Monday, March 2, 2009
A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT IN TIME TRAVEL....
I received a phone call from my mom-in-law this morning. She lives in Michigan now and thank goodness I happened to be up. It was 6:00 AM and I was pulling into the grocery store. Whew!
Anyway, she is a very bright lady who received her undergraduate degree from Brown and her post grad work at University of Michigan in social work. She has been quite kind in sending me some of her pre-doctoral research work and don't get me started on the fabulous and groovy set of textbooks she sent me...WHOA!!!!....I'm LOOKING for people to start healing, okay?...but I digress....
She called to tell me that Robert Florida would be on PBS tonight and to check it out on my local stations. I personally wasn't familiar with him but I did a search for his book on Amazon and it's quite intriguing. He talks about performing a thought experiment...and I LOVE thought experiments. He asks: Imagine 2 time travelers. One is from 1900 and travels to 1950. The other is from 1950 and travels to the present. Who would be more stunned? At first blush, the one from 1900 would no doubt be blown away; cars, planes, phones, televisions, etc. None of these things existed in 1900 and the traveler's entire lifestyle would have to be relearned. Whereas, the traveler from 1950 to the present would still know how to use a tv, would still know how to, for the most part, drive a car, catch an airplane ("probably from the same airport", according to Mr. Florida), etc.
Then Mr. Florida brings up points that show that perhaps the traveler from 1950 probably would be the one that is the most stunned after all. Where the traveler from 1900 would go to work in an office, the structure would be the same in 1950. He would most likely be surrounded by white men. Any woman there would be clerical or supportive. There would be no minorities or ethnic diversity. He would arrive at 8 or 9 in the morning and leave around 5 in the evening. No changes there, either. He would also likely be wearing a suit and tie, same as in 1900.
Now, lets bring Mr. 1950 forward to today. Mr. Starched white shirt AND white male is now surrounded by people of color AND women (gasp!) who not only work with him but could also be HIS SUPERIORS!!! Also, THEY'RE WEARING GOLF SHIRTS THAT AREN'T EVEN BUTTONED AT THE COLLAR!!! What is this strange planet? People are pierced in weird (and what appears to be painful) places and let's not even get into the tattoos. People stand around eating, drinking and talking, sometimes taking what appears to be two lunches??? Outside there are mixed-race couples and same-sex couples IN PUBLIC? WHAT? People may stay with the company 3-5 years and then move on as opposed to working for the man 30 years like they did in the 50s. How fickle these people are? Florida states that while the physical surroundings may be similar, it is the feel of the place that would be wildly different.
He goes on to discuss what he calls, "the creative class of people"....people as commodity...it's an interesting theory...I've only just read the smallest amount allowable without actually purchasing the book...but he discusses how businesses now follow people, as opposed to going where the tax breaks are, or where the best freeway interchanges are. That's why places like Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area have jobs that employ creative-type people...because that's where they congregate and therefore, that's where the jobs will go...they will go to the creative class of people versus being geography driven. Anyway, it's an interesting thought experiment.