Monday, November 08, 2010
Our Soylent Green Future?
I find it both fascinating and appalling when I go out onto the Web and read about what this century has in store for us: On one hand, we face increasing climate chaos, possible drought or hurricanes, the rising probability of a massive earthquake in California, the end of cheap energy and along with it affordable food. We hear dire predictions of the mess that consumer culture will make of the planet as it spreads to developing nations. What if everyone in China DOES want to drive a car? What if the banks fail? What if my retirement savings disappears? Oh, and don't forget the global pandemic threat! Bird flu, swine flu, dog or cat flu - it's just a matter of time before a really nasty bug appears, and circles the globe before we can do anything to stop it.
On the other hand, technological progress on many fronts continues to accelerate. Nanotechnology, a mastery over matter, and the ability to program molecules at will, is getting ever greater traction in labs around the globe, and despite the hype of its early days may deliver, in the areas of medicine and energy, quite soon. Even artificial intelligence, whose painfully slow development caused a generation of disappointment, is finally beginning to appear - in your cell phone! A world of highly-efficient solar energy farms, or solar satellites beaming energy to receiving antennas on the ground; super-medicine that can repair the damages of the aging process as easily as swallowing a capsule of nanobots; unlimited, healthful food, synthesized on the spot from an unending stream of component molecules, using templates based on the world's finest organic ingredients and culinary practices.
Will my retirement years look like something out of Soylent Green? Or will I simply not retire, but find fulfilling work that is not driven by the need to make a buck, but to serve humanity, while learning and creating, following my own unending and ever-changing interests? Will I finally learn to play the piano?
Should I be getting involved in a local "transition plan" that seeks to avoid financial and human catastrophe in my local area? Should I plant a vegetable garden? Should I abandon the house I live in, and move into an RV? Should I head to the countryside, where at least the farmers' markets may still have food? And what about my kids? Should the two I have in college continue to pursue their degrees, or will their education be rendered useless by technological or social change? What is the prudent course?
I'm trying to formulate one for myself and my family. Starting with the extrememly short-term, and working outward to a rest-of-my-life planning process, I'm trying to cover my bases.
First, the home disaster kit, with food and water for three or more days for my family. Then I'll put together a bug-out kit, which is something like a set of camping supplies, again with plenty of food and water, that we can take with us if we have to get out of town. This might be needed if (when) the "big one" hits, and our neighborhoods go up in flames, fueled by large quantities of natural gas escaping from the gas mains.
I'm also thinking of dropping off simple one-sheet disaster planning leaflets around my neighborhood, to try to get others to prepare. I don't want to be the only one with food and water, surrounded by several hundred families who don't!
I'm starting to take these steps toward Hacking the Future!