Some time ago I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have much of a clue about how anything worked.
Actually, that’s not strictly true.
I think I know HOW things work, it’s that I don’t know WHY they work.
Take mobile phones.
I know how they work, I’ve had it explained to me – several times.
The software in the phone converts the sound of your voice into an electrical signal which is converted into a radio wave which is, in turn, converted back into sound by the phone you’ve called.
Ok, I get that that’s how it works. No problem.
Why does that particular process do that particular thing?
Why, not to put too fine a point on it, is it so easy to explain the fact that one can pick up a little lump of plastic, touch a screen in a certain way and thus be able to speak and to actually be able to hear the words of another human being, holding a similarly unattached lump of plastic, who may be tens of thousands of miles away?
I don’t get it. You don’t even have to shout.
It’s frankly, when you stop to think about it, so mind-bogglingly miraculous as to render it near impossible.
If, when I’d asked how the whole process worked, I’d been told that it was, in actual fact, magic that made it happen, I think I’d find that every bit as plausible as the whole sound into electric into radio and what-not.
And it’s not just phones is it? Take a look around at the things we use, the things that operate the world, that light us up, that move us, entertain us and occasionally go ping! And we all just take it for granted – readily accepting that you can get into your car, push a button on a small device on your windscreen and have Homer Simpson tell you how to get, with complete accuracy and with no prior knowledge of from where you’re starting out, to any street in the suburbs of Kettering.
How does it work? Well, it’s your standard GPS signal that your receiver intercepts and pinpoints your location in relation to your destination and translates this into a series of instructions that we can read as a digital road map.
By why? Why should that be a good enough explanation?
We just accept that it does what it does.
Which, I suppose is fine.
But what if there’s an alternate theory? What if all this stuff works simply because we’ve all just become completely convinced by the explanations?
They work because we have, as a society, accepted that they, well, they just do.
Planes – planes are massive. Really, really heavy. But they fly, soaring thousands of feet in the sky in a way that seems to cock the now legendary snook at all notions of gravity. And we, thankfully I might add, just accept that they fly. We get on board, put our little straps around our waist, drink from those tiny cans you only find on public transport and happily accept that planes can fly.
We know there’s some kind of science and technology behind the reason – we know because somewhere along the line we’ve been told that that’s the case. But what if it’s our complete faith which keeps the plane in the sky?
We accept, without question, that they fly – so they fly.
The power of mass acceptance.
Frankly, I think it’s as good an explanation as any.
Oh, and does anyone happen to know what, exactly, a snook is?