May 19, 2006


Future Tech: 8 amazing scientific and technological advances on the horizon - made by mixing hefty parts of human ingenuity with the freedom to employ it (Dennis Behreandt, Red Orbit)

Every age has its pessimists. The '60s had Rachel Carson and her overblown manifesto Silent Spring, which foretold of the poisoning of the planet by man. The '70s were influenced by the radical ideas of Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb envisioned "hundreds of millions of people" starving to death in the next decade. Neither author's vision of disaster came true. Despite their spectacular failures, both Carson and Ehrlich remain heroes of many environmental doomsayers. Perhaps more stunning still is the fact that the enduring mythos of impending doom that they and others like them created retains its potency in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The myth of doom is a triumph of perception over reality.

That perception has run rampant in the 21st century, and not without reason. The expected disaster at the turn of the century, Y2K as it was known, failed to materialize, but the horrible attacks of 9/11 confirmed for many that the new century would be one of disaster and tragedy. To some extent, this view can be said to have been vindicated, with the war on terrorism and its attendant attacks on long-cherished freedoms, the disastrous hurricane season, the great Asian tsunami, and economic turmoil repeatedly grabbing headlines and attention. There is even a new "Ehrlich" on the scene. In The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, author James Howard Kunstler argues that the world is going to run out of oil and, as a result, society is going to crumble. "There will be a substantial interval of trouble like nothing we have ever seen before in the United States," Kunstler said in an interview, summing up his bleak outlook on the future.

Is such pessimism really justified? The disasters that have occurred so far have been on the local or regional level. They have been horribly damaging to lives and properties in the regions in which they occurred, but they have not been the paradigm-shifting harbingers of doom that the pessimists, like Kunstler, continually warn about. In fact, so far the pessimists have been 100 percent wrong 100 percent of the time.

The fact is that since the close of World War II the world has been experiencing an age of progress that is nearly unequaled in human history. More people have more food, more shelter, more access to medical care, more access to transportation, to education, and to technology than ever before. Of course, problems remain to be solved and progress is yet to be made in a number of areas. But advances since World War II - leading to such marvels as the Internet, personal computing, and synthetic materials, to name but a few - have allowed millions to live in greater comfort and dignity than ever before. The lesson of the last 50 years is that the future is brighter than the naysayers will have people believe as technology allows people the chance to enjoy and pursue other endeavors, including what is truly important. Looking forward, then, here are eight major areas in which rapid technological advance will improve the way people live.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 19, 2006 5:10 PM

And no one with Islamofascist sympathies had a hand in any of it.

Posted by: Ed Bush at May 19, 2006 5:28 PM

Paul Erlich sold lots of books and made a fine living, and so will Kunstler. The pessimists are 100% right about the market for pessimism.

Posted by: joe shropshire at May 19, 2006 6:22 PM

One thing for sure is the pessimists have a total trust in themselves. That is also the reason why leftists are always pessimists. They believe in themselves, so they are afraid of things that they cannot imagine. Since they are the smartest, and they cannot see any way out, then the future must be bleak. Ordinary people, however, are optimists. They spend their time working for a better future for themselves. That's why the pioneers were ordinary people, not the intellectuals who paralyzed themselves by talking, seeing insurmontable difficulties in every twist and turn. Ordinary people do not contemplate a cosmic scheme to improve human conditions. They work to improve their own, and their community's. It's hard not to be an optimist if you see day to day improvement around you.

Posted by: ic at May 19, 2006 7:26 PM

Alright I'm ready to pitch my pessimist book and make my millions.

It's called "Unless We Get Rid of These Brown People from South of the Border, It'll All Go To Hell, but p.s., I really only object to them because they're breaking the LAW!"

So, who wants to buy a copy?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 19, 2006 7:58 PM

Not me Jim. My kid is running a pharmacy on the south side after growing up in Central Illinois. He really enjoys it.

Posted by: jdkelly at May 19, 2006 8:07 PM

Beware the Discombobulation to come!

Posted by: Robert Duquette at May 20, 2006 12:28 PM