May 26th, 2006


Failure to think ahead

The theme this year at Burning Man is "Hope and Fear: The Future." I've been trying to think of a good project. It would have to be something that doesn't involve carpentry, welding, fabrication, or any of the other skills typically required to create something that will last a week in the desert and longer in people's minds. I am basically a baboon. An unskilled baboon.

Q: What does the future look like to you?

Nothing, honestly. When I stare into space and try to project my gaze into 20 years from now, nothing appears. It's a character flaw maybe. I've been trying to reason it out though. Here are some assumptions I have about the future & futurology. These all seem pretty obvious.

1. Our overall vision of the future will inevitably end up seeming quaint and retro, like The Jetsons.

2. There will be huge, paradigm-shifting, revolutionary changes that we completely fail to anticipate (this ties into assumption 1) Example: the Internet.

3. Tribal warfare will never go away, ever.

4. Everything will keep getting more virtual. Like that phrase from Marx, "all that is solid melts into air." It seems like already money is mostly just numbers in some database somewhere. My salary gets direct deposited, I pay for stuff with debit card, it's all just abstract representation of value. This happened in our lifetimes with music, too-- it used to be tied to some physical artifact like a record or CD, but now it's just mp3s on a computer. You don't really need to do anything more than download. I wonder what will become intangible next? Relationships maybe? You could argue that this is impossible. I guess it depends on whether or not you think you can really be friends with someone you've never met... say, on Livejournal.

5. In spite of our modern times, religious loonies will continue to periodically flare into power, and new psuedo-science/cults of personality will emerge. How often do we have these Great Awakenings in the US? There was that one way back when, when Cotton Mather was preaching about sinners in the hands of an angry god and townies would gather to recommit to Christ. It seems like we're in the middle of another one right now.

6. The human race will go extinct sooner rather than later in cosmological terms. Eventually the sun will go supernova right? But way before then, we'll all perish in some kind of manmade catastrophe (either nuclear war or some kind of bio-engineered virus.) This is maybe the least obvious thing that I believe, and maybe the most depressing. But I do believe it. Whatevs, in the long run we're all dead, but it doesn't mean we should give up.