Will We Make It?
Will we make it? Take a look at what most of us know about history. If you are like me, who is like most Americans, you know about fifteen talking points covering the last 20,000 years: cave art in France, Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and Greece, Abraham, Jesus, Buddha and/or Muhammad, the Ming Dynasty, Renaissance Florence, The Enlightenment, the Civil War, WWI and II and the 1960s onward. We, here at the zenith of all human learning and discovery—truly what our ancestors imagined as the "future"—are facing the real possibility of being left out of the history of future generations.
Before 2001 I was certain our era was not on the way toward everlasting fame. We had no Moon landing, no Theory of Relativity nor an equivalent to moveable type. Some think we're safe because computers and the Internet will be our legacy. But computers have a history before electricity and are facsimiles of analog things: filing cabinets, slide rules, mail, telephony, faxes, newspapers, darkrooms, radios and viewing pornography, its main use online. Our age so far has offered only a paradigm shift in convenience.
But recently I had been feeling positive about our chances of being remembered, if mostly for inauspicious things: Bush v. Gore, the September 11 attacks, the longest war in our history, an African American president, obvious global warming and the Great Recession.
But there is little contentment here. There have been many financial panics and recessions. And if we thought the plague and Germans were fierce opponents, can you imagine what might terrorize populations centuries from now? And let's not forget that some future people will likely see a person with Elvis's charisma, Michael Jackson's moves, Monroe's sexuality and Chomsky's mind. (Whom can we put up against that, Shakira?) And what happens when they find life in outer space? Think what that discovery will wipe out of future history e-books: Jackie Robinson, Teapot Dome, Amerigo Vespucci and most of the 1800s.
No, our work is cut out for us if we want those in the future to lament, "To have lived in the early 2000s—imagine!" (And it happens: Stendhal lamented not being born in 1600.) We need to do something stupendous soon, like stopping global warming. Our era's reward: eternal fame and held in the company of the greatest eras of all time! If not that then we need to think quickly, they'll love The Enlightenment.