An optimistic view of the future

In Posts on May 31, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Humanity in the 20th century withstood repeated global war, the aggressive expansion of two persuasive but ultimately horrific political systems, unprecedented strain on Earth’s resources, and the rapid diffusion of the first technology ever to threaten our survival as a species. And yet, eleven years into the next century, the unmistakable trend among most human populations is toward longer lives, concern for human rights, and a shared access to both the truths of science and the accumulated wisdom of world culture. Since optimism is so rarely practiced in persuasive writing, it might be interesting to describe what we can hope for in the coming century if humanity continues to meet its challenges so well.

We will see the end of predatory, autocratic government, as improving social and economic infrastructure facilitates the continued expansion of human dignity. China, which we presently use to keep ourselves up at night, will continue to modernize until its growing middle class forces a convulsive liberalization; it and other emerging powers will compete primarily economically in a generally benign multipolar world of liberal powers bound by economic ties, resulting in a steadily improving world quality of life. Resource and climate pressures—a major concern—will prove manageable, as necessity sparks the innovativeness and political will to mitigate them. World population will stabilize with general affluence; a more balanced international economic system will make conspicuous consumption and ecological excess (as practiced particularly in the US) more costly and less tenable than at present; and values will continue to shift toward postmaterialism—all leading to a permanently sustainable human relationship with the environment. As with fascism, communism, and slavery in the recent past, humanity will continue to transcend unproductive political and social movements, including religious fundamentalism, oppression of women, racism, and even hardheaded nationalism if it means unnecessary callousness toward foreigners.

Also, one slightly more specific prediction: Western psychology is still shockingly crude, and is due for a massive breakthrough (which I suspect will come partly from understanding and replicating the psychological and neurochemical effects of meditation). Future psychology could make contemporary mental illnesses and their present treatment seem like medieval horrors, and might even help us directly address the fundamental dissatisfactions and insecurities that cause most other human misery. That’s the hope, anyway—comments and jaded lectures on the badness of things welcome.

  1. Honey:
    When i clicked on the large “add a response”, for a split second i got this response page, but then it took me back to the text of what you wrote. Only when i clicked on the small “add a response” did i get this one. It’s possible people want to respond, but can’t because of the glitch.
    The weight of history is against your pollyanna approach. I am reminded of the beginning of the twentieth century and the flourishing of the machine age. America under Teddy Roosevelt was just beginning to see their benefits and how they could develop the vast resources of America. It was a heady time. Within 15 years, the systenatmatic slaughter of multi millions, military and civilian, began as a result of the efficacy of the very machines and resources that had been developed.
    Many people do meditation, but a vanishingly small number realize the mind it is intended to uncover. Like the machines, the glory of the Dharma, as disclosed by meditation, is already being seriously distorted with materialism in the Western world, as it has been in the Eastern one.
    Gautama Buddha died 2500 years ago. He clearly defined the problems with the human condition and their remedies. What percent of the world population do you think truly follows the precepts of the Buddha at the present time?
    Those who engineer designer neuro chemicals will do so for good as well as egocentered purposes. They will heighten the animal as well as the angel as serves their purposes.
    My vision of the future is a world with more countries, each serving a particular ethnic group. They will be vying with each other for survival, financially and militarily. Those who run them will never relinquish the power they attained to any larger international agencies and with nukes to back them, no one will have the courage to impose their will on them.
    The world will become more global financially and the wealthy, as you presently see, will become an international group, rich beyond any ability to measure. The divide between them and the rest will increase, as it already has, and we will return to a feudal system where the poor and middle class will become their labor. This surf class will be more and more vulnerable because of the pressure of cheaper labor throughout the world, which will force them to work for less and less. Truly international unions will not arise for a very long time, if ever, because the rulers of the countries will be bought off by the global super rich, much as the railroads bought off politicians in Teddy Roosevelt’s time.
    In summary, although the world will appear to be a different place as technology changes it, the human instincts to power will remain the same, and the human drama will unfold as it always has. And it is always possible that with the unstoppable proliferation of nukes, the drama will become a Greek tragedy: mankind destroyed by unrestrained hubris.
    Much more could be said, such as the elimination of wild creatures and the wilds they live in, with the exception of a few “preserves”, as more countries clamor for resources. The list goes on.
    Sweetheart, you are young, and the young see things hopefully, and i am thankful for that. The world needs that kind of energy, but a look at history(a must) will temper that hopefulness with the critical aspect required to transmute hope into beneficial action. Dad

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