Thursday, September 29, 2005

What Does the Future Hold?

There's a job out there that I'd love to have and cannot, for the life of me, understand how someone gets: Futurist. These are folks who peer into a crystal ball of some sort and look for social, political and technological trends and what they might morph into ten, twenty or thirty years down the road. The big problem is that years later, when someone rereads those predictions, sometimes the Futurist ends up looking like a real idiot when history takes a right when he took a left.

It's got to be a tough job, trying to pull the future out of current trends. I find myself amused at sci-fi shows from the 1960s, like the original "Star Trek", talking about advanced space travel happening in the 1990s, when we're having trouble keeping the Space Shuttle fleet operating halfway through the first decade of the 21st century. I doubt that anyone foresaw the changes that the personal computer and cellphones would have on our world when they were first introduced. When the Internet was first installed in our office in the very early Nineties, everyone looked at it with great curiosity and wondered what in the world we'd ever do with it; now we look up Driver's Licenses, addresses and telephone numbers of long-lost defendants and grind out letters to them on our desktops to remind them of old obligations. I never thought that I'd be lugging around a cellphone everyday when I got my first one years ago; it would have required a shoulder strap to carry around and I'd probably be glowing in the dark now from all the radiation that thing emitted. Now I clip my new Sanyo phone to my belt every morning and await the world's interest in all things Blue (usually just my wife calling to check on my day or my daughters bugging me about something).

Unfortunately, my view of the future isn't real optimistic. It isn't because our technology won't advance, because it will; it isn't because answers to society's problems and ills aren't available, because they are; no, I'm not optimistic because of basic human nature. "Star Trek" has it all wrong--one of the movies had Captain Picard talking about how we'd managed to advance beyond greed and avarice and become more noble in our treatment of each other and other species--but I haven't really seen any indication that we're moving in that direction. If anything, it looks like we're moving backwards, though I honestly think we're in a state of stagnation. Our mistreatment of others continues (think Hitler was the last guy to act on "ethnic cleansing"? Just look at the old Yugoslavia with its struggles between "Christians" and "Muslims" or Chad, where apparently the Muslim government is trying to wipe out the Christian minority. In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe is working hard to make life untenable for white settlers and farmers, to supposedly give the land back to the native Africans, though his main success so far has been to destroy one of the few prosperous economies in that continent) and we've managed to keep destroying the natural habitat that keeps us alive in order to maintain our comfortable lifestyles.

What about God's Chosen Country, the U.S. of A? Well, the latest hurricanes have shown that the poor, even in emergencies, get quickly forgotten about until a TV camera shows the disparity for the world to see. The religious right and the Big Elephant neo-cons have worked hard to begin to turn our country into a theocracy, run by those who KNOW better than the rest of us, those to whom God continually speaks and shares his wisdom with (like the old slave-owners of the South, who saw in the Old Testament His Wisdom in keeping the child-like and barbaric black race of Africa in chains). We're seeing gangs forming all the time, living for power and violence with a sense of togetherness, rejecting the enlightenment of education because it might make them "too white". We're losing our natural resources because we cannot bear to be without our monster SUVs and power-sucking 50" plasma TVs. Our attention spans have been fractionalized by remote controls and television shows that are 50% commercials, encouraging us to flip, flip, flip to the next bit of sensory overload.

Maybe in twenty years I'll look back at this blog and laugh, wondering how I could have been so short sighted. Maybe I'll read it in my little corner of the American Gulag, established for those who rejected the dictates of God's Chosen leaders and wonder why I didn't do more to stop it.

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