I’m reading a ton of negativity these days. Peak oil, population growth, dire predictions, doom and gloom. Here’s a mind game for these people to ponder: if you were presented with a time machine that would take you back to any year you chose, but you had no control of who you would be or where you would live (think gender, nationality, ethnicity), would you go? Would you take the 50/50 chance that you would be female in any of the increasingly misogynist societies the further back in the past you look? What about the greater chance of being a slave? Or dying in childbirth? Or living in filth? Or eking out a meager existence? Or contracting diseases and being infested with parasites? Or living under a ruler who dictated your religion and could behead you at any time? Would you want a doctor who bled you? Or a priest who sacrificed you? Or a tribal elder who mutilated you?
Today, we can sample the word’s foods, see its sights affordably, watch millions crawl out of poverty every year. We can watch scientific progress, enjoy the art created by those with leisure time and talent, stroll through the billions of acres of protected lands, worry more about obesity rather than starvation.
For those who worry about us going backwards, think about where we came from! We crawled down from the trees and made computers out of sand! What do people worry we’ll go back to? We came from nothing. Our brains are our salvation; they are the most amazing things we are aware of in the entire universe (so far). Our offspring will continue to have this tool if nothing else. With that, we can hope to one day explore the stars rather than worry the sky is falling.
Are fossil fuels a dead-end? Perhaps. But then, look at the amount of energy being radiated on us daily by the nuclear fusion reactor in the sky. Look at how much we can wring from the atom. Energy will never be a problem; we just need to choose wisely what we do with it. I, for one, am excited about the future. Democracy continues to spread. The Internet everywhere brings access to knowledge. Capitalism brings economic freedom, wealth, and glorious interdependence.
For those who think a wonderful future will be one in which we hand-make everything, where we live in poverty, where billions less humans get to live and breathe and enjoy existence, where local is better than an inclusive whole — to them I say: use the time machine. Please. I dare you.