Einstein Was a Jealous God

While writing for and reading the newspaper that employs me, it isn’t often that I think about the trees being felled or programmers at work that help me do what I do. There have been times in my life when I have pondered the fact that pictures get slashed into millions of pieces only to reassemble themselves in perfect order on my television. I probably don’t do that enough for the tastes of Albert Einstein, though. Too fast, he thought, do we forget about the groundbreaking work that allows us to sit at home and complain about the programming we devote hours of our life to.

In the Aug. 31, 1930 edition of the New York Times is a piece by Orrin E. Dunlap explaining how Einstein believed people had forgotten about the miracle of technology and invention radio was and were too soon content to focus on the programming.

“Radio listeners should be ashamed to make use of the wonders of science embodied in a radio set while they appreciate them ‘as little as a cow appreciates the botanic marvels in the plants she munches.’ So spoke Professor Albert Einstein in expressing his regrets of public apathy toward scientists, at the opening of the Berlin Radio Exposition.”

The writer quotes Einstein very little in the rest of the piece, preferring to refer to the difference in attitudes from about a decade earlier. Then people were fascinated figuring out how to make their own radios in their homes. When they would tune into some faraway broadcast they would call out to family and neighbors so all could huddle around what it was that was drawing the signal. Anymore a clear broadcast coming out of something that rivaled nice furniture was expected, the author wrote.

Well, it is true that the day of marveling at much if any innovation is pretty well gone. I remember jogging with a Walkman knowing that one day I would probably be able to travel with something much smaller that would play the music better.

Still, we have our moments. I remember joining a friend on an AOL chat room in 1995 purposely trying to make others in the chat room angry. We were trolls before the term was invented. But when I tried it several months later the thrill had already worn off. Watch someone who is new to Facebook take part in all the farms and gang wars and buttons until they inevitably grow tired of them and become fans of clubs that don’t care about those same things. Technology marvels us for a while. Days, not years.

Sometimes never. I didn’t like “Billy Don’t be a Hero” any better just because I could hear it on compact disc.