Sunday, December 27, 2015

Just Asking a Question

     I was sitting in bed the other night reading Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, the 1999 Booker-prize-winning novel about a South African "communications" professor who leads a life that's pretty empty of meaning ... and pays a heavy price for it. There must have been something Coetzee wrote that triggered my curiosity.

     Whatever it was, it made me look up from my book, turn to B and ask, "So tell me what you think. If we went to sleep tonight and woke up 50 years from now, would we find that the country is better off than it is now, or worse off?

     She thought for a moment, then said ...

     Well, what do you think? Will all our problems be solved, or will we have a lot of the same problems, plus a bunch of new ones?

     B is not a cynic; she has a relatively sunny personality; she is not a negative thinker. But it didn't take her long to answer: "Worse off."

     I didn't say anything. I just went back to reading my book, and then fell asleep. But her response disturbed me. I admit I do not go around from day to day thinking deep thoughts, or worrying about the future. But I guess I just assume that we will solve the issues around global warming, energy and the environment. I believe that 50 years from now ISIS will be a history trivia question, that most people will be living longer and better lives. Am I being naive?

21 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

Though science may be able to fix many of the problems you mentioned I don't think people are as mentally tough as they use to be, less self-reliant and expecting that other will solve their problems. So I think things will be worse.

DJan said...

The world will be worse off for, if nothing else, the population explosion! I hope you're right, but I fear B is. :-(

Jono said...

The technology will make things easier as long as the grid doesn't collapse, but human judgement and behavior have not made great leaps yet. We are still the same species we have been for the last 100,000 years and I doubt we have the will to change. We have the ability, but the desire is not universal. Sometimes, to make a point, I will tell people that I will likely be dead in 20 years and don't care what happens to humans and the planet. I then tell them, "but I don't have any children." All I can do is wish the human race good luck for the future.

Cindi said...

If you want to predict the future just look at the past. I've been watching the old movies (1936 etc.) on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) this past week and I came to this conclusion: nothing has changed. Same problems. Different day. Don't believe me? Think about the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life"........people back then were worrying about bank runs, failures, foreclosures, losing their home or their savings......Big Banks were in charge. Has anything changed? Nope. The middles class still struggle and have money woes.
From my college days back in the 1970's we all were worried about terrorism and the middle east. Has that changed 45 years later???? We're still worrying about the nuclear bomb! Think: Iran has one now!
Technology may change but has it made life any easier? Are we working less or more? Do we still mumble about the price of eggs? the cost of housing? Do we still have the poor and infirmed? Have we abolished hunger?

It is sad but really, nothing has changed. And I don't think our future will either in 50 years. Except maybe we'll all have an iPhone implanted inside our brains. :) And robots changing our tires and cleaning our homes. Other than technolgy, I think 50 years from now will just be more of the same old, same old.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

Never pays to dwell on the future. None of us has a crystal ball. Well I do, but that's a different story. Live for today and don't try to clean up the wreckage of an unknown future. Change is all around us and no one, not even scientists are in control and/or can predict what will happen.

Barbara Torris said...

I am the sunny disposition person that could sit next to B and have a wonderful conversation. What popped into my head when I read the question was "how could it get any better."

I suppose my parents wondered the same thing though. In fact, there is an ebb and flow in our world. The thing I am very certain of is that it will be different. In many ways my life is not as good as my parents yet it is so much better. The things that matter will not change. Love, family, and the ability to live on what we have and make it perfect will always be the most important parts of our life. Material comforts are not.

Very thought provoking I think. Thank you Tom.

b+

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

It will be determined by a few at the top as has been the way for centuries. And there will continue to be gaps with lack of enough. food, clean water and education. Capitalism may collapse as we know it but another form of management will appear. Fuel might come from samd as experiments are pointing in that direction.The climate may force changes in construction and location of housing as water, wind fire and storms rage hacoc. But where was it written our species would be able to live on for milleniums to come?
Yet I am sure people will carry on their family ways and community ways as culture permits it 50 years from now. It will be our grandkids' generation for many of us.
Looking back 50 years we were in the 1960's. Since then media access changed how fast we get information and I get to enjoy your post as long as it can be beamed and retrieved.
Happy New Year to you and B.

Tabor said...

Personally I think it is a roller coaster ride. But odds are we will resolve some of our problems better and learn to live with the others.

Snowbrush said...

Tom, I’ve been reading comments you made on other blogs, and while I found several that I agreed with completely and couldn’t have worded better (yes, I am vain about my writing), I didn’t find any that I disagreed with. Will you be my brother?

However, I strongly disagree with you here, and am therefore with B (she can be my sister). We’re screwed, having evolved in some ways but not in others that are essential if we’re to survive our own technology. It’s just too bad that we’re taking millions of other species to hell with us.

Maybe B’s sunny disposition allows her to survive her negative outlook better than I’m able to do. The only comfort I can find is that, given how old we are, I and those I love will be dead before things like WW-3 and mass starvation start to occur.

Linda Myers said...

I know things will be different. Remember the Jetsons show from the 60s? Those gadgets were based on what people thought the future would be at that time. See any iPhones, any Internet, any DNA genome sequencing in that show? Huge, planet-changing things that weren't in anybody's consciousness at that time.

We can look at a dim future if we assume we'll keep going along the same way as we are now. Otherwise, it's up for grabs. But I don't think we'll keep going on the same way.

Sally Wessely said...

Things will be different. To be honest, I think there is another question that must be solved first. If you look at the news, everyone has a different idea on what the problem with our society is. If you look at the country and ask if it will be better or worse in 50 years, then I think we must define what better would look like. In my opinion, if the country continues on the course it seems to be taking with becoming more and more biased against other people groups, if continues on its course of xenophobia, it will be much worse off.

Barbara said...

Love it. I feel like I'm back in the 60s trying to figure out all the problems of the world - or at least around me. I prefer to be positive also. It will not be what we think. There will be some things better and somethings worse. Most likely when we destroy the planet people will "long for the days." That's about the only thing I'm sure will happen.

Tom Sightings said...

Snowbrush, I would be very disappointed if you agreed with me completely all the time. Barbara, As far as our parents go, I think it may come down to expectations. Objectively speaking, I live a better life than my parents; but they grew up in the Depression and had lower expectations, and therefore I think they FELT more successful than I ever have. And Dianne, I sure would like to see that crystal ball of yours!

gigihawaii said...

We will be living on the Moon, because the earth will be destroyed 50 years from now.

Snowbrush said...

“I would be very disappointed if you agreed with me completely all the time.”

Oooh, I wouldn't want to disappoint you, so what say we disagree about the desirability of always agreeing! Or else, we could agree that it’s desirable to disagree, although we wouldn’t actually disagree, and we could therefore view our agreement as a serious flaw, and set about to find some area of disagreement—dogs versus cats, or cornflakes versus oatmeal, for example.

Seriously, I read upwards of ten of your comments on other blogs was struck that you reflected my thoughts so well, and IT WAS FUN to find that in someone. I don't take it to mean anything other than that we agree on such positions as I happened to come across, an occurrence that is fairly unusual in my experience.

Anonymous said...

I'm with DJan. We humans are already into modes that reflect the stresses of overpopulation - at least modes that were induced in animals by stressful situations. We are our own worst enemies.
Cop Car

Janette said...

I look at my grandchildren and think, " It will be better for them. Different, but better." Some people it will not go well for, but those who have a developed intellect and sense of humor will live and thrive in the great new world. I don't think over population will be an issue, for the same reasons. The idea that we are finally on the verge of real renewable resources excites me.
As for the Jetsons, Linda, my facetime with the West coast grands is often in a disguise- just like the mom when using her "tv phone". Hover crafts are closer then ever- drones!

Anonymous said...

Over at EconLog, there's a long-standing meme of trying to remember what things were *really* like 50 years ago. "Cost of living" doesn't account for the idea that tires on my car last 60,000 miles. In 1970, I'd seldom get 10,000. The "breakthrough technology from IBM" of 1973 advertised to the public on TV was a Selectric Typewriter. The cost of a stable product (example: a Sears catalog mens 3-piece suit) is fewer hours of labor for a median salary worker today than in 1975. Our houses are more than twice as big. Getting a car to last 50,000 miles was astounding.

In every decade, there are a list of insoluble problems. We work our way around them. We solve them differently. The crushing problem of one era becomes irrelevant to later people.

Global warming? It's going to happen. The disastrous consequences forecast? Probably not. I cannot envision ten years in the future. I won't try 50. There will be massive problems, but they are unlikely to be the ones we forecast today.

HappinessSavouredHot (Julie Saint-Mleux) said...

I hope you are right. Without optimism, we are nothing. At the same time, I believe each and every one of us must do what they can to make the world a better place. There is always a way.

Jane said...

There are some problems we will be passing on to the younger generation...environmental, population and a global economy...but mostly I am optimistic. We are a more tolerant, generous society now with broader horizons. Young people are so hard working and aware of the importance of helping others.

Anonymous said...

"the more things change. . . " It will be the same, but different. At our stage of life, it's normal to think "the world is going to hell in a hand basket."
I listen to numerous friends who do nothing but complain. Things will never be as good as they were when we were (insert your preferred age. This is as it has always been & always will be.