December 06, 2012

5. Back to Blood. (Apologies to Tom Wolfe there.) As religious belief declines and the last trailing wisps of Marxist historicism fade away into the clear blue sky, we may revert to seeing each other not as immortal souls possessed of unalienable rights, or atoms of history destined to coalesce in justice and equality, but in the harsh cold light of biology, as gene machines self-organized in tribes. I think this is Nietzsche territory. I have never been sure I understand what Nietzsche was on about, and every time I quote him, a howling mob of Nietzscheans descends on my email inbox to tell me I’ve got the old boy totally wrong, so I’ll leave this to the commenters.

6. Fundiefication. Human fertility is cratering well-nigh everywhere except among religious fundamentalists. Eric Kaufmann wrote a book about this, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, which I reviewed here. Kaufmann argues that they shall. It’s a better prospect than an asteroid strike, and I’ve set it below the Darwin/Nietzsche scenario on my direness scale; but given the historical track record of seriously religious societies, it is not really to be gleefully anticipated…unless you’re a Fundie, I suppose.

7. Idiocracy. You’ve seen the movie, now contemplate the possibility. It’s a great future for people who like TV, savage music, self-abuse, and charismatic minority presidents“€”which is to say, most people.

8. Hedonia. Not to be confused with Idiocracy; there are lots of smart people around in Hedonia. They don’t get much done, though, other than satisfying their appetites, high or low. Hedonia, envisaged in various forms by E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Arthur C. Clarke, and Andrew Stanton, is culturally static. Getting to Hedonia may not require any radical social transformation.

9. Pinkerization. The trend of declining violence Steven Pinker identified in his most recent book (my review here) may continue indefinitely. Pinker does not himself predict this, but you never know. We may become a planet of smiley-face Walmart greeters. Have a nice day! A slight variant”€”Pinker Lite, as it were”€”has us not becoming ever kinder-‘n’-gentler, but not going Back to Blood, either. Perhaps the world will chug along more or less as it is for a few hundred years. Civilizations aren’t always rising or falling; sometimes they just coast.

10. Galactic Colonization. We crack the problem of interstellar travel (yes, I know, it’s a really hard problem) and off we go, flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to new homes all over the galaxy.

Derb’s Prediction. So what gets my vote?

None of the above. I predict Other.

The future is smarter than you or me. It laughs at our silly speculations. Eighty years ago most of the world’s intelligentsia believed the future would be a communist utopia. Nowadays that belief looks so quaintly absurd, I didn’t even bother to include it in my top ten.

All we see in the crystal ball are broken images.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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