Can we finally admit we live in the future?…Thanks to a combination of 3G internet, a touch-screen interface, and Wikipedia, the smartphone in my front pocket is pretty much the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I can communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime…and then use the same touch-screen device to take a picture, deposit a check, and navigate the subway system. We live in the future, ladies and gentleman.
Having studied the idea of the future, I had two responses:
1. The future is a safe place we never want to believe is now. Something in our psychology likes to long for things. This includes the afterlife, the faith that the next raise will make us happy, or that when we lose 10lbs we’ll feel good about ourselves. The better future is a form of projection we need. In the present we need to believe something better awaits. You don’t need an iPhone to recognize how amazing the present is. Study the history of civil rights, personal wealth, or opportunity in America, and you’ll find much to be amazed about. We take most progress for granted.
2. Technological progress is not social progress. Are there fewer assholes in the world? Is there less greed? Do more people follow the Golden Rule? Technologies focus on a narrow aspect of progress, one we are good at. It’s the other kinds of progress that are harder to develop. If the only elements of a better future are improved technologies, prepare to be disappointed. Many things do not change with technology.