The Future

One thing about reading a lot of science fiction is that you begin to develop a feel for the future.  There are even some degree programs in ‘future studies’.  I have no idea what’s in those programs, but it can’t be more effective than reading science fiction for the last 30 years.

Our future, to quote Sarah Connor, is no fate, but what we make.

With no effort, I can see a dysutopian future where life is nearly pure hell for everyone, except the ones in control.  You can see bits and pieces of the path to this future now.  The Constitution is malleable.  Violence and threats for those who just want to live their own lives and not the lives that are ‘programmed’ for them.  Those with power, doing anything they can to retain that power.  It’s extremely depressing.

But with an equal lack of effort, I can imagine a brighter future.  One where people are so free to do what they want, that there is effectively no need for those who would control us.  A place where the word ‘lack’ or ‘limited’ doesn’t exist.  A world where the only rule is do no harm and people abide by it because it simply works.

A final future, is infinitely more difficult to imagine.  The singularity, an event so momentous, so powerful, so defining, that those now cannot even imagine what it will be like and those after it cannot imagine what it was like to live before it.  A fundamental change in everything that exists in out universe, what it even means to be human.

Some say that we have had mini-singularities for decades.  The introduction of smartphones in the late 90s and computers in the late 70s.  These are watershed events to be sure, but the fundamentals haven’t changed.  There are still those with and those without.  And we are still human.

There are many, many paths to each of these futures.  And there will be events that will stun the world, that no one can predict.

Our future is going to be defined by who we are now and how we react to the events, not in our lives, but the country and world.

There is one common theme to all these thoughts and this has been true for the last 300 years.  No path to a pleasant future exists without one simple thing.  It is not a guaranteed pleasant future, for it has its own dangers.

But there can be no hope of utopia (however, you may define it) without it.

“It” is science.  Knowledge.  The ability to learn and the ability to think critically.  This is the fundamental system that is the only hope for humanity, for our future, for anyone’s future.

Those who ignore history (or attempt to rewrite it) are doomed to repeat it.  Look at history.

Every.  Single. Positive. Event. that has happened in the last 300 years has been due to science.  I’m not saying that science is all great.  There have been bad things based on science too.

But there has been no positive event, system, process, or anything else that has come about through any method other than the use of science.  I am willing to bet that if you look around your home, there is not a single thing in or around it that is not a direct result of science in the last 300 years.  Even if you have antique furniture, processes such as dovetail joints and carpentry glue are the direct results of science.  That grass in your lawn?  Almost surely a direct result of science, certainly the fertilizer and watering and simply the ability to know what goes into fertilizer… all the direct results of science.

No other method of learning about how our universe exists.  I’ve been looking for almost 30 years and there isn’t one.

Those that have said there is another method have, everyone, been charlatans, liars, or chronically deluded.

No one can pretend otherwise.  Making any decision without research, without the scientific method, without knowledge of all sides of the conversation is not only wrong, it is dangerous.  I would even go so far as to say that it is evil.

Yes, sometimes we, as humans, parents, lovers, workers, and managers, have to take risks, but don’t you owe it to those that you love that you mitigate those risks with knowledge.  Research.  Even experiment.

Yes, you can do experiments.  Elect someone, then watch carefully how they act.  If you disagree, then regardless of party, don’t vote for them again.  Experiment with methods for keeping food fresh longer, reducing waste.  Check your electric bill after replacing all the light bulbs with LEDs.  All these things and more.

Every day, one should be looking for ways to make our future better.  You don’t have to be a scientist to teach children to think critically.  Just let them read two newspaper articles with opposite views and let them explore both sides of the argument.  Unless, of course, you don’t trust your children and feel you have to control them by filtering everything they see and hear.  In that case, you are hoping for that dysutopian future and I hope you will never see it.

To all the others, before you make a decision on anything, you should get used to doing the research.  The internet is a stunning tool where it is trivially easy to get reviews on everything from cars to restaurants to politics.  Anyone who spends money without doing research is wasting that money.

As Larry Niven once said, (paraphrase) “Don’t waste calories.  Whether are not you eat a hot fudge sundae is between you, your doctor, and your nutritionist.  But if you do, then DO NOT settle for an inferior hot fudge sundae.”

That should be the way in everything.  Obviously, there are many, many people that have lost the ability to think critically.  Perhaps they never had it.  Perhaps they have been so ingrained on a position that they can no longer consider dispassionately.  It is a sad state of affairs.

It is sad, that for all intents and purposes, that mind, that human, is lost. What used to be a person, a human with feelings and a functioning mind, is no little more than a self regenerating robot.

When we fail to think, we have failed to do the one thing that makes us different from every other animal on this planet.  When we fail to plan, we fail to act efficiently, when we fail to stand up say, “That is utter horse shit.” Then we have failed ourselves, our families, and our 5 billion year history.

I do not say that science is perfect, only a fool says anything is perfect.  To modify Heinlein “Science is a poor system of learning at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried.”

The future of my child, of all our children is at stake here.  It will be fundamentally different from the past we had, even the past the HS graduates of today.  If  everyone cannot change, if you can no longer learn, then we are doomed.

There are so many more things I could say, need to say, need to explain.  If you have gotten this far and are not familiar with the concept of logical fallacies, then you need to become so.  If you believe strongly in a position, but have never read or heard anything from the opposition, then you need to do so.  Not just read, but study, understand why your opponents think they way they do.  If you do without thinking, just because that’s the way it always has been, then you need to understand that the world is changing, it is changing so much more rapidly than you could possibly imagine.

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9 Responses to The Future

  1. Brandy J. says:

    I’d like to request permission to use this article in a class I teach. My documentary film and research unit is about learning to explore both sides of the issue and expanding their world view with purpose. This would be an excellent starting point.

  2. ogremkv says:

    Sure, just keep my name on it. I’m honored.
    BTW: I thought of a good, practical experiment too. Many people eat the same ice cream that they grew up with. So ask them if they have always eaten the same ice cream and why. Then have an experiment party where everyone brings a different ice cream and do some taste tests.
    If even one person finds a flavor or brand that they like better, it’s a huge win.
    Ice cream is not nearly as contentious as abortion (for example).

  3. I’d forgotten about that Niven quote – thanks for reminding me!

  4. Brandy J. says:

    Fun! I love doing hands-on activities, and ice cream is yum. 😉 It could also incorporate a small persuasive element where each kid has to make a case for their flavor before sharing, Collaboration rocks! Thanks for the ideas!!.

  5. Eugen says:

    Good stuff, you should a religious man.

  6. ogremkv says:

    Meh, reality is so much cooler… and more frustrating.

  7. Eugen says:

    Yes, specially when we don’t even know what reality is.

  8. ogremkv says:

    No, it’s pretty obvious what reality is. If this is the matrix or something, then we’re being lied to so effectively that it doesn’t matter whether this is reality or not. Just like God. If God created the universe as described in the Bible (or Allah from the Koran or Coyote from American Indian myth), then he/she/it is lying to us so effectively, that it doesn’t matter.

  9. Eugen says:

    I think it’s second and I just wonder how is it done. According to physics books I read it does appear we are dealing with some sort of matrix. Better stuff than any sci-fi.

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