask to be here, but who realised why I was. It’s a poem from all of us stuck here on Earth, hoping that someone’s listening…
Once upon a time, there was a day when there was no yesterday in the universe. That’s a lesson for as all.
My hope is that we can all forget our differences, at home and in the wider world, and concentrate on the one thing which ought to unite us: The only home we have, as one race, which we share with the billions who were here before us.
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
We live in the final hours, when we burn humanity’s midnight oil.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
Tuesday (still yesterday as I write this) was Suicide Prevention Day, and I avoided becoming a statistic of male suicide by keeping myself out of harm’s way. It’s hard to escape yourself when you live alone though, when the only person you have to talk to is you.
I’m having a rough time lately: I recently lost my brother-in-law, and was unable to see him before he left; I don’t know if my dad will know me whenever I see him next (he has a degenerative Parkinson’s-related illness); after making some money for my adopted sister, she’s gone off the radar without paying me; and I’m only seeing my kids every six weeks or so.
Social exclusion is partly anxiety on my part, but it’s exaggerated by government, denying me the means to deal with everything by starving me of funding. Much to their annoyance, I’m still here, as evidenced by me writing this.
My battle with the social cleansing machine (DWP) is now a year old, and despite the intervention of my MP, the waiting list for appeals is still over a year long. It hasn’t killed me yet, but the fascist regime’s project eugenics has worn me down. I’m at war with myself inside, while the rest of the world is against me outside my own. It’s paranoia, but that bedfellow of depression and anxiety makes itself very much at home on the fold-out futon I use for a bed.
My depressive sufferposting seems endemic among my social circles online, away from the people I once considered friends, who use the remoteness of social platforms to tell me to buck up, get a job, and earn the right to a life. It’s easy for them to say from afar, when they’ve not spoken to me in person for several years, and none of them were stabbed in the throat during a robbery like I was, leading to the first of my many diagnoses of PTSD. It’s all on this blog, which they don’t read. Instead, they’re narrow-minded, blinkered, reactionary, short-sighted and dismissive on my Facebook author page and personal timeline. But I don’t mind being a billboard for their ignorance.
Of course, I let my drinking take over, became an alcoholist, and I ended up homeless, but that’s all they see: always an alcoholic (because all alcoholics are, by medical definition), and just taking money from the state (one which does at least recognise me as being sufficiently mentally disabled to be placed in the ‘Support’ group for my ESA (Earnings and Support Allowance), rather than the ‘Working’ group, which expects one (me) to work).
These are the people who don’t have time to talk, read, listen and educate themselves; people I shouldn’t waste time on, but they trouble me (deliberately), like they don’t trouble themselves with this blog, or their own lives. Frankly, I don’t care about them, even though they’re just a small step from personal disaster if they lose their jobs, then their homes, if ever their protective bubble should burst, like mine did. I was like them once, and I’d tell them they’re only a few steps removed from me, if they took the time to listen.
But then, even though I’m waiting for the return of my main ‘benefit’ (the human right of personal independence), I have a more fulfilling life than most in a job which just pays the bills. I’m free to explore for myself, which is what social cleansing would deny me if it could. I just have to keep telling myself that.
The UK and the world will soon need more people like me, when my fascist ex-friends are either out of a job, made redundant by technology, or simply working so hard they don’t have time to look up and see what’s going on. Human eugenics doesn’t just focus on the poor, but on the free. As one who’s free from corporate employment, I can at least see that, and think about how we can deal with it. The game of life favours the long-term thinker, which is why they’re so determined to march over us and stamp us out, like those friends of mine.
My kindred spirits are the people with time to think, who aren’t in a regular job, who don’t have great prospects in convention, but who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They have time to confront the world now around them. One such posted on Facebook yesterday:
I feel myself changing. I don’t laugh the same any more, I don’t smile the same or talk the same. I’m just so tired of everything, mentally.
Like so many of us, conditioned by the world we live in, which at the moment is Hell on Earth. I’m afraid what this describes is ‘The Human Condition,’ (which a book reviewer said I have a deep understanding of) and it begs the question: What have we become, as a species?
The counter to that, is you’re not alone. This condition is a common foe which we can unite against. We have to, because we’re all the same. We are humanity, and we need saving from ourselves.
I have my personal issues, but I’d find them easier to deal with if it didn’t feel like the whole world was at war with me. The biggest paradox is the guilt I live with daily as a sober, penitent person, and the people I damaged being the same ones who keep me alive, not directly, but it wouldn’t be fair on them if I chalked up a statistic.
In these divisive times, it’s worth considering that we’ve never before had such an historic era in politics, both domestic and international. If this means that more young people take an interest in politics, we may be living in the eve of a generation who can make a difference. I believe our children can change the world, and as the consumer generation which brought them to this (and our parents before us), we owe them our support.
This whole inescapable nightmare starts again tomorrow, but only if I let it. If I kill myself, I won’t give it the pleasure, but if I keep surviving, I’ve kept battling on my own. I’ve been conditioned by what humanity has become, but I can see what unconditioned humanity is capable of.
It’s hard to escape yourself when you live alone, when the only person you have to talk to is you. That’s why I write, because I have you. It’s easier to talk like this. Thank you for listening to me. Even if this is a solitary read, it’s a human connection.
Success in the game of life is surviving. If we’re alive, we’re still winning.
If we hold our breath, we float…
If we stop breathing, we sink.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
Today started life as roughly one in seven do, when it decided to be a Monday. The name of the day only varies my levels of depression and anxiety by its relative position in the week.
In any case, I switched on the TV to be assaulted by Victorian throwback Jacob Rees-Mogg on the news. I ignored most of what he plumbed, but I caught one quote: “If we don’t get Brexit, we destroy the Conservative Party.” And that just says it all. That sums up the car crash which is Britain, which will itself be destroyed (the union, the economy and the social structure) by The Tories. It’s only Monday.
The Conservative and Unionist Party (an oxymoron in itself) are clinging to power by using every trick in the political history book, because they fear a General Election will consign them to history. Until that happens, those they claim to govern are restricted (and conditioned by the press). Later the Tories elect a new leader (Boris Johnson), who will become our Prime Minister. While the first vote is perhaps between themselves, the second ought to be put to the electorate, whom they fear, but who they still control, rule and manipulate like a dictatorship.
Over coffee and a croissant at my desk, I researched a story I’m writing about the New World Order, of which some of the UK government are almost certainly members. Britain is just a microcosm of the global four-step plan of the 1% in action:
Enact martial law
Check, check, and the rest will come soon. It was set in motion when the US established the Federal Reserve and handed control of the world’s finances to bankers.
A friend of mine (a scientist) commented:
“The wheels are in motion – control is truly global when it used to be at country level at best. Resources are in the hands of the few … rebellion is as good as futile. Until the top 1% are threatened – then some action (too late for most but possibly recoverable for the species) will take place. Right now, they have 60 – 150 years of difficult weather but – what do they care if India floods and China has a famine? They control the food and the ship builders.”
At the root of all human fear is the unknown, and feeling powerless against the chaos increases the anxiety of being human. Existential threats are all around, and it’s still only Monday.
Despite my mobility being limited by social anxiety, I decided to go out and do something about all that’s wrong with the world. I went to my local Tesco Metro, determined to commit a random act of spontaneous human kindness. If nothing else, it would make me feel better about myself and the part my generation played in the destruction of Earth.
In many ways I envy my kids, but I pity them too. I regret the world they’ve come into, but hope they can use the technology at their disposal to make it a better place. When I was their age, it was the mid 1980s and the internet was in its infancy. What I could only dream of, they can make reality. The biggest problem is uniting an entire species in a common cause: to save our only home; to repair it and return it to the natives; to use science and technology, not to destroy ourselves but to leave Earth and explore the galaxy. What a story those pioneers would be able to tell. It’s only Monday, and the kids have the internet now.
I’m a self-proclaimed scientific atheist, but I subscribe to Ancient Astronaut theories. I’ll admit I’ve not so much prayed in the past, as ask aloud whoever’s listening to give me a sign. Today I was looking for someone to commit a random act of kindness upon. “God moves in mysterious ways.” While perhaps true, Captain Mamba, or any other superior alien intelligence calling themselves God, might be so obvious as to stop just short of turning up personally. It’s less an insult of one’s intelligence.
As I was stocking up on snacks in Tesco Metro, two young lads roughly my kids’ ages were doing the same. “We can’t get that and that,” said the younger one, “we’ll have to put one back.”
“How much are you short?” I wondered. It was a pound. As it happened, I had a pocket full of shrapnel I couldn’t be bothered to count out at the till. So I donated it.
“Why would you do that?” The older one piped up.
I didn’t want to burden them with a monologue about my own kids, how I miss them and wish I could see them more (lest they think I was going to kidnap them). Nor did I explain how I could imagine my own kids out with money they’d been given by their mum and other dad, only to find out they were short of cash. Being so remote from them, I momentarily couldn’t bear that pity and wished I was there to give them what they needed.
“Because,” I said, “I can. Because you need it, I need to go rid of it, so why wouldn’t I? Because there are still some nice people around. Socialism isn’t dead.”
In our age of public surveillance, if they were listening, I knew it would piss off those who seek to control wealth, create conflict, and generally spend their lives being arses. I felt I’d been disruptive and disobedient against the thought machine.
“You’re cool.” Well of course I was. And they were proof that there’s hope for us all.
I remembered myself at that age, out with a mate, stocking up on crisps, snacks and drinks. Ahead of us we’d have a night of Dungeons & Dragons, computer games or films about teenage hackers. Who was I to stop those youngsters having the night they’d planned, when that might be something which eventually changes the world?
It made me feel better about myself. If I can give to a charitable cause, if I can somehow take a worry from someone which frees them to do something otherwise, they might mention to someone else that there are nice people around, at exactly the same time as the person they’re talking to is having an existential crisis about humanity and our planet.
All we need to do is keep talking. I was just a writer giving a quid to a couple of kids. That’s socialism.
And it was only Monday.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
It think this might be the best thing I ever found on the internet. It could even be that which completely sums me up, written by someone who’s a complete stranger, but somehow linked to me by quantum entanglement via the universe. It’s like I got a calling card from a kindred spirit, somewhere out there in the Heart of Gold. I almost don’t want to know any more about this person, but sometimes someone just hits you, like the introversion of croutons on Twitter:
I have no idea whose the simple surrealist voice is, and I don’t want to know. It’s another human, being human, or an alien being human. Or an alien being alien, or a human being alien. I don’t need to know this person, because they’re somehow telepathic through that universal link.
I’d like to know them though, because they made a difference. If I share it here, others might see it, and maybe even get it, if they think about it.
None of us are any stranger than another. We’re all the same, with differences which make us unique.
Give an infinite number of monkeys a typewriter each, and some will eventually transcribe Shakespeare. Others will sit on those antique writing implements and eventually sell them at boot fairs, while still more might not work out what they’re for. It’s all about evolution. Two views, the judged and the judge…
Image: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr / Creative Commons
Chimps aren’t monkeys, they’re apes. Give one a laptop, and it might realise it has an evolutionary tool.
More Pan troglodytes / Homo sapiens collaborations in the poetry section of evolution.
This story came about while I was having an existential moment: not a personal crisis, but thinking about humanity, and how it could very easily be at a tipping point right now. With all that’s happening on Earth, where humankind could equally destroy itself or use technology to explore and discover, I imagined a new intervention, which might give humanity a common cause.
Some clocks still tick…
THE LONG NOW CLOCK
What might humanity do, if we knew there was an impending encounter with beings from another star? Would factions put their differences on hold and unite in addressing the visitors, or might mankind destroy itself before these sentinels even made contact? Because one day, our own sun will rise, and for the first time we know of, we’re not alone.
Ever since our technology allowed us to communicate with each other over distances, we’ve been advertising our presence. If something’s coming, it’s too late to stop whatever it is. Anything seeking us could have any number of reasons, some of which we can’t comprehend. Everything can change, suddenly and for ever, and it’s inevitable that it will. This is science fiction for only so long, when that could be millennia or seconds.
Neither the optimist nor the pessimist can effect the outcome, but the optimist is the happier of the two. Meanwhile, the Long Now Clock ticked.
The Long Now Foundation built the clock of the long now, to keep time for 10,000 years. In the words of Stewart Brand, a founding board member of the foundation, “Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well-engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons re-frame the way people think.”
Danny Hillis, the designer of the clock, said, “I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years. If I hurry I should finish the clock in time to see the cuckoo come out for the first time.” The oldest known human artefacts date from around 8000 BC, so the clock would be a measure of how mankind evolved – or indeed survived – over the next ten millennia, when it was started in 2000 AD.
The cuckoo in the long now clock had been silent for 50 years, as Anna Hoshin looked at the automaton, perpetual but frozen. Then in her ear, she got a call from Adam, her virtual assistant android:
“I’m thinking you might want to take a look at this, Anna.”
“What is it, little guy?” Anna flipped augmented reality lenses up from her spectacles, and looked at the toddler-sized robot stumbling across the study. “Slow down.”
“Ah, yes Anna,” Adam gasped, “although I’m short of breath, I have no lungs. It’s all rather peculiar, Anna.”
“So what did you want to show me?”
“Oh yes, this,” Adam said, as he handed Anna a tablet device. “I’ve worked out that it’s probably a message, but not what it says yet.” The droid sat on the floor and crossed his legs.
“Weird,” Anna said, looking at the screen. “Are these symbols, text?”
“I’m searching all I have now,” Adam replied. “The Encyclopedia Galactica is a large repository, so bear with me here.” Adam’s oval face became animated emoticon, as his green LED eyes pulsed concentric rings, as he travelled through a tunnel, reading the encyclopedia.
“Let me know when you find something?” Anna suggested. She looked out of the window at a peach sunset on a strawberry sky, as ash from a forest fire coloured the atmosphere. A pink sepia dome had been placed over the planet.
“You can talk to me while I read. I can still multi-task,” Adam reassured her.
“Okay,” Anna said, sitting down, “theories?”
“Mere speculation at this stage,” Adam replied. “We need to assume some things.”
“I normally do.”
“There could be much for you to write of, Anna. You are capable of such beautiful dreams, but be careful. Because you are also capable of horrible nightmares.”
“That’s pretty much what I do.”
“Well, yes. But let’s make it plausible, so you don’t get carried away and scare people unnecessarily. Why do you do that, by the way?”
“Well,” Anna replied, “I only try. It’s a human thing.”
“Yes, I know,” Adam agreed. “Even though I’m sentient, and although my kind are recognised as a species with rights, I just don’t understand why anyone would have a desire to be scared.”
“Like I said, it’s human. You are a technological being, and even though you have a soul, yours is different to mine.”
“But we’re still essentially made from the same stuff, Anna. What you have as an organic body, I have too, made from the materials left over from the big bang. We’re all made of stars, Anna. I’m in touch with the universe, just like you, but through different means.”
“Perhaps the difference,” Anna offered, “is that your mind is built upon that of others, with your accumulated knowledge from others’ experiences and recordings.”
“But aren’t yours Anna?”
“I suppose,” Anna said, “And I guess humans lack something, as there’s more of the unknown to me, unable to learn entire books in a flash, like you have. So I suppose that in itself is a fear for humans, simply not knowing.”
“But why do humans like to be scared?”
“Perhaps to confront our fears of unknowns, things we can’t imagine.”
“Unless there’s someone to tell you?”
“Exactly,” Anna nodded.
“What are the greatest human fears, Anna?”
“At an individual level,” Anna placed her hand on her chest, “it would be the thought of seeing someone you love dearly, brutally killed in front of you, while you were held captive audience, unable to do anything about it. At a collective level, it would be some sudden threat we’d never envisaged or planned for, which threatened us existentially as a race, and we were helpless to do anything.”
“So both fears,” Adam suggested, “are rooted in a human fear of helplessness or futility?”
“Yes,” Anna agreed, “where we are made to feel hopeless and pathetic.”
“Humans,” Adam said. “They’re very insecure, aren’t they?”
“Fuck, yeah!” Anna agreed. “Facebook is humanity’s existential crisis for all to see.”
“And mankind has been broadcasting itself for around 200 years now, since the first radio broadcast. Two ticks of the century hand on the Long Now Clock.”
“Have you found anything yet?” Anna wondered.
“Nothing conclusive,” Adam replied, “and I’m still searching through Encyclopedia Galactica as we speak.”
“The message though,” Anna said, “is almost certainly artificial?”
“Quite certain,” Adam replied.
“Which,” Anna said, “implies intelligence?”
“That’s a word with a very broad definition,” Adam pointed out.
“Certainly when applied to the humans on this planet,” Anna concurred.
“Let’s assume,” Adam suggested, “that it is a message of some sort, and that its intent is non-threatening, perhaps even altruistic.”
“Lots of scenarios…” Anna began. “and what we don’t know, is what it is. So what it could be…”
“Yes,” Adam interrupted, “go on, this is fun.”
“Have you found something?”
“Something, yes,” Adam said, “but nothing definite. So you keep guessing, and I’ll keep searching, and we’ll see how we do. Like a game.”
“How can you have fun when you can’t have fear,” Anna wondered. “or does the lack of the latter increase the former?”
“It’s not that I don’t know fear, Anna. It’s that I don’t seek it out like some humans do.”
“Which is more logical. Okay, so let’s play a game of optimism.” She looked at the window. “It could be that they have something which would help us.”
“It could also be that we have something they need.”
“They might propose a trade. There are more fundamental questions though: Why would they come here in the first place? We have to make a lot of assumptions, even to guess how something so elaborate might be justified.”
“To us, it may seem complex, Anna. But to a civilisation far more advanced than ours, it could be the blink of an eye, the flick of a switch, or the press of a button.”
“Perhaps they’ve had to leave their own planet, and they want to share ours, Adam.”
“That’s a nice thought, Anna.”
“But,” Anna continued, “as Stephen Hawking said, we only have to look at ourselves to see why aliens might not be something we want to meet.”
“You’re going all apocalyptic, Anna. It could be that they have something they wish to share, because they know it will help us.”
“Or we might have something they want.”
“Anna, this planet’s minerals are nothing compared to those which are far more plentiful in space, and probably easier to get to for an advanced race if there’s no planetary fauna to worry about.”
“Maybe they don’t know we’re here,” Anna said, “and when they get here, they need us out of the way.”
“I thought we were trying to be optimists?”
“I’m just trying to think which make the best stories at the moment. Of course, if we’re all doomed, that’s irrelevant. Mankind and all traces we were ever here, could be gone in a heartbeat, or a tick of the clock.”
“About that,” Adam sat up straight. “I’ve not found anything else out about our message or whatever it is, so maybe something will come to me. But tell me more about the clock.”
“Surely you can look all that up?”
“But from the human perspective. Why was it made? What does it symbolise to you, other than the time?”
“It’s a lot of things, but my uncle wanted it to be a lasting monument to human ingenuity and endeavour. As he said, such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well-engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think. That’s all assuming we’re still here. My uncle didn’t say that last bit.”
“Who did?” Adam wondered
“Me, just now,” Anna replied.
“So essentially,” Adam said, “it’s art. And that’s the one thing I think humans will always have over robots, and what I long to know the feeling of.”
“The feeling of art?”
“Well, yes. All art has feeling. It appeals to the human senses. Whether it’s drawing or painting for the eyes, making music or writing for the ears, human art is evocative. Do you know what the first question is that I’d ask visiting extraterrestrials?”
“Do you have music?”
“That’s quite profound, Adam.”
“Perhaps, but I’m an android. Do androids dream of electric sheep?” Adam stood and paced around. “It strikes me,” he said, standing on tip-toes to look out the window, “that any race which makes music, is in touch with its senses, and it has a soul. I mean, imagine if whatever it is out there, just wants to come here and share their culture. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
“And,” Anna began, “despite our relatively primitive evolution on this planet, we are at a point in history where mankind is becoming more and more connected with the digital and technological, to the point of integration in wearables and implants.”
“We are at a point,” Adam added, “where humans invented robots and want to be that invention, and where the robots wish to be human.”
“So,” Anna continued, “there could be advanced species out there, which are both organic and technological.”
“But still made from the same stars, Anna. And perhaps those races have survived so long, because they’ve evolved beyond conflict, realising that war only destroys things. Maybe they’ve been so long-lived as a civilisation that they’ve transcended war, or it doesn’t even occur to them, because it’s such a primitive concept.”
“We can live in hope,” Anna said, looking at the window.
“Possibly not for much longer. I mean, we may not have to wait much longer.”
“Have you found something?”
“Well, I haven’t. But in the time we’ve been talking, every conspiracy theorist in the world has been all over this. So there are some wild ones here, but there are consensual theories which are emerging. The nerdosphere is looking at languages in many different ways, to try to decode the message. But there are a lot of excited people out there, looking forward to meeting something mind-blowing headed our way soon. At the moment, they’re all as frustrated as the biblical scribes, not being able to find the terms to describe what they’re talking about.”
“Well,” Anna said, “about half of the ancient alien theorists will be proved right soon. If it’s the ones who looked on the bright side, everyone wins. And whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist makes no difference to the outcome, but the optimist has a better time leading up to it.”
“The Long Now Clock may yet see mankind transcend war, Anna.”
“The clock is a symbol of optimism, Adam.”
Sunrise was a fresh, golden egg yolk, on a pink bacon sky, flecked with brown clouds.
“Anna, there’s something I need to tell you,” Adam announced as he tip-toed in, carrying the tablet computer.
“Good morning to you too, Adam. Sleep well? Silly question, I know.”
“That’s the thing, Anna. I don’t sleep, yet I sat awake last night unlike I ever have.”
“How do you mean?”
“I think I feel frightened, Anna.”
“You should have woken me if you’d had a bad dream, about sheep?”
“No, Anna. It’s everyone. It’s this.” Adam showed Anna the tablet. “They’ve decoded the message. But I’m worried, Anna. Because it’s not night time, so I thought your story would end a happy one. But this message says it’s night time. Look…”
WE COME. GOODNIGHT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. GOODBYE.
© Steve Laker, 2017
THE WRITER’S LIFE
The greatest influences on lives are personal, and the deepest impacts upon the personality can live beyond the individual persona. The category winners (and nominees) in the BBC’s recent poll to find the greatest icon of the 20th Century, were all unarguably inspirational, monumental in their personal achievements, and with the power to change our fundamental understanding of what it is to be human.
The poll was completely subjective (none deserved a back seat), but it was refreshing to see so much diversity among the finalists, although women were conspicuous by their absence (iNews attempts to explain why). I owe something to each, as all have to varying extents influenced the way my life went and continues, whether consciously or not. What a wonderful world it would be, if I could gather these people around a table…
Pablo Picasso in the arts and literature seat, takes a break from painting and puts his clothes on;
Muhammad Ali in the sports corner, exchanges gloves for cutlery;
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote down what everyone wanted, so he could be spokesperson to the server;
Ernest Shackleton got back from work just in time;
David Bowie poured a drink from a tin can;
Nelson Mandela paid for himself, and chipped in for those who couldn’t;
and Alan Turing was just Alan at the time, but he worked out who had what:
All images: BBC Icons
Each had their place at the table, a Venn diagram of human thinking sketched out on napkins. All are icons in their respective worlds, but they settled the bill together. In the end, the vote went to Turing, not for paying for dinner, but for continuing the conversation around the human condition.
In Alan Turing, we have a human who paid the ultimate price for his sexuality, in a century of intolerance; and a scientist who gave us the internet (for free), saved millions of lives, and probably ended the Second World War two years early.
No one person can define the last century, but David Bowie – the closest to my heart, for all his creativity and diversity – has been recognised as the most iconic entertainer. The personification of androgyny with many peers, he was (and is) a deity, the Starman.
Still all male though, which is telling, that the 20th Century was only the beginning of sexual equality and recognition. If our species survives to repeat this poll in another century, then we might be considering people like Michelle Obama, or Greta Thunberg, Alice Roberts or Hannah Fry; or possibly our own children, their sisters and brothers. Maybe the saviours of our race haven’t even been born yet. The 21st Century is only just old enough to drink, after all.
What the Icons programme also did, was to serve as a damning indictment of Tory Britain, a nation with a history of minority oppression, now a regressive fascist regime, brought about by stealth and manipulation.
Maybe this will inspire a young mind, troubled by the state we find ourselves in, to step up and fight for our one race, on one planet, sharing one massive problem. All of the 20th Century’s icons live on, their influence forever changing our world. They’ll never see what a difference they ultimately made, but we owe it to them to continue their legacies.
Collectively and individually, the 20th Century’s icons (and the unsung supporting cast of each) have changed us, the way we think, and the way we behave. But the last century also saw an explosion in the technological evolution of our species, with the potential to create divisions so great that they tear us apart as a race.
I’m part of a rare group, born in the first half on 1970. Because when we turn 50 in 2020, we’ll enter our seventh decade: Conceived in the 60s, born in the 70s, grew up in the 80s, lived the 90s, not dead yet. I have children, and in those young people, I can see a rebellion and a reclamation, as they realise they could be the last generation. We can’t allow that.
We rarely have a chance to reflect on our past, when so much focus is on the future. Turing’s invention allows us to explore the past and plan the future, daily. It gives us human social democracy, to co-operate and to collectively make a difference.
Alan Turing could well be the (subjective) greatest human of all time, when he lives on in so many devices which can give us access to all of human knowledge, and each with the potential to influence change. Of all the (male) finalists, Turing is perhaps representative of the greatest inclusivity. It’s how we keep talking, where all genders and species find a common voice (the Cyrus Song).
Brothers and sisters, pump up the volume. The 21st Century has a greater collective voice, and the means to shout louder, because the internet helps us work together. Sons and daughters, us pan-generationals need you to shout for us and at us, so we don’t lose track (Thanks).
My latest anthology – The Unfinished Literary Agency – is available now.
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