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Solo Dad Part 5

Went to a civilized dinner with friends and left two teenagers in charge of the household, and when I came home the house was lit up like something you'd see on the Vegas Strip. They had found lights that I didn't know existed. The oven was on, 400 degrees, nothing inside. The house pulsed with energy. It throbbed and glowed and threatened at any moment to go critical, to reach meltdown, one of those China Syndrome situations, the whole thing sinking into the continental crust. I'm sure the glowing house triggered warnings at the various spy agencies that scan the Earth with infrared satellite cameras.

My children, it occured to me, have never turned off a light. They have no concept of electricity as a resource or an expense. They've never seen the electric bill. Indeed I'm not even sure they grasp the concept that the illumination of the interior of the house relies on technology, on human engineering. Switching on a light is no more remarkable to them than inhaling. Someone famously said [and readers this morning confirm my suspicion that it was Arthur C. Clarke] that a technology when sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. But that's not true. It's not distinguishable at all. It ceases to register. It becomes like the air.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 17, 2005; 8:16 AM ET
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