Does anyone else share this feeling that humankind is closing in on a dramatic climax? On the one hand, the climate catastrophe, rising tensions between governments and within countries around the world and, of course Covid-19, seem to indicate a world that is stumbling closer to the abyss.
On the other hand, especially scientific advances are giving reasons for hope. From plastic-digesting bacteria, over advances in energy generation, food creation and genetic engineering to super intelligent AI, the list of things that promise a future that can facilitate a European Middle Class lifestyle for everyone while eliminating all of its negative externalities seems so close you can smell it.
Socially and, for lack of a better word, spiritually as well, things seem to be changing. For one, solidarity and active support for the recent protests in the United States has been overwhelming around the world. But I don’t know if it is because of my hippie ways of the past few years, but maybe there actually is a generation of people growing up who are sick of the bullshit of the past and ready to focus on the essential, rather than the boastful or egocentric.
In all, there are enough reasons to paint a perfectly hopeful, or perfectly dreadful picture of the future that awaits us. Personally, I keep getting this sense of a race between those futures, combined with a strong feeling that whichever one will make it will do so by an incredibly small margin.
And that is where that ‘sense’ ends. Rather anticlimactic really, but it just creates this underlying feeling of subtle anxiety that is neither here nor there when it comes to inspiring something actually useful. Well, except for the thought about power, that is.
Power in the sense that I personally feel rather disappointingly powerless to tip the scales towards an ending that everyone can cheer for with joy rather than terror. But also power in the sense that which future awaits will depend largely on whether or not we finally get our heads around that all-transcending problem of power itself.
Why are intergovernmental tensions, interior political conflicts, corporate greed, and many of these other problems such a challenge in the first place? Because if a country or political party does not opt for maximum influence and a corporation does not grind out maximum profits then they will just be swallowed up by a competitor.
Hence, it is extremely difficult to slow things down on the destructive side. It is that old prisoner’s dilemma problem of game theory, where the option that would promise the maximum net gain to all players if everyone cooperated, simultaneously harbors the greatest risks if another player decides not to cooperate, acts in self-interest and forces everyone else in a losing position. And nobody can guarantee that all players will be faithful cooperators in the game of power politics, especially considering the number of “strong-man” leaders the world is blessed with right now.
So, I guess hopes must rest on the constructive side winning the race. Hopes that scientific progress will make most conflicts for resources obsolete and that social progress will take care of racial, cultural, or other purely interpersonal conflicts. And make no mistake, I’m sure all of this can happen. Doesn’t do much for that sense of anxiety, though. In the end, it will depend on all of us individually.