Welcome to 2014! This is my first post of the new year, and today, I am feeling a bit philosophical. That is, at least, more than usual.
These days, the most popular TV shows and movies are usually pretty dark and gloomy. Many movies have a post-apocalyptic setting, whether it be dystopian societies like that portrayed in the Hunger Games or people running away from freaky, gross zombies (by the way, I hate zombie movies...). A lot of the current story writing is very likely a result of our not-so-rosy outlook on life right now, especially with the rise of threats like terrorism and poverty. We all feel like the world is on the brink of destruction.
Maybe we are right. I don't believe in superstitions that tell us the world will end on a specific date (it's worth noting that December 21, 2012 came and went without incident), but that doesn't mean we aren't edging closer to annihilation. Even my parents generation had to live through the fear associated with the Cold War, and I am sure the word "apocalypse" popped into everyone's heads quite often back then.
But what will really happen to our species? Everyone has their opinions, and mine seems to shift daily depending on my mood. But for me, there has always been more hope than fear, and I generally favor a more optimistic view of our future. It probably helped that my favorite show growing up was Star Trek: The Next Generation (the other "Treks" were good too of course, but I don't want to get too far off topic). When I watched it as a kid, I didn't consciously appreciate the inherent optimism that the show had. I enjoyed it because I liked space and science fiction, and I wanted to see weird aliens and the "space-time anomalies" that the crew would so often encounter.
However, I think even back then, some part of me absorbed the optimistic view of the future that Gene Roddenberry always insisted on in writing Star Trek. I certainly appreciate it now as I am able to see a deeper meaning in so many of the story lines.
In the show's canon, hundreds of years in the future, humans have evolved culturally and have used science and technology to explore the galaxy and develop a near utopian society.
This idea makes for great science fiction. But can we do the same in reality? Even if we were to avoid destroying ourselves through war or climate change or any other human-caused disaster, we are still susceptible to destruction by natural disasters, such as an asteroid on a collision course with Earth or the eventual death of our Sun -- in about 4.5 billion years, the Sun will grow to become a red giant star destroying the Earth in the process (and yes, I realize that's a long time from now, but it's still a finite amount of time - it will happen).
So, eventually, if we are to survive ourselves or whatever our solar system throws at us, we are going to have to evolve beyond our current situation. And we will need science and technology to do it. We have already put some of this science into use by tracking nearby asteroids that may collide with the Earth (though, frighteningly, the funding for such programs is constantly under threat of being cut).
Let me repeat it: we need science and technology to survive the future. Some of you may be quick to point out that it is science and technology that produced atrocities like Hiroshima. That is true, though war has been a part of humanity for a long time. Science and technology have just made it easier to kill lots of people much faster. So, not only do we need science and technology to survive the future, but we also need to evolve out of our cultural infancy.
Let's stop going to war and killing other humans. Let's stop polluting our precious planet. Let's stop bitching about politicians closing bridges down to one lane of traffic or about how many executive orders the President has given. Let us instead make our future brighter, safer, and happier. I believe that humans can do it. We just need to step back and see the endless opportunities that are out there, waiting to be found.