1 December 2013
My grandmother died yesterday. Three years ago she fell and hit her head (sadly only two days before I was due to arrive for a visit). Ever since she has been in a minimally-aware state, unable to recognize anyone.
At 100 she has been witness to an amazing period of history. She has seen the creation of the Panama canal, sliced bread and the Internet. She has watched the Soviet Union come and go, lived through both world wars and seen men reach then abandon the Moon. She has seen the introduction of women's suffrage, universal healthcare and desegregation. I wonder how the accomplishments of our generation will compare.
In my grandmother's world "they" do everything. Growing up in a house surrounded by servants, she never needed to understand how the world worked. "They" deliver food, "they" take the trash away, "they" make the rules. Even her computer was referred to as "they" (e.g. "They printed my letter wrong"). She once tried to understand what I did for a living and I explained how I created websites. Upon which she asked if it "they" took a long time to create the websites. After several exchanges I was unable to convince her that I created everything myself and that there was no "they". What is fascinating about her world is that she was living ahead of her time. In her mind the Singularity[?] had already arrived. A few decades from now (once artificial intelligence obtains critical mass) we'll all be exactly in her shoes; a world filled with unknowable mysteries that are too complex for humans to understand or meaningfully participate in.
My grandmother lived in both the past and the future simultaneously.