For instance (and because I'm self-conscious about this): what do I even mean by "the future?" People are always thinking about the future: tonight's dinner, a coat of paint for the house, college for the kids... Everything's about the future; what sense making it a separate topic? What's up with treating it like something new?
So one way to think about "the future" is skepticism at the term. What assumptions is someone smuggling in under such a generality? Will they use it to excuse themselves from common sense in some way? On the other hand I'm being slightly disingenuous and dramatic because of course I think there's a Future.
Turning around now, my instinctive response to any two-sentence dismissal or debunking of a popular belief or concept, is to wonder how the supposed debunking can be used to clarify just what the wisdom in the popular wisdom is, so:
The difference between The Future and tonight's dinner is that people have planned a lot of dinners before. The Future is what's unprecedented, and not just the random exact placement of an almond sliver on a green bean, but, well there's an html thingie for a Spanish Inquisition of things like this:
- unprecidented--at least to most people
- coming soon to a theater near you
- important--at least to a lot of us
- non-random and possible to think about in useful chunks
Do you know the answer to that one? It doesn't do to just dismiss all the crazies and worriers-- especially if you think that anyone who isn't worried isn't paying attention. Change really seems to be happening faster, while our lifetimes are getting longer, so that more times more is being stuffed into our brains. "The future" seems to be defined by what's difficult to think about. Sometimes it's a demon who carefully tends our buried muddles until they sprout in our front yards.
I want to know, how can we think about this stuff without going nuts? In particular, are there ways to get handles on things to turn them for the better, in some qualitative way better than just building better mousetraps and bandaids, greasing the skids?
For that matter, what kind of future counts as okay, worth working toward, sufficiently grand? How can it be possible for people to see the future as something other than baffling, scary and alienating? One metaphor (getting slightly ahead of myself) is of continually re-packing for the Mayflower-- what's worth keeping and can be packed in a trunk? Can we take seeds?
I collected lists of ideas, both fallacious and hopeful, in the backs of a couple notebooks, enough to write about for at least a month. Time to dig em up and air em out.