We’re moving…fast! And we barely know it.
Did you know:
•150 years ago there were virtually no automobiles? Want to get from here to there? Walk. Or ride a horse. Or find a cart, a wagon or stagecoach pulled by animals.
•100 years ago, in 1913, the average person couldn’t fly in an airplane?
•90 years ago, most homes didn’t have indoor plumbing with bathrooms and spigots? What we take for granted today––clean drinking water with a twist of the wrist, hot water as needed, and commodes to flush away our waste––is a very recent development.
•50 years ago, there were no personal computers? Some corporations and universities could afford room-sized computers fed manually by punch cards, designed to do very little. The idea of an information appliance sitting on our desks or laps to access the world was something Disney couldn’t have believed.
•40 years ago, when I was graduated from high school, nearly no one used credit cards. A few companies issued American Express cards to their traveling workers, but they had to be paid off each month. It wasn’t until 1976 that Visas began to pick up steam and soon, everyone would have them; in fact, it would become difficult to travel and do business without them.
•25 years ago, there was no public internet? It was at the end of the 1980s that email became common, dial-up modems started burping their way onto a painfully slow internet, and Bill Gates predicted that in our lifetimes, people would buy products on-line and have them delivered to their doorstep. (Crazy!)
•25 years ago, mobile or cell phones were introduced commercially, though few could afford them. What began as “bag-phones” that cost dearly to make a single call now is in nearly everyone’s hand. We no longer call places, but individuals. Captain Kirk’s communicators now seem silly and limited, though in the day, they seemed fantastic.
•10 years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Instead, face-to-face was pretty much it.
•8 years ago, no one “Tweeted” because there was no Twitter. By 2012, 500 million of us were registered to read and write in 140 characters or less.
•5 years ago, no one had an iPad, and most pooh-poohed the need for it. The first month they were introduced, 300,000 of us snapped one up. Since then, 84,000,000 have been sold, encouraging Microsoft, Google and Samsung to jump into the market.
•Only a few years ago, flatscreen TVs were cost-prohibitive for most people––$2500 for 40 inch Sony. Today a person can find 40 inch flatscreens with much higher resolution for $400. And these come with a dizzying array of choices: HDTV, LCD or Plasma or LED, 720 or 1080p, internet ready, Blu-ray or not? In fact, we’re seeing the beginning of 3D TV in homes, even as it is becoming popular in theaters.
The accelerator is being depressed. Believe it or not, the changes are accelerating. What will we see in the years––or even days ahead? I’m no prophet, but I can guess.
•Much as I love books, their numbers will diminish, as more people have “readers” (like Kindles and iPads). It makes sense: the cost to scan and deliver a book electronically are pennies compared to printing, binding, boxing, shipping, and selling. Also expect to see books be much more interactive, with additions of sound, music and video as illustrations and enhancements.
•The somewhat annoying “Siri”––the voice meant to help us be hands-free on our phones will become smarter and more intentional. She will listen to us, read our emails, learn our habits and preferences, and instead of just responding to us, she’ll suggest. Coming down our hill from our home early in the morning, she’ll remember the calendar and time, and speak up: “Steve, do you want to stop by the coffee shop and get your normal “Double 12 ounce, two-pump vanilla latte?” If I say, “Yes”––she’ll order it online and pay for it with one of my credit cards. (Scary?)
•Our TVs will drop the six remotes used to control the dish or cable, the TV itself, the DVD or Blu-ray player, and the sound system. Instead, we’ll speak to the TV (or remote), and tell it we want to watch the latest episode of our favorite program. And it will turn on, and begin playing that show.
•Right now, you can buy cars that park themselves, warn you of vehicles in your blind spots, remember your seat positions and temperature controls and music stations, and even slow you down when you are approaching another car at an unsafe speed. It takes little imagination to picture vehicles that drive you to your stated destination.
•I don’t think it will be long before we see some form of identification that is implanted in our bodies, not carried in our purses and wallets. And I don’t think it’s unlikely that whatever that device is, it also carries our medical and financial information. We will shop and walk out through a scanner, and it will automatically track our purchases and deduct them from our accounts.
•In another 50 years, I’m pretty sure that cancer will be very treatable, if not curable, and even preventable with a vaccine. We’ll be able to regrow and repair spinal cords, making paralysis a thing of the past.
Sounds like a bright future? Yet, the very technology that is swiftly taking us to that world could make our same world very, very dark.
We are now the most technologically connected, but relationally disconnected of all generations. What will happen to our friendships and interactions in the future? Will we become emotional cripples, preferring imaginary and online “fellowship” to real people with real problems, demanding real sacrifices?
Privacy is dwindling rapidly. What will happen when a government that knows everything, thinks it knows better than the governed? Will it not tell us who we are and what we want, and tell on us when we do not conform? How could anyone escape from something that is everywhere? Perhaps we will look back on those who advocated more freedom, less government and more personal responsibility as prescient.
Our ability to sustain life and prevent and cure might lead us to think that any life that isn’t “healthy” isn’t worth living, or keeping. Euthanasia is legal in Oregon and very few of us blink; could it become not only common, but mandated in our future?
In the last century, full of ourselves, forward thinkers believed that we could manipulate future generations by eliminating the defective, the stupid and the undesirables among us, leaving the intelligent, the socially adept and economically productive people to breed. It was called, Eugenics (from the Greek words eu or “good”, and gena or “generation”––and many believed it to be a key to the next level of evolution. Margaret Sanger who started Planned Parenthood hoped the organization would promote it. Authors H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, and even Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes advocated it. But that conviction led to the gassing of millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and political “undesirables” at the midpoint of the last century. It is warning from our past to our future that not every progressive idea is good, and many might lead to unknown horrors.
Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but a pessimist; but I also know what the last book of the Bible predicts: wars and rumors of wars; turmoil among nations; a mid-east on the precipice; a savior to come who will bring promises of peace, but who will rule with an iron fist, will persecute believers, and will use the power of a world-wide economic system to control whole populations.
I also know that the Kingdom is coming, and when He is revealed, it will be brighter than we could ever imagine, better than we could ever believe. His Kingdom shall never end.
We are racing to a conclusion; history is moving forward. We might be centuries, generations away from a conclusion, or we might be only years...or days. We ought to be grateful for the progress we’ve made and the harnessing of man’s God-given ingenuity to create a better life. But we also ought to be aware of unintended consequences: what changes our future will pressure to change us...and not necessarily for the better