Yesterday, I linked to an engaging but depressing story about how maybe we’re poisoning ourselves – and/or gradually degrading our species’ gene pool – just by being alive in this modern world.
Last week, I linked to a screed noting that the U.S. is rapidly going broke, as our wealth is siphoned off to the oil-producing nations.
Last month, I had space rocks crashing into the planet and sending 600-foot tidal waves across the globe.
Last year – well, no (time flies), the year before – I did my best, along with many of you, to help Al Gore spread the Inconvenient Truth about the global climate change destabilizing the ecosphere.
And what about even just a plain old vicious cycle of falling housing prices leading to less consumption leading to recession leading to job loss leading to more foreclosures and bigger government deficits leading to even less faith in the dollar leading to inflation and higher long-term interest rates leading to higher mortgage rates leading to yet lower home prices leading to . . .
And yet . . .
And yet . . .
It is also a time of spectacular possibility. Technological progress that, Ray Kurzweil predicts, will be 32 times as fast in the next 50 years as it was in the past 50 (did I mention that the $600 iPhone, released just a year ago, will shortly be the faster, more powerful $200 iPhone?) – with the prospect of such astounding bio-tech breakthroughs that average life expectancy may soon be increasing by more than one year per year (so, if we don’t get hit by a bus or poison ourselves with the fumes from vinyl shower curtains, we may actually, on average, be getting a little further from the end each year rather than closer to it) (and so I’m really serious about this: floss) – a prospect so pregnant with implication (to me, at least), that you may want to go and reread it.
And now comes this wonderful New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink), about an idea factory, which leaves you with the sense that (a) Ray Kurzweil may well be right in his predictions (as he usually is), and that (b) much of the technological progress will spring from the creativity and genius of American minds, which – in the long run – may mean quite a decent competitive future ahead for our country, just as it was when we entered the 21st Century, before we got so badly off track.
So (as is often the case with greed and fear, crisis and opportunity, bulls and bears) ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’
The technological progress will bring unprecedented challenges – how do we keep a 17-year-old Uzbek from crashing the global financial system without also impinging on everyone’s personal liberties? It may be that the technological progress, while dazzling, will send us careening out of control.
But has there ever been a more amazing time to be alive? With more of a responsibility on the citizenry to make informed choices and help Spaceship Earth lean into the (cosmic) wind?
So let me conclude by reprising – but also giving an ending to – the ‘vicious cycle’ paragraph above:
And what about even just a plain old vicious cycle of falling housing prices leading to less consumption leading to recession leading to job loss leading to more foreclosures and bigger government deficits leading to even less faith in the dollar leading to inflation and higher long-term interest rates leading to higher mortgage rates leading to yet lower home prices leading to . . . a new, youthful Administration, swept into office with a huge mandate to redirect our deficits away from Iraq and tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy, toward rebuilding America’s infrastructure; setting bold goals; and inspiring and empowering our estimable citizenry to rise to the very real challenges we face.
☞ It is a uniquely American mantra: Yes, we can.
Quote of the Day
[It would be splendid if someday] economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists.~John Maynard Keynes
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