Everything is amazing (and nobody’s happy)

I forget who linked to this recently: a clip of Conan O'Brien talking to Louis C.K., in which LCK points out that “everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy.” Funny and true (except that in one part he seems to be saying it's only today's younger generation who react this way, which is just silly). We live in an era of commonplace miracles, and most of the time most of us (including me) don't even notice.

LCK is mostly focused on stuff like airplanes and telephones, but there's lots of other stuff in this category too. Despite its failings, modern Western medicine can be pretty damn impressive. And then there are things like light bulbs, and indoor plumbing (and the infrastructure that supports both). Not to mention books. And there are some pretty remarkable social institutions and organizations as well.

And nature stuff, too, but I think that's a different category; worth celebrating, but not quite the same thing.

What's your favorite amazing thing that we too often take for granted?

6 Responses to “Everything is amazing (and nobody’s happy)”

  1. E. J.

    Definitely modern medicine. Which you mentioned, but I just want to plug away at that note once more. Even ten years ago my Crohn’s would have meant a life on organ-damaging, body-warping high -dose corticosteroids. Now I can inject tailored monoclonal antibodies every two weeks and spend 95% of my life symptom-free. That’s about as close to applied nanotechnology as anything I’ve heard of.

    Of course, if I didn’t have the insurance to pay for $1500 a month of medication, my life would utterly suck. Now if we could just combine modern medicine with some kind of miraculous social service that made it available to everybody….

  2. Catherine O

    I didn’t watch the clip, but I found the quote interesting. I think there are a couple things going on there: modern medicine is amazing, in the aggregate, and yet *for any given individual* there are going to be multiple occasions on which it’s failed–either things medicine still can’t do much about (like the random virus I had last week) or the ultimate failure to extend the life of anyone’s given beloved grandmother (or whoever). Airplanes are amazing *in the aggregate*, and yet for any given individual, associated not only with easy trips across the Atlantic Ocean, but also with long delays, cramped seats, etc.

    I guess what I’m saying is, the things around us would have been unthinkable not very long ago, and yet life is still very difficult, for reasons both small and theoretically fixable (the cramped airplane seats) and large and apparently intractable (death, illness). And technological miracles don’t make interpersonal situations any easier. And so on.

  3. Cj

    machined parts. All those little screws, bolts, nuts, etc. that fit with all those other little screws, bolts, nuts etc. I cannot imagine the amount of effort the machinist had to go to get Babbage’s engines built– every little piece made from scratch, more or less.

    And I am so very, very grateful to indoor plumbing, especially when I sick. Whenever I am under the weather I feel so very, very lucky to have all of these marvelous comforts– cold juice, flush-toilets, air-conditioning/heat. Just thinking about living in the past gives me the willies! And none of that even starts about how much I adore information access! Hmmm…I think I would like know which quote from the Simpson that is from– tap, tap, tap–ah! got it. Was Fishhooks McCarthy a real person? tap, tap, tap. Really? It seems he was.

    I like it here…a lot!

  4. Lane

    Clean water right out of the tap. Reliable electricity. Toilets and toilet paper. Groceries.

  5. textjunkie

    Thumbs up to everyone else’s suggestions. And I’ll throw in the internal combustion engine for good measure–the fact that we are not dependent on the speed of our own feet or our animals’ feet to get around is amazing.

    That, and we can take a computer with more power than what got us to the moon, shove it into a 2″ square area, and use it as a throw-away demo in a public workshop. Buy it online for $29.99…

  6. metasilk

    The WWW.
    Also, modern surgical techniques, allowing me to survive not just infancy, but pregnancy.
    Among many other things but I really need to go to bed. Sleep is amazing too, but not so new.

    Yep, a super nifty time!


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