As I write it is 2 January 2024. In the past year I’ve been asked why I’m optimistic about the future. An while the answer is not particularly complex I have found it hard to explain to others. After much thought I’ve come to understand it comes down to two things. I know the history of what we thought the future will be like and I know the history of doom I have personally lived thru.
Let’s start with the History of the future and by that I mean what did we think the future would be like back in the day. The two pictures above show to distinct images of the future. One from around 1920 and one from 1973. The top one is wildly optimistic and the other is wildly pessimistic. Both are quite inaccurate in their vision. I can go on and on with examples and I invite the reader to try looking for their own for examples. They are surprisingly easy to find.
My second reason for being optimistic is I have personally lives thru three “we are DOOMED” events. Back when I was just a boy (1950s) it was the “Atomic Bomb”. Quite a few of the SF movies of the era delt with both the “Atomic War” and or it’s aftermath. Some, like “On the Beach” were very well done. Others like “Panic in the Year Zero” not very good at all. Most were made to be “B” reel movies. Like the movies, the written SF of the time that dealt with “Atomic War” tended to be only fair to poor and were mostly pulp fiction. They all had a few things in common. First the “Atomic War” was inevitable. Next nobody wanted it and last “It just Happened”. An finally it almost always ended up where everything was “Bad”, with wildly varying degrees of ‘Bad’. As of this writing the “Atomic War” has yet to happen.
The next, second, “we are DOOMED” even started in the 1960’s, over population and is in the second of my images above. I selected “Soylent Green” because it is set in the ‘far distant future of 2022’. None of what it predicted has come to pass. Although we do seem to be working our way to the ‘permanent heat wave’ of the story. There have not been as many movies/stories about the “over population crisis” as the “Atomic Bomb crisis” but it was not as “flashy” as an atomic explosion.
The third and last event was the short lived “Ozone Layer”. This “Dooms Day” event could be easily missed if you blinked hard as it was going by. Needless to say the Ozone Lay is still with us.
We are now in a new “We are Doomed” crisis with “Climate Change (AKA Global warming). I don’t know how we are going to solve this one, thankfully it is not my job or responsibility. An that brings me to why I’m optimistic. It is simple, I have faith that the up and coming generations will find solutions to their problems just like mine found solutions to its “crisis” events. I feel this way because they are just like my generation it what is important. They don’t know what is impossible. They do not accept that there are “Insolvable Problems” and they, like us, are ready, willing an able to tackle what comes their way.
Now don’t ask me what the solutions they will find will be or look like, I don’t have a clue. But I do know it will most likely not look like, if even be, what we can imagine today. That is why I have the first picture. To show how right and wrong our current visions are. We have the video phone, and no, they don’t look or work like anything imagined back then. But it will happen and it will be wondrous.