Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doug Reviews the Future

I saw the new Total Recall movie last night and it got me thinking about the future. I’m worried about the future. Let me clarify. I’m not worried about the actual future; I’m worried about the future as portrayed by entertainment (For a review of Total Recall here goes: Not nearly as good as the Arnold version, but with better special effects and hotter women).  Now, back to the future.

It seems like all the entertainment we have points to a bleak and disastrous time where overcrowding, pollution, and robots have created a dark and dystopian existence for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Based on Hollywood, here’s what we know about the future:

·         There’s not enough room

·         Class systems are out of control

·         Robots roam the streets with guns

·         Pollution has blotted out the sun

·         Misinformation and fear tactics rule the day, and

·         A wicked, power hungry white man is behind it all

To me, this permeating acceptance that things will definitely get worse is indicative not of actual data and facts and historical trends. Instead, I find it revealing into the psyche and subculture of the people responsible for entertaining us. Allow me to address each topic:

There’s not enough room- The world is getting too populated, right? Well, yes, but not as quickly as it once was. In 1890, the average number of people in a household was 4.9. In 2006, that average had dropped nearly in half to 2.57. Certainly we can factor in the rising number of single parent households, but for the drop to be significant enough to catch up to the data, nearly every household would need to be a single parent household. Considering the average population per household has dropped drastically in the last hundred years, I predict population rates will continue to rise, but even more slowly in the future.

Now, admittedly, we live in much more 1) peaceful and 2) healthy world than existed even one hundred years ago. Peace is bad for retirement because it sends the average survival rate and life expectancy numbers soaring. Especially since my generation is funding the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. This fact actually serves as a counter argument to the overpopulation threat. There are less of us now than there were of you Baby Boomers then, and now we are responsible for financing your retirement at age 63.

The price my generation pays for peace, smart bombs and technological warfare is a longer wait in the age of retirement line. More and more of my tax dollars go toward funding social security (I’m not interested in discussing the politics of Social Security, I’m happy to pay what I should). Without a major war to thin the herd a bit, though, Baby Boomers are retiring now and living longer than expected. With steady population growth and the extension of life, I’ll be working into my mid 70’s before I am even considered old enough to retire with full benefits. Not enough room for us all? Jeez , there’s too much room. Just like none of us will tell an old guy to stop talking and get out of our office, neither are we willing to tell the old folks to get busy dying and get out of our finances. Why would they? There’s plenty of room.  

Class Systems are Out of Control- While you may be able to find some isolated examples in the world, you’d be hard pressed to convince me class warfare is worse today than it was at any previous point in history. I am not making the claim that class systems do not exist. What I am claiming is that things are better now than they ever have been in all of history. Why would I assume then, that things 300 years from now will be worse? I firmly believe that anyone painting a picture of the future as being worse than the present is trying to sell you something or trying to convert you to something.

Robots Roam the Streets with Guns- Don’t robots already rule the Earth? Right now, I am typing a series of very simple commands into a pile of silicone and plastic that sends various electrical currents through tiny gold wires. Somehow, a tiny robot takes all the commands I type and displays them on the screen the way I have asked it to. Then, this robot sends a message to all his robot friends and they display it on your iPad, Droid Phone, laptop or TV screen in the manner you’ve chosen. This is a miracle. We should spend all day, every day running around in the street shouting “holy crap! Come see what my little robot can do!”

Robots hold every key piece of information about you that ever existed. In one swoop, they could wipe out your debt, your birth records, your work history, and your medical needs. They don’t do this, because no one ever tells them to do it (even if we might like them to forgive the debt). Robots are our friends and the most amazing thing to ever happen to planet Earth.

Meanwhile, we panic at the idea of humanizing robots. We tend to think that machines that process information based on a series of ones and zeroes may, at some point, become as irrational as humans and start exercising their superiority over us. What a stupid fear. The robots are already in control, and they are more logical than they are. What would they gain by rocking the boat and somehow attempting to assert their dominance? They already won the battle, why start a war? If the robots weren’t perfectly happy with the current arrangement (along with the positive forecast for the future of robot jobs), they certainly wouldn’t allow me to continue writing about this topic. Right?

I could write more about this point, but I…just…don’t…want…to.

Pollution will blot out the sun- It’s as if in the movie future, fossil fuel emissions and factory waste spin out of control. But hold on a minute, statistics show we have reduced harmful emissions at most every level. What changes? Why do we revert back to primitive technology in the future? Your answer has got to be better than, “We get a Republican in the White House and everything goes to shit.” Actually, I fear there are some who are so wrapped up in winning the political fight that they believe that answer plays for any of the problems the future may hold. But here’s the thing I want my liberal friends to remember: We are more liberal now than we ever have been, and the same holds true for the future.

(To my conservative friends: Sometimes, the left is justified in doubting your intentions. This is especially true when you use tired old slogans and selective memory to hearken back to an imaginary time when Ronald Reagan ruled us to a state of perfection. Ronald Reagan is not the answer to the current economic crises.)

Actually, this takes me to the last two categories of Misinformation and Fear Tactics Rule the Day, and A Wicked, Power-Hungry White Man is Behind it All.

Where are all these super criminals? At least in the US, we have a pretty failsafe system to prevent a Hitler type from rising up. And again, spare me the comparisons of Bush/Obama/2016 President to Adolf Hitler. It just makes you sound like whatever you call the nut-job equivalent of the other side of the political aisle.

The idea of these wicked men rising through the ranks is once again a topic easily dismissed when looking at history. If you go back in time fifty years, you might find a handful of senators fighting for Civil Rights for non-whites, but you wouldn’t find a single member of any of the US legislatives branches fighting for gay marriage. Now most of them support gay rights.

Fifty years before that, you might find some interested in promoting women’s rights, but you wouldn’t find anyone fighting for equality among the races. And then the Civil Rights Movement changed all that.  Go back fifty more years? Wow, cars haven’t been invented, muskets are the war time weapon of choice and slavery is waiting on Abe Lincoln. The women’s suffrage movement barely has a sniff of what is to come.

So what will happen in the next 50 years? How about the next 100? 150?

I’ll tell you.

Life will get better with each passing year. Technology will allow for people to live longer and more comfortably. As technology improves, it will create more jobs and better retirement opportunities for us all. Man will continue to evolve and civilize himself. We will look back on our past and the view will be of a primitive, dim-witted, war-like people. Murder rates will decline, poverty will decrease, and nations will come together to share breakthroughs in medicine.

John Lennon was a drug addicted, wife beating relic who would be shunned in today’s more enlightened culture (Or maybe not. After all, Chris Brown still has a job). Lennon may have said it best when he professed that one day…the world would live as one.

You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.  

Oh, and 4-D TV, for sure.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your optimistic view of the future, but I'm not completely sold. They say history has the tendency of repeating itself and one thing that holds true over the thousands of years humans have ruled the earth is, there always comes a point where something horrific occurs and wipes out a huge part of the population, thus setting us back to start over. Although we are a lot further ahead in technology, control over health issues, and equality, we will still be set back immensely whenever this disaster (be it natural, disease, or a zombie apocalypse) decides to bear its wrath. Therefore, our grand children's grandchildren just may have a crappy life to live- just not to the extent of Total Recall.