Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Twenty Fourteen

So, it's twenty fourteen. It's the year that in an article published in the New York Times fifty years ago, Isaac Asimov, an American scientist made a list of predictions of what he thought the year 2014 would look like. Interestingly, some of Asimov's predictions are spot on, such as his prediction that "communication will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone," a guess that has manifested in technologies such as the Facetime feature on iPhones and Skype and other technologies that allow us talk and see the person on the other end in real time. Moreover, Asimov rightly guessed that screens would be used for looking at pictures, studying and examining documents. Surely, Asimov was right about some things, but for all his insight, he could not have foreseen some of the changes five decades would produce.

The world in 2014 is vastly different than it was five or even ten years ago, and in all nothing has wrought more change and some disruption in the manner that social media has. I'm old enough to remember a time when social media was non existent and when news, good or bad was shared in person, via letters in the mail, or over a phone conversation. Now, even so called hallowed news is shared over social media. The personal touch is slowly fading away and new technology is replacing the old way of doing things. I still prefer talking in person and making phone calls because a lot of nuances can be lost in translation via a series of emojis and impersonal text messaging. Last year when I received news that I had passed the Texas bar examination, I made sure I called every member of my family and close friends to share the news. A mass text would have been easier but felt too impersonal. Now I see sonograms and engagement rings on Facebook and that is slowly becoming the new normal. The pictures and posts on social media scream, "consider yourself informed," and too bad if it doesn't come up in your news feed.

Like Asimov, I would like to predict what I think the world might look like in fifty years, but I think that task was easier in his time. I can't even give a semi decent predication for what the world might look like or be like next week. I cannot even keep up with new releases from the Apple store, much less tell what might happen on Tuesday next week. The world today is so terribly unpredictable and I think it is so because human nature seems to be more regressive than progressive these days. It is sad to think that in 2013 people were playing the "knockout game," where teenagers or young adults attempt to knock an individual flat on the floor in one fell swoop or that teenage girls were twerking or that R. Kelly was still singing about panties and radio stations were playing his songs or that in South Sudan humans were killing one another. The nature of the modern day human makes predictions or rather positive predictions challenging.

What is odd though is that individually there is a push for inward growth but collectively humanity does not seem to be achieving that state of utopia. If anything we seem to be moving more towards a state of anarchy. There have never been more self help books or conferences of the same than in our time. Never been so many messages on prosperity or feel good sermons. We are told that we can be anything and do anything and while this is true, humans are much more depraved than ever before. People often say things get a lot worse before they get better, but that does not seem to be the story of modern day humanity. I surely wouldn't dismiss personal growth or look askance at collective efforts to better humanity because we need those self help messages. We need those sermons that massage our pain and smooth out deep wrinkles. But in spite of them, we are still going to have a body count from Afghanistan at the end of the year and these bodies are deaths caused by other humans.

So, what will the next fifty years look like? It will be a spectrum of amazing technologies we never dreamed possible. The next fifty years might bring advances in medicine that cure cancer and regenerate neurons that fix spinal injuries. But who has the cure for the ailments of the soul and will humanity ever be truly progressive whatever it means to be such? Predicting new technologies is easy, but the world might be a better place if we can predict that we will be more compassionate, for after all isn't that what real progress should look like?


  1. Very nice blog! Yes, the technology will be crazy but yes, it does seem like humans aren't progressing.

  2. Awww.. very well written Harriet