I grew up in the idyllic countryside of Southeast England. I lived in several villages outside of Cambridge which is one of the oldest college towns in the world. I spent much of my youth outdoors not in a fit hiking way just outside because there was nothing better to do. I also spent many hundreds of hours reading, medieval stories, greek and roman history, the history of the rise and fall of Europe and the succession of the democratic experiment called the United States.
Living in such a long habituated part of the world, you get this deep rooted feeling of past generations. For example, behind our house in Little Eversden there was a Roman rd. Meaning a pathway that people had been using for over 2000 yrs. There is a church in Cambridge that was built in 1130, its doorway stands at less than 6ft tall because 900 yrs ago very few Britons were tall. 5 miles behind my house through rolling wheat fields and copse’s of old oak and beech trees is Wimpole hall, built in 1640- having a ‘Folly’ added in 1769. A Folly is a fake architectural addition, in this case it was a medieval castle ruins, that’s right a new construction of ruins built to look old.
It functioned as a game tower, to prevent peasants poaching the Earle of Hardwicke’s dear and boar. If you climb the exterior wall to the third story you can get in a norman arch window and climb the stairs to the top where you will see grafitti dating back 3 centuries, I carved a space ship in 1983 and “Harold woz ere.” In honor of the last saxon king of England (1066ad )who fell to Norman the Conqueror with an arrow to the eye and Isaac Azimov one of the most prescient humans to have lived in the 20th century, a prolific science fiction writer and modern philospher.
With generation after generation of footsteps before you it ingrains a sense of shared place and also a desire to preserve what is there even as you build something new. In the US I don’t feel this same time honored community of place. In America you feel Manifest Destiny, that the hugeness of the country allows you freedom to expand and explore as a right, to use what is available because this is a new world. This feeling is what I believe must transition to a more mature outlook of stewardship. We have expanded from coast to coast, from the island of Puerto Rico to the Glaciers of Alaska quite an acheivement and emphasized by the fact that America only dominated the world stage at the beginning of the 20th century.
Early religions like the “Derwydd” (Welsh Druids) in England likely worshipped the Sun, and believed in the immortal soul. I consider this a recognition of God’s glory, of the eternal presence of light in our lives and how light sustains life. For me the pursuit of solar energy is the path of the sublime. It is noble to fight for a belief that brings prosperity and progress to more than yourself, whether selfish or selfless this is the underlying premise of democracy and the philosophy of America’s founders.
Some people remember a time before computers, a simpler time in many ways where a Russian attack involved hiding under your school desk so that your nuclear shadow would confuse future archaeologists. I bring this up because yes times were simpler, my wife reminded me of a time when you just showed up at someones house to see if they were in! A time when kitchen telephone cords were forty feet long and it was ‘generally’ safe to leave your bike on the front lawn. There we only 3 major television stations and if you missed something on TV you had to hope it was syndicated and you could see it the following year. No video, cell phone, computers, Netflix, Facebook, or working from home unless you were a farmer. But were they truly simpler, I am not so sure, we were much closer to working to eat, less free time, and the prospect of working at one company our entire lives, less mobile and more tribal with divisions between people sometimes codified by laws that were racist or sexist.
Today we are faced with an onslaught of media vying for our attention and the news media is no longer trusted as a source of general conditions in the world. We will soon have self driving vehicles on the road and in decades to come robots performing most of the mundane tasks on a factory floor. We should not fear these events we should embrace them and here’s why.
The idyllic memories we have of a pastoral world with enough resources for everyone was really only available for 25% of the world’s population. Family farms worked because we didn’t have fully integrated worldwide logistics systems. Small utilities serving a few hundred thousand customers worked because we didn’t fully electrify the US until sometime in the 1970’s! With the complexity of the technological world comes the freedom of modernity. In less than 15yrs a start-up company had designed, launched and control-landed Rockets because of the new computing power of today’s computers so vastly superior to the moon landing computers that comparison is somewhat of a fallacy.
In “What is Money” Bastiat hypothosized, “And if gold is considered to be riches, the natural conclusion is, that displacements of fortune take place among men, but no general progress.” Value is determined by arbitrary decisions from the few who have both power and money. The fiat of value in today’s world will have to give way to things that bring actual progress. A truly sustainable culture is needed in the US, and the world. Manifest destiny and expansion West worked in the pre-industrial world but we as Americans have to mature in two short generations to a competitive world with upward opportunity but only for those who bring wealth and value. Almost the entire US banking system needs to be re-cast as a lean vehicle for innovation, not a bloated-castle, hoarding the digits on a trillion transactions.
We need to recognize our true nature is almost viral. We are damaging our host and if we don’t create a symbiotic relationship with integral value to this world and beyond this world to other planets and locations we will not be able to continue our current path, the math will simply not support it. Expansion is the key for this transition because new materials and resources will support exploration and the building of new habitats. The jobs of the late 21st century will be technical, as dangerous as sailing the atlantic and the rewards as bountiful. But prior to that if the majority of simple tasks are automated (driverless vehicles will supplant 15% of the global workforce) then at least 25% of the population will be unemployable by centuries end based on today’s education standards and future needs. All these people have untapped value but it will take several generations to move the general psyche to aspire to self determination after centuries of pressure to act under the laws of the jungle, In two generations based on our technological advancement today we need to move to the laws of man and then to the laws of physics and progress.
The consumerist society must end by the middle of this century and be molded to a new standard and goal of internal acheivement with external goals of minimum impact. To blindly allow elected leaders to talk of business and economic impacts, deficits and fiscal liabilities without a clear, resounding ‘Manhattan Project’ like National and international mandated goal of zero emissions, autonomous consumption and equitable trade is following small-minded lemmings to the cliff.
Tomorrow’s world will have a Universal living wage, not a handout but a minimum quality of life payment to allow people to pursue their dreams and aspirations. It will be a difficult transition but money after all is an artifical construct allowing two parties to trade something of value. The best and brightest will still have the capitalist avenue for growth and wealth but the leasst of us will have a minimum standard of life to also pursue their lofty goals or ty to realize the pastoral life that may never have existed before. People are afraid of change and dystopian pictures of a zombie future aren’t the only potential outcome for this pale blue dot and all who inhabit her. Here’s to a limitless future.