Life is about change. We all know this to be true, even those who fear change and dedicate their lives to trying to prevent it.
For some, change is scary. Suspect. Threatening.
Unfortunately, without change there is no innovation. Without change there is no advancement. Without change there is only stagnation.
Which is not to say that all change is good. Just that without it, we might as well all be paying our tithes to religious organizations hell bent on keeping us in the dark ages and throwing rocks at anybody who looks, thinks or acts differently from the “norm.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of world I’m interested in leaving to future generations.
I’ve always embraced change, though it hasn’t always been easy. Technology has changed the way we live our lives drastically over the last few decades. It has brought about great change, though not always for the better. Our social skills are dropping. Our appreciation for the world around us is diminishing. Real connections are being lost. It isn’t always easy to embrace the kind of change that brings about alienation.
But we love our technology. I love my laptop. I love having the ability to stream movies I want to see at any time of the day or night. I love being able to shop online. I love being able to talk, face to face, with friends anywhere in the world. I’m not real fond of the fact that anybody can get hold of me no matter where I am via cell phone, but that, too, has its benefits.
In many ways, I’ve waited my whole life to have these privileges, mainly because the type of entertainments I embraced as a child promised me a world in which these things would be commonplace. But what future speculators like Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl and even Philip K. Dick couldn’t anticipate was how isolating such technology could become.
How could they? When one is contemplating a utopian society in which technology has freed us up to pursue our every desire, who gives thought to such anti-social behaviors as text messaging, Instagram, Snapchat and swiping right.
Who could foresee a time when a room full of complete strangers could remain estranged, because every person in the room is staring at an iPhone, iPad or Kindle? Or families sitting together in a restaurant would all be plugged into a different device, leaving no room for interaction? Who knew conversation would become a thing of the past?
One wonders what those prognosticators of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction might think of the current state of affairs. Some, I think – Bradbury among them – would be fascinated. Others appalled. And yet time marches on and changes continue to unfold, revealing twists and turns none could possibly have imagined. That’s how life works.
Personally, the last five and a half decades have been a time of great social achievement (civil rights, gay marriage, global networking), unprecedented technological expansion (space travel, cable television, the internet) and crushing disappointment (where the hell ARE my flying car and personal robot?). Pretty much like every time period before it, if we’re to be honest. Well, maybe except for the Dark Ages, but even that depended upon where one was living at the time.
What I’m trying to say is, I think it is far too easy to focus on political turmoil, gender disparity, racial conflict and the breakdown of communication skills in today’s fast moving world. We are inundated regularly with “breaking news,” most of it dubious and dispiriting. We never seem to know who or what to believe. That’s the dark side of technology and instant gratification, but it isn’t the ONLY side. There are marvels being created and discovered around us every day – recyclable rocket boosters, artificial wombs and the discovery of the Trappist-1 star system among them.
That, in and of itself, is reason enough not to fear change. Me? I’m just along for the ride and as long as I can still learn something new every day, as long as I can be amazed and astounded by scientists, artists and everyday people who find ways to rise above the discord to display the bright resilience of the human spirit, I’ll take the changes, good and ill. Yes, future generations have a lot on their plate, but that’s just part of the package. As long as we keep pushing forward, there will always be hope.