“Science is a beautiful gift to humanity. We should not distort it.”A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
“They say that scientists are close to recreating the human brain, fixing the problems in the brain that go wrong. Things like dementia. Can you imagine? Pretty soon, they’ll be able to fix all our broken down bits. What do you think about that?” He says all of this with the same light in his eyes I’ve noticed in my grandchildren when they’ve opened their Christmas presents.
He’s a friend of mine. We used to work together many years ago. We’ve already spent most of our time together over dinner discussing politics. We don’t agree on many things. Okay, that’s an understatement. We don’t agree on anything.
Politically he leans to the right and calls me a socialist. Perhaps. He tells me social programs are too expensive. Well, you know how I feel about this. And in case you don’t, let me tell you: I believe in community and I believe a good and just society takes care of its most vulnerable. This is what it means to be human.
Okay, I’ve done it again. I can see I’ve fallen for the bait my friend lays down. He likes to egg me on and I accommodate time and time again.
“Advances are great,” I tell him. “But, you know what I think is more important?”
His smile disappears. He leans away as though I’m about to attack.
“Our humanity. Our ability to feel for another human being, to reach out when we know someone is lonely, to communicate empathically with others.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” he asks.
“What is the point of any advancement if we go backwards in terms of our ability to communicate with and feel for each other?”
“Socialist,” he retorts.
“Yes, maybe” I say. “But here’s the thing. We’re talking. Despite our different points of view, we’re having a discussion. This is what is missing in our society. I’m happy science is making the advances it’s making, but science can also keep us apart.”
“You can talk via social media, all sorts of websites. The technology is there.”
“Oh, you mean the technology that allows some to vilify others because they can easily hide behind their screens. Is that the technology you’re talking about? Whatever happened to honest debate, sitting around like this and talking, hearing each other out?”
“You are so 90s. And what does that have to do with my original question?”
“Science is wonderful. But I think more thought needs to be put into advancements so that we understand the human implications and ramifications. Nothing we create through technology will replace what it means to be human: an inquisitive brain, a compassionate heart, well thought out opinions, and discourse.”
The discussion continues, back and forth. We finally agree to disagree.
“What a lovely dinner and discussion,” he says.
I think about saying, look who’s the socialist now, but I restrain myself.
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