What do you see when you look around you? Do you see the slow decline of a dying civilization, or do you see a glorious future for me and you and our children? This is not rhetoric. This is a question.
I have no real answers yet. In technological terms we are certainly better off than our fathers and mothers and our children will certainly be better off than us. We are in the midst of watching technology change around us, but the change is so gradual that we take most of it for granted. Looking back, the first computer I used was a BBC Micro, but I took the Internet for granted. My first phone was a stately old rotary phone issued by MTNL, but I took mobile phones for granted. Some things did jolt me a little. Dolly the sheep was cloned and I do remember thinking quite a bit about that. But on the whole it's not so hard to accept. Perhaps it's because I am an engineer, and I do understand science a bit more than the next person. But then again, I know enough non-engineers who also took all these things for granted, so perhaps it's just my generation. We were born into science.
I do worry sometimes that science will not be able to create enough to sustain us. None of us really take the time to accept the fact that we are creating too many children, and this planet may not be able to produce enough food for all of us. Nor will the planet's weather and soil systems be able recover from the pollutants we introduce. Perhaps science will be able to help. Perhaps. Call me when someone can replicate photosynthesis in a tube. When we can produce carbohydrates in a factory economically without using plants, using a energy source other than sunlight.
It is obvious though. Moore's Law is reaching it's limits and the next generation of life changing inventions will probably not involve computers and electronics.
Where civilization scares me a lot, is when we start discussing abstracts. Culture, art, theology, philosophy. Why can't I name a single artist, poet, or philosopher from my generation? What happened to us? Was it the television? Was it the Internet? (Was it [shudder] blogging?) This worries me because there should be something lasting that I should be able to recall when I am old. What will I remember when I am old and senile? The Simpsons? Star Wars? Grant Morrison? Or will my fate be worse and will tunes by Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson stick in my head, and decide not to leave, hanging in there like some kind of memetic viruses? Why can't I name a single masterpiece painted by someone I can call a peer?
If a evangelist is reading this he (or she) will tell me that I will find the answers in God (or gods). I will, of course, tell him (or her) to go shove it, because my religion and beliefs are personal matter for me and not something I care to discuss with anybody except my intellectual peers. And most of my intellectual peers are jaded and cynical atheists.
Can you feel this void? You may not most of the time. We lead busy lives; there are creature comforts, minor irritations and career paths to worry about. But you will, on those cold nights when you can't sleep, there's nothing on the telly, there's no one to chat with and there's nothing you can do but think. Why am I here? Why are you here? Should we just not bother with answers and enjoy the ride? It sounds like a good plan, but I pray to God I don't have to follow it.
I have no answers. Not yet anyway. I just hope I do have some before my time comes.