The article I’m busy reading starts with the sentence: “Humans have a habit of stalling their own progress.”
It then delves into our history of ridicule and suspicion when it comes to innovation.
Did you know that when the telephone was invented, some people in America believed that it was a conspiracy by enemy states to destabilise the country’s live entertainment industry?
“What if every town in America got a phone, and never had to show up to celebration events in person again,” read one opinion.
Decades later, the cellphone was derided as “a toy for the rich” that would never replace landlines, while the iPhone was mocked for not having any impact or relevance.
The Walkman was banned in some American states, as was the humble car radio, for being distracting to drivers and threatening to lull them to sleep.
The printing press, coffee, the horse-drawn cart, electricity, farm tractors, nail polish, computers and even humble ice cubes were all scoffed at in the times of their invention.
In fact, the light bulb was such a feared technological revolution that some people were convinced it was from the devil and stuck with gas and candles for years.
There is actually a whole field of study and several books on why human beings tend to resist technological advancement.
It turns out that new technologies promoted by large corporations often face stiff opposition from the public, even when it is to their benefit.
The challenge now is how to convince the masses to act on credible information that will help humanity progress further and faster.
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that we need to explore new ways for enterprises to contribute to the common good.
Progress is part and parcel of the human condition. It’s how our caveman ancestors managed to harness tools, language, fire and agriculture to bring us to this time in our history.
This progress has brought us two very potent tools – democracy and the internet, which allows anyone with a thought to find an audience under the banner of freedom of speech.
But this could also now be our undoing.
Despite its very promising name, social media is threatening to stall our evolution.
And all because a small, but convincing minority is able to manipulate the fears and anxieties of the most gullible among us.
As for vaccinations, we no longer have to stand by helplessly and watch our loved ones die of polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps or rubella; and maybe soon we’ll be able to include Covid-19 in that list.
America’s smallpox outbreak in the 1870s led to something very similar to what we are forced to experience these days – a government desperate to immunise as many people as possible; and a rise in very vocal, so called anti-vaccinationists, one of whom fought the government’s vaccination plans all the way to the Supreme Court.
Luckily there wasn’t any social media to amplify his message, and he lost.
The result is that these days smallpox is considered all but eradicated worldwide. And all thanks to vaccines!