A present our future won’t like
In 20 years, or 50 years or a thousand years, our society will not look like it does now. It may not even exist. And when future paleontologists and historians look back at how we conducted business in 2013, I have a feeling we’re all going to look pretty bad.
What I can only assume will be digital archaeologists will delve into the archives at Instagram in the same way Howard Carter once dug into the tomb of King Tut, find eleventy billion pictures of girls doing the ridiculous ‘duck-face’ thing and write us off as a society. They will not be wrong, because whoever thought that up deserves to be beaten with bamboo sticks until they learn how to smile like a normal person.
There are tons of examples littered throughout our world right now. The Bachelor/Bachelorette, ESPN’s First Take and Real Housewives of (fill in the self-indulgent mecca for horrible humans) inundate us with idiocy through television. The people paid to inform us have decided instead to become entertaining – for good (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert) and bad (Nancy Grace) – with the upshot being that it’s hard for John Q. Public to sift through what’s important when a person with an agenda is explaining it to them.
And the people we briefly deify as a culture will represent us long after we’re all dead and gone. Think Elvis Presley. Think Joe DiMaggio. Now think Justin Bieber. It doesn’t look good for us.
Currently, our largest problem seems to be that we’re keeping a digital record of all the stupid things in our lives right now. When I was a kid, I had a vague recollection that the 1970s and 80s were kind of a goofy time in American history, but it wasn’t until I got older and started asking my dad questions that I was able to deduce just how much he participated in the ‘culture’ – he was much more interested in the 70s than the 80s, for what it’s worth. He certainly wasn’t interested in talking about it with me, although I think he may have been a bit more receptive to the idea if I hadn’t been naïve enough to ask with my mom around. Cut me some slack, I was 10 when these things started occurring to me.
Now? As soon as our kids can operate a computer – which, by the time I have kids, they may be using iPads in utero – they can find out literally anything they want to know. Like what’s on your Facebook page – or, possibly, your old MySpace page; seriously, take that thing down. Or any number of other awesome things that happened during our current respective youths that we aren’t going to want to remember when we have to give off the air of responsibility. I’m not looking forward to having to answer the question, “Daddy, is it true that (fill in any number of potentially embarrassing things I’ve done) happened a lot when you were younger? Did you ever do that?”
The point: we’re trending in a bad direction. We’ll never be the Greatest Generation or anything lasting – we copy too much stuff. We retool and reboot. Instead of the people that were smart enough to put bacon on a cheeseburger for the first time, we’re the people that put bacon in milkshakes. Sure, we’ve done some excellent work technology-wise, but we’ve had our fair share of misses too – anybody want to take credit for Windows Millenium, Microsoft Zune or the HTC Nexus One? Didn’t think so.
So it is with a bit of trepidation that I wonder what future civilizations will think about my 2013 existence. Half of the world carries tiny computers around in their pockets now while the other half doesn’t have clean water within the radius of a 10-mile walk. Someone in the future is going to pronounce that as a particularly screwed-up dichotomy. That person will not be incorrect.
Thankfully, it seems like the parts of a generation that are unseemly get relegated to footnote status by history (unless you’re Germany because HITLER). As time passes, the moon landing and era of sex and drugs define the 1960s as much or more than Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, even though the latter are (probably) more historically relevant. What that will do for the view of the early 2000s in the late 2000s, time will tell – it’s possible that something we haven’t even seen yet will revolutionize life as future generations know it. I hope that advancement is teleportation.
(It will not be teleportation. It’ll probably be something useless like the ability to remove and grow hair on command. We focus on all the wrong things.)