74. How Will We Be Regarded?

I don’t know whether our great-grandchildren will be either great or grand.

They are likely to live far more modestly and less comfortably than we have. I often wonder how they will look back on us? Will we be remembered as rather naïve and self-absorbed primates? I suspect they may harbor a number of resentments after the break-up of the global fiscal system and the disastrous flooding of many small island states around the world.

As human beings we tend to react emotionally to personal threats rather than to political or economic ones. Violations of human rights produce deeper responses in us than bank frauds or environmental pollution. Personally, when I now look back on 20th Century history, I feel distressed by the loss of my Dutch relatives who were killed by the Nazis. I still bear the after-effects of my time in an internment camp. Such experiences are more profoundly lodged in my mind than the first press accounts of distant horrors of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Today the brutality of ISIS has a far stronger personal impact than the Greek economic crisis. I suspect that our progeny are also likely to be more aware of their immediate challenges than looking back on the perversities of past generations.

Fortunately they are unlikely to experience the tortures we have endured in the dentist chair!

Today, I marvel at how quickly television conquered the world and how swiftly the public air-waves were snatched up by capitalist speculators. I am also astounded by the speed with which the internet developed and how it has revolutionized the world we live in. I am also filled with anxiety by the way advances in technology and science have been exploited by commercial developers. By 2065 technology will most likely have surpassed our human ability to control it and that generation may have come to passively accept this.

Looking forward I can only offer intuitive guesswork on how 18 year olds some fifty years from now will evaluate our generation, its brilliant innovators, its greedy billionaires and its less than charismatic leaders. I pray that they will also have a sense of humor which will enable them to giggle when they sit on the by-then antique exhale sofas of the ‘austere’ 2010s. Most probably they will be bored by the punctuality of yore and they will wonder at the jewel-encrusted Swiss time-pieces worn by those grandparents who had been CEOs.

Theirs is going to be quite a different world: Where we have celebrated the “biggest” and the tallest, their focus will be on nano-technology where the smaller, the smallest, the miniature and the microscopic may be most admired. Their emphasis may also turn to durability and quality. They are likely to look back at the hip-hop days, when a new app was on the market every few months, with bemusement.

I shall lead off with speculations on their critiques of our bewildering “turn of the millennium” society:

  1. “Them wuz selfish bastards, rapin the planet, gobblin up everythin,” was one response. No consideration for us. They polluted the air, the water, the soil and burned carbon fuels as if there was no tomorrow. We survivors now live in a hotter, stormier and unpleasantly dangerous planet because of them!
  2. Those Anglo-Saxons and Europeans were incredibly ignorant and made lots of stupid decisions- particularly regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  3. How could our ancestors have failed to make back-up systems for the vast storage of information. Previous civilizations stored their information on paper. Why did they not provide for a back-up system in case of violent solar flares?
  4. Why did those old timers not let artificial intelligence make all the truly serious decisions as it does for us?
  5. How could their economists have permitted corporate capitalism to run rampant with such terrible consequences for the vast majority of people on this planet?
  6. Over-population is a nightmare: our globe is so painfully crowded and polluted that many of us would like to leave this planet. Going about with gas-masks is no fun. It’s all because so many of them didn’t practice contraception.
  7. Why on earth did their old-time leaders let the Chinese dictatorship become the dominating world power?
  8. Why were clean fusion power plants not installed earlier by international governments?
  9. Why were such grating economic inequalities dumped on us?
  10. Did those curators of old really think they were doing us a favor by leaving us with museums filled with their “conceptual” junk which they were pretending was art?

***                             ***                           ***

On the positive side of their appraisals, despite possibly lower levels of curiosity, their brief attention spans and their lack of interest in history or even such human characteristics as wisdom, they are likely to favorably consider some of the things they inherited from us:

  1. Our great-grandchildren (GG) may bless automation and robots for saving them from boring and meaningless occupations.
  2. They may be grateful that the quality of on-line education has consistently improved even in their own generation.
  3. The GG may appreciate the advancements which made artificially manufactured nourishment for billions of people.
  4. They might be grateful for the insertion of intelligence implants in their brains which so improved communications between humans.
  5. The GG are likely to be thankful for the use of much simpler language which will replace the incomprehensibly long-winded vocabulary of previous eras.
  6. They may be much relieved that the religious beliefs of the past no longer have an impact on their daily lives.
  7. The GG might be relieved that the planet’s Muslim populations have finally abandoned their commitment to jihads which had been so devastating.
  8. They are likely accept as normal that the advances of antibiotics and genetic manipulation have eliminated most communicable diseases.
  9. The GG may take for granted the joyful freedom in sexual relations which earlier generations had denied for reasons of morality, custom, or fear of pregnancy or disease.

I suspect that the mixed advances in space exploration (not mentioned in the above listings) may arouse reactions not so different from those of the ancient Egyptians who toiled for the construction of the pyramids. Retrospectively, both populations would have been partially entranced by the prospects, and depressed by the sacrifices, involved in such demanding projects. In sum, 3,000+ years made huge differences for civilizations — but left much to be desired for most of the inhabitants.

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