One of the more interesting elements of our interesting times is the great ongoing divergence between western society and the technological wonders it remains prone to produce. I have seen this remarked upon nowhere, though it seems unlikely to have escaped notice. For as long as my own historical knowledge perceives, society has traced an arc very much in sympathy with the inventions and innovations that issue from it. As our expertise in all disciplines has flowered, our civilization has benefited. Innumerable advances in engineering, agriculture, science, and medicine, have nearly all–radically or incrementally–filtered into the sediment of society. And in their wake, we have come to live healthier, safer, cleaner, and more productive lives abounding in heretofore inconceivable options for distraction.
It always seemed reasonable to assume a Jetsons existence would naturally follow its engineering capability. That we could all lead lives of cheap and easy abundance, with robotic maids, flying cars, and homes insulated from outside peril. A man on the moon today, men in the clouds tomorrow. Continuity of trajectory. One foot follows the other.
I believe this parallel trend has concluded.
Technological advancements will persist. The bell curve’s razor right flank will ensure it. Visionary minds will continue to conjure what seems only as magic today. Perhaps some of their offerings will even be worthwhile. Of course, many will not. Maybe even a few of these brilliant minds will deploy their wealth to advance their posterity’s future. Of course, many will not. Though whether they have the means to actually experience them, our children will see astonishing advances. In science and technology. Health and longevity. Engineering and computing…perhaps even the singularity. Though of course the greatest proliferation will occur in doodads. Microscopic, embeddable computers. Smart everything. Perhaps augmentations of both body and mind. Hologram movies, games; and virtual sex offering simulated physical interaction–almost like we used to do it. If the US can temper its insatiable yearning for mushroom clouds, the future will amaze.
God help us.
For society’s lingering presence in technology’s shadow has come to an end. As we advance deeper into technical knowledge, societal livability and quality–will deteriorate. There will be more crowding, more pollution, more corruption, and far more tribal friction. There will be less social capital, trust, courtesy, and ungated communities. There will be less water, unsoiled environment, unbeaten schoolchildren, and unbribed politicians. There will be more surveillance, more state vs nation, more inflation, and more violent crime. Life will become getting safely to a destination, not a journey.
And these misery metrics will usurp those related to quality in step behind advancing technology. I expect tomorrow’s cities will dazzle in their dichotomy. The rich, connected, and sinecured occupying various tranches of bunker opulence, surrounded by sullen favelas in dirty squalor. The former forced into ever more lucrative welfare bribes and entertainment to keep the latter out of their hand-carved lattice-work. The wealthy will live comfortably in gilded cages…the rest will endure the open air. Those relegated to bean-based communities will suffer predation without support from either community or state.
As we speak of the state, those ensconced within its labyrinths will at least lead lives of protein consumption. Law enforcement will largely retreat into its omniscience nodes, dispatching tactical squads only when government offices or apparatus are imperiled. Citizen security will be their own affair–except in those instances when conflict results in an impermissible who/whom casualty. Of this officials and the media will take keen note.
Necessities will rise in cost as trinkets fall. Food, water, and fossil fuels will become quite expensive relative to incomes. Lives, in contrast, will be much cheaper. Crime will be spontaneous, vicious, and constant. Inter-racial strife will occur wherever boundaries are in dispute. And those disputes will be continual as demographics shift with the surge of the incoming human tide. Public hospitals will be squalid, bloody…and bustling. The image of children happily playing in a safe, homogenous community will be a thing of only memory or wealth. Conscientious mothers will have their cherished offspring within walls, or under roofs.
Our grandchildren will probably be shuttled to destinations in computer-guided cars while interacting with holograms of distant people, real or contrived. Only to emerge into dangerous, dilapidated urban jungles, with stripped skyscrapers standing as silent cenotaphs to a civilization that was.
Technology will continue its inertial arc while sufficient human drivers still remain. The society that undergirds it will not.
You in Europe and Australia still have a choice as to your future. Consider making it.