Thursday, December 29, 2016 12:01 PM
Here in the future, things are different. I was born in 1956, when the world was a far different place and people didn’t know half of what they now know—so trust me, this is the future. I can’t begin to list the things we have created, the powers we’ve gained, and the secrets we’ve unlocked from the mysterious universe since the year of my birth. In the course of my lifetime, we have reached a destination so far ahead of what 1956 portended that we refer to things with the ‘post-’ prefix.
When we say ‘post-modern’ we refer to our time as being so far past our expectations and imaginings that “The Jetsons”, once a symbol of futurity, has become a quaint icon of the past. Where technology and history once seemed to file along on a set path, we now see our culture virtually explode—and our entire past rendered moot—by the chaotic changes brought about by developments in AI, robotics, astronomy, genetics, and medicine.
Beliefs once valued enough to merit Crusades and Jihads have become side-issues, old toys we are too grown-up and busy to play with any more. The few benighted groups who can’t accept this find themselves desperately throwing bombs into marketplaces in a futile attempt to keep religion relevant. Meanwhile, reasonable people have all new gods and demons to fear—killer asteroids, AI singularities, global toxicity, climate change, habitat loss, ocean acidification, gene-mod blowback, and overpopulation.
Reasonable people have another, more difficult problem to deal with as well—unreasonable people. You see, with technology making us all more productive, more capable of things that once required vast multitudes—each man and woman becomes a power unto themselves. Our old world, that troubled idyll, got along fine with unreasonable people running all over the place—there was plenty of space and there was only so much damage they could do.
But if you put unreasonable people in the cockpit of an airliner, or in charge of an investment bank, or in the Oval Office—the results are terrifying and global. Our civilization has become too powerful to be trusted in the hands of a childish mind—and yet it is the most foolhardy among us who lust for power and riches. The intelligent people are busily making the world more convenient and accessible—and the stupid people are working overtime trying to take advantage of everyone else—it’s a poisonous combination.
As we observe the powerful within the beltway, and in the several state houses, we feel the futility of having rich people working on ‘protecting’ us from rich people—but I’m not sure we recognize the greater irony of having the most unwise among us ‘protecting’ us from common sense and kindness. When I see some of these people on C-SPAN, orating with the skills of a middle-schooler, saying things no high-school graduate could agree with—I am shocked that such buffoons can get themselves elected to public office—and saddened to realize that their constituencies find them acceptable.
What self-respecting person could publicly claim that our problems are caused by the old, the sick, the poor, the immigrant, the refugee—the most powerless and disenfranchised people on this earth? And who could be fool enough to believe that those in power do not bear any responsibility for the lives they control? In a previous century, humanity mourned the fading of religion, saying “God is dead.” Here in our time, we may mourn the fading of truth and admit, “Common Sense is dead.” That will be the legacy of our late election.