Wednesday, January 16, 2013
If this goes on
There's an old Science Fiction trope: if this goes on. A S/F writer takes a current trend and extends it far into the future.
We get a disillusioned writer who in 1948 writes “1984.” Sadly, he appears to have been more right than wrong. Thanks for the warning anyway, George Orwell.
Then we got all those writers who watched the space race and predicted that the average Joe would be traveling through space by now.
Predicting how things will finally end up is a chancy business, but that doesn't stop us from trying.
Never before has so much information been available. One would think that predicting future events would be easier than ever. There is too much. It's easy to focus on a handful of factors and miss out on other developments that trump established trends.
Then there is the issue of backlash. Before something can reach it's ultimate final expression, society gets fed up and does a 180.
“If this goes on,” works better in static societies. Tyrants in static societies have a much easier time ruling as future trends are pretty much like past trends. In fact, it's a tyrant's best interest to keep a society backward. There are times I wonder if whole fields of inquiry have been quietly silenced to prevent chaos from entering the equations of social management.
With all the hazards inherent with the practice, it's still tempting to play the game. We follow the news and can't help but wonder how it will all turn out. If a trend has been playing out for a long time, it's easy to assume the future will bring more of the same.
As for me, I'm trying to cut back on the “If this goes on” game. Instead, I'm betting on disruptive technologies, unforeseen natural events, new social movements, changes in societal norms, backlashes -the whole chaotic mess.
Speculating about the future, bases on past trends, can be a loser's game. It's like preparing for years to deal with worse and worse drought, only to lose your house in a flood.
It's human nature to expect trends to continue, as they often do -at least for a while. That being said, let's ask ourselves, “What if this does not go on?” Are you prepared to surf the chaos? Some will refuse to see new realities before it's too late. They are psychologically invested in “If this goes on.” Survivors and opportunists are alert to sea changes, those times when the past and future have a definite break.