Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not My Fault


Interesting day.  I read an article about the woes of the US Postal Service.  They're blaming their financial difficulties on the increased use of email and decreased use of conventional (i. e., snail) mail.  Then I went to the Post Office and found in my box a purple card reading "Excess mail; please come to the counter."  When I approached the counter, there was a long line and only one clerk on duty.  They've evidently reduced staff just in time for the Christmas rush.  "Tis the season for irony."
So, what's this commentary doing in a Natural History blog?  Here's the tie-in:
I had just been talking with my daughter about an important biological and sociological concept: adaptation.  She's taking high school biology, but hasn't got to that part of the book yet.  I told her that a particular set of social skills that might be a successful adaptation to one high school environment might be especially maladaptive in another.  My examples from biology were a.) kangaroo rats specifically adapted to a desert environment would not likely do well in a rain forest, and b.) polar bears don't do well in temperate environments, like zoos in Florida, unless great care is taken to keep them cool.  I suggested that the path to social success at our local high school might not be the same in, say, an urban magnet school focused on math and science skills.
So, will the Postal Service adapt to the increased use of email?  Does it care?  Will a critical mass of people maintain a preference for letters and cards they can hold in their hands, or will they adapt to cyberspace?  The larger question is - will adapting to life in cyberspace prove to be maladaptive for our species in the long run?  Sure wish I had a crystal ball - metaphorically speaking, of course.

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