The future seems to increasingly intrude on us as summer ebbs and fall gathers on the horizon.
In its September issue Scientific American asks scientists and academics several questions about what they think will occur in the future. Inevitably, their answers are predicated on a long perspective but interestingly their educated predictions share a hopefulness about what’s to come.
One always learns something when William Gibson gives an interview.
Not simply specific thoughts and artistic observations, but how he sees today’s and tomorrow’s world and our human condition.
In a political season that rages against a backdrop of transformational social, economic and technological change, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety and decline that is affecting the body politic.
Hostility towards elites, anger about social inequality and racial oppression, growing nativism, and economic displacement caused by globalization and technological innovation, are driving public discourse and propelling politics in unprecedented directions.
A couple of recent accounts of social disenfranchisement offer some rationale for where we find ourselves today as a people and society. Understanding where we’ve come from and where we find ourselves now, so that we may better anticipate and influence where we’re going, seems critically important in challenging times.
The science of cool, a moving target, socially defined and by definition constantly changing.
The neuroscience of “cool”
From Quartz: we continue to buy a lot of stuff but don’t want to pay full price for it.
And despite having so much our sense of anxiety and uncertainty, and a vague sense of dissatisfaction, is not assuaged.
Nobody in the US wants to pay full price for clothes anymore
Are we consuming too much?
The 100th anniversary of the Somme Campaign recalls the unprecedented horror in which a million British, French and German soldiers were killed or wounded between July and November 1916. The British alone suffered 60,000 casualties on July 1st.
The Battle of the Somme is in many ways the inflection point dividing imperial 19th Century Europe from what would become the bloodbath and charnel house of the 20th Century. A new and unimaginably lethal modern warfare on a massive scale became reality. Wholesale death, total destruction and incomprehensible human suffering, would become almost routine in Europe and across the globe. The old world was smashed and the new one emerged shellshocked and delusional from the mud.
Today we see stuttering newsreels and photographs that reveal the ghosts of men, living and dying, amid shattered landscapes in a ruined world in which everything has been reduced to rubble and mud. We can see the monuments on the battlefields, in Europe’s great Capital cities, and in every village in England and the continent. We can pause to read their long lists of young men’s names on achingly sad memorials.
What’s it going to be?
Do we value the past more than the future?
Do we embrace ambiguity and manage the anxieties inherent in the future and move forward with confidence and optimism?
Or do we hunker down, take cover and hope our warm memories of the past can somehow be restored and ameliorate the harsh present – to protect us, sooth us and inoculate us from uncertainty.
Living is hard and will always be. There are strong currents, myriad distractions and ubiquitous risk. We will die.
But things inevitably change and we do too. Let’s not be dragged down by nostalgia and sentimentality. Focus on purpose with clarity and honesty.
Don’t lose hope and keep the faith.
The Overwhelming Decade