Some Comments About the Future for Fellow Worriers

It is a growing spiritual conviction of mine that linear time is an illusion, though also a parameter within which we humans are tightly penned during our earthly stay.  I heard Jordan Peterson say the other day—quite disappointingly—that one recollects the past only to be armed against its terrors in the future.  On the contrary, I have been trying to dredge up as much of my childhood as I can recall lately, because I believe that we will recover that stage of innocence when we’re finally liberated from this world’s concerns about status, reputation, salary, high office, public honors, and all the other Sirens whose song lures us into a suffocating tunnel. We will also revisit the mortifying moments which Dr. Peterson clearly had in mind… but we will do so in that recovered innocence of the child, healing ourselves and perhaps those who connived at our misery.

As for the future… well, could that more comfortably rest within the present’s borders?  If you act with probity, keep your word, assist those in need, and so forth, will you not enjoy the future of someone who has always satisfied his conscience in the present, and thus fully control tomorrow?  Or if you go to the block for leading an upright life, then is that not the best possible end for a decent human being living in one of linear time’s possible eras?

I say all this in grand meditation… and then I start to think about my son and his generation.  And the weight of my worries instantly draws me from the Ninth Empyrean down into terrestrial slag.  The future.  Especially with a pack of slavering jackals competing for the nation’s highest office by offering every rogue predator a spot at our cultural carcass, one has to say that the future is a fearful prospect.

It’s a subject that shouldn’t be lightly addressed, at any rate.  Nothing more quickly irritates me than technophile visionaries who warble about the health-infusing nanobots we will all have coursing through our veins, the shuttles to other planets we will take for a long weekend, the telepathic capacities which we will access whenever we wish to reach that friend in Australia or on M52-3.  The sun of Progress will rise upon a manmade paradise! Yes, okay… but between our “now” and that gilded utopia lie billions of human lives which will have to be purged somehow: people of modest talents, no particular training, and an oppressive range of needs who will prevent the Starship Enterprise from reaching escape velocity.  We’re not all idiots.  Some of us, at least, understand that line extending from the contemporary sanctuary-city hellhole to the pink beaches of Jupiter’s refurbished vacation-moon runs through an immense Auschwitz, as voracious as a black hole.

Technology will prove a solution to our major problems only insofar as that solution is a sanitary variety of extermination.  And when I say “sanitary”, I’m really thinking more of a cleansed conscience—of “reformatted cognitive software”—than of an antiseptic landfill.  The latter could present formidable challenges; the former appears to be well within our grasp already.

Just consider the formulations of the Pack of Jackals.  Overpopulation?  Easy fix: universal free (i.e., tax-funded) abortion on demand.  Not better and more abundant contraception, but physical dismantling of the conceived and developing child.  That’s important; the “reformatting” from empathy to icy indifference is important.  Sexual prejudices?  Easy fix, again: any and all possible coupling (with “coupling” not interpreted as a numerical limit) equivalent, across the board.  Man/man, man/boy, human/animal, uncertain/uncertain… eventually, and sooner rather than later, the artificial iPartner will offer the ultimate solution.  Of course, herein we also find another effective response to overpopulation; but the most important development, I say again, is the evolution of consciousness.  The human becomes a highly conditional construct, not even a definitive “he” or “she”.  Parts can be switched out or upgraded.  The very distinction between human and cybernetic rapidly dissolves.

So… this, then, is the face of the future?  A face that will not even return one’s gaze with a glimmer of humanity?  A fearful prospect, yes….

But at the end of the day (and this, dear Peterson, is another benefit of pondering the past), history warns us—exhorts us—not to take our prophecies too seriously.  We always get the details wrong, and usually a few of those details significantly warp the curve’s trajectory.  Let me offer an example so homespun that it will probably grate on a few nerves.

For the past ten years or so, I’ve been researching how batsmen (sometimes called “strikers” or “stickers”) of the early twentieth century struck a baseball.  I’ve pursued this diversion because… well, it distracts me from worries about the future—but also because I have concluded with ever greater confidence that clues and tricks abide here for helping smaller boys become stars on the diamond.  I’m dismayed that so many shorter kids are being neglected by the game; even in Little League, they’re the last to be chosen.  Since we already have an ongoing “war on boys” (as Christina Hoff Sommers designated it long ago)… but I mustn’t digress further.  Enough to say that boys of all sizes need to experience success in return for intelligent, persistent effort.

The metal bat was a technical innovation that was heralded as the salvation of many a high school and college program.  It didn’t break—and replacing shattered wooden bats could prove quite costly over a season.  Nobody had any further thought in introducing these Space Age sticks than that they would be budget-friendly.  Yet as the years wore on, manufacturers discovered that metal could be shaped very differently from wood.  It could sustain a massive barrel mounted on a toothpick-thin handle.  The handle could then be shortened (since its traditional length was serving virtually no purpose), and the savings in weight still further shifted to the barrel.

Not to be prolix, I’ll simply float the proposition that the New New Bat heavily favored tall boys with long arms.  It also rewarded hitting styles wherein the upper body flails down upon the ball while the lower body is about as active as a golfer’s.

Not only did this evolutionary path squeeze shorter boys off baseball fields… it also, I have no doubt, conduced to the steroids scandal that nearly ruined the game as a national pastime.  So much emphasis had been concentrated upon upper-body strength that acquiring the physique of a weightlifter now defined the training program of the budding power-hitter.  Once again, the technology intended to make fully human objectives more attainable had ended up shifting human parameters toward the artificial, if not the robotic.

Well… that’s not a very uplifting parable, perhaps; but my purpose in telling it is merely to illustrate that we know not what we do, and that the future is therefore brewed of far too many indeterminate (some would say chaotic) ingredients ever to have the predicted savor.  We scarcely understand what we’re doing as we do it; we never have a very clear idea of what we’ll do tomorrow as a result of what we did today.  Naturally, this can work either for or against us—or both for and against us.  However you shuffle the cards, about a third of them will be wild.

So… off we go.  There will be much in the future to fret over when it happens, but almost none of it can be precisely anticipated.  Be brave and true right here, right now: an enduring “right now” is the future’s only certain dimension.

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