Knowing the unknowable

www.flightaware.comThank goodness for the information age.

One half of our little family is on the other side of the planet. It should be impossible for me to know anything about their activities there. With effort I could refer to their itinerary, think about the sorts of people they are, recall my knowlege of the places they are likely to be, and form an expectation about what they are doing. But that expectation is not knowledge. It’s not only imprecise – it’s mere conjecture. It’s no different to me anticipating what I will do at 7.30am next Friday morning – my guess could be way off the mark.

My expectation of what my loved ones on the other side of the planet are doing should be like that. There is no human or animal sense, however refined, that could tell me anything about them. No amount of shouting or listening or staring towards the horizon could tell me anything. It should be unknowable.

And yet it is knowable. At 7.30 this morning I knew precisely what they were doing. Nicholas and I could see their smiling faces on the computer screen and hear their familiar voices through the speakers. We asked questions and received answers. We wished them well till the next communication. We blew goodbye kisses. We knew for sure that they were fine. It left two-year-old Nicholas happy, not because of any reliance on authority – trust me, they’re (probably) okay – but because he could see for himself.

In the last 20 years the technology to keep in touch has improved beyond what I could have imagined. As Jennifer and Tomos have travelled, we have kept up with their progress by txt, email, video call, and real-time flight tracking. I know a little of how the technology works. Nicholas knows nothing about it. But using the technology does not depend on any understanding of it, so we benefitted equally.

Thank you to all the people who are building the information age, rolling it out to people like me, and making life better. Keep it up.

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2 thoughts on “Knowing the unknowable

  1. margaret21

    In this situation it’s wonderful. And for us too as we keep in touch with family back home. But a bit of me remembers simpler times with affection. My son worked in India in his gap year just before the internet was commonly available. We each still have the long letters we wrote one another and anticipated so eagerly. Emails and Skype? Not so much.

    Reply
  2. Stephen Christie Post author

    I know what you mean. Like you, I’m old enough to remember overseas travel before the internet. Somewhere I think Jennifer and I have a box of letters written and received in the mid-90s when we were on opposite sides of the world for a year. If I looked them out perhaps part of me would hanker after that simpler time, but I doubt it. I would rather not have to wait two weeks for a response by airmail. I don’t have any special fondness for that medium.

    I enjoy following your blog. For that reason I hope that, however much affection you have for the old technologies, you keep using the new ones. Thanks. Looking forward to the next reports from Korea.

    Reply

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